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Sensory Nutrition Checklist: There May Be Quick Solutions To Challenging “Behaviors”

Sensory Nutrition Checklist: There May Be Quick Solutions To Challenging “Behaviors”

Sensory problems get in the way of learning, sleeping, eating, and even playing for a lot of kids. Did you know that many of these are linked to nutrition deficits, and may be relatively easy to fix? Use this checklist to get started! Sign up for my newsletter below and the checklist will be in your in box right away.

If you add a supplement to address a symptom, give it time – you are replenishing and restoring tissues and cells that may have needed that support for a long time, even years in some cases. Some nutrients can work quickly to drop sensory symptoms (minerals or B vitamins) while others take may weeks or months (fish oils, the right protein, or gut biome restoration).You may want to chart changes, as they can emerge gradually rather than abruptly, though that does sometimes happen too. If nothing seems to work, it’s likely that your child has a number of needy areas for nutrition support. Work with me to figure out what to do first, or browse my books, webinars, and blog for more info.  Where lab testing might be indicated, talk to your child’s doctor or schedule a nutrition consult with me here.

Can You Prevent Halloween Candy Reactions and Meltdowns?

Can You Prevent Halloween Candy Reactions and Meltdowns?

It’s just a few days away. Your kids are already bouncing around with excitement. School activities are over-the-top Halloween focused. This will sound old and farty: Nobody had costume parades, Halloween parties, or spooky treats in my 1960s elementary school days. Sure, our pumpkin art projects got pasted around the classroom, but nobody wore costumes to school. That was verboten. No cupcakes, no candy at school. You just had to wait until after school.  School was not the place for all the classroom merry making that it is today (no cupcake wars). Waiting like this definitely made Halloween afternoon and evening all the more exciting!

And, nobody worried too much about eating Halloween candy. The main candy dilemma was managing squabbles between sibs or friends about candy trades. Food allergies were unheard of, literally. Try that on: No one had a peanut allergy. No one had an anything food allergy. And, candy was not so ubiquitous. It just wasn’t in your face every day like it is now. Candy wasn’t eaten on a regular basis.

We didn’t have GMO corn syrup (possibly more allergenic), high fructose corn syrup (a reliable mercury source), trans fats (nasty for young brains), or a bunch of other oddities now in food. The amount of weird processed stuff marketed so relentlessly to moms and kids now didn’t exist. No squeeze tube yogurts (this is essentially candy), many fewer processed soft drink or soda options (candy), no Goldfish Colors (is that food?), power bars (many are sugared oats with vitamins sprinkled in, so… candy). Halloween candy was an actual treat, not a daily, disguised-as-food lunchbox item.

So now what? Twenty-first century Halloween candy is rife with all sorts of chemicals that nobody should eat, especially kids, who are smaller and have lesser capacity to process toxins that us adults. But, it’s Halloween!

If it works for your family to entirely defer the candy frenzy, of course that’s healthier physically, but it will probably make your kids miserable to be left out. Your options depend on your kids, and your intuition as a parent. Kids on special diets who avoid colors, additives, or allergens obviously have to be especially careful: Feingold diet followers will go bonkers if they get some Haribo gummy candies. Luckily, there’s an enzyme for that!

If your kids do eat a color, additive, or food that they don’t tolerate, you can give various enzymes to help process the offending food. It may not eliminate your child’s reaction, but it may mitigate it. This won’t work for serious food allergens, so keep the Epi-pen handy! Options:

• Use a DPP-IV enzyme for a wheat/dairy transgression. Two chewable or capsules for a single serving of the “wrong” food, up to four enzymes at once is fine.

• Use a broad spectrum enzyme like Tri-Enza if you’re not sure which foods were eaten or to help digest creepy sugars and corn syrup along with some wheat or dairy. Same dosing as above.

• Use a phenol enzyme like No-Fenol to help manage those colors and dyes. Chewable versions of these are available.

• If your child can swallow capsules, encapsulated charcoal will bind whatever your child just ate, in case they really ate something they should not. Charcoal will grab and carry whatever is in the gut with it out in stool. Check with your doctor first – it will also bind and carry any medications present in the gut at the same time.

• Buy candy made with organic cane sugar, colorings from vegetable extracts, and

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unprocessed fats or oils, rather than high fructose corn syrup, fake food dyes, and artificially  manipulated fats, which, undesirable as all this sugary fatty stuff is, is actually easier for a human liver to manage. Yup, it’s more expensive. How much do you value stuff like… sleep? Kids may sleep better (and hence you as well) and have fewer meltdowns after eating candy that is made of naturally occurring substances rather than Rubric’s-cube-for-your-liver type chemicals.

• Don’t demonize candy. A neutral attitude works wonders.

There is a whole universe of organic Halloween candy out there, awaiting your perusal. This may lower your children’s toxic load and reactions to some degree. If you are feeding your family healthy whole foods most the time, barring any dangerous reactions to known trigger items, a day or two of candy should not tumble your child for long. If it does, some nutritional support and clean up is in order.

Here’s to a fun, safe Halloween for our kids. Make the memories good, not stressful. A little candy is fun and lets your kids have adventures with peers. Whether or not you use Switch Witch trickery at your house, these candy tricks can make it a little easier to enjoy the treats.

Pedi Paleo: Can Paleo Eating Work For Kids?

Pedi Paleo: Can Paleo Eating Work For Kids?

Short answer: Yes.

First, what is it? “Paleo” has become the catch phrase for what started out being referred to as Paleolithic diet, that is, endeavoring to eat only what would have been available to humans in the Paleolithic era – that’s the stone age, when humans first began using stone tools and had not yet settled down to cultivate crops. Think nuts, figs, hunted meat / fowl / fish, and gathered plants. There is plenty of debate among food anthropologists about exactly what would have been eaten when during the Paleolithic era, which spanned more than two million years. And, even more arguing continues on benefits of Paleo today, for generally healthy people, and for specific conditions.

No shortage of opinions (and I’ll add mine) – but currently, Paleo-ish eating is embraced by many as allowing most any whole food while excluding processed grains and dairy. What comprises “processed” may surprise you. That means sugars and sweeteners of course, and all those processed snacks marketed to moms as healthy for kids, like granola bars, power bars, sweetened yogurt, breakfast cereal, processed meats, and cheddar crackers. All grains, including organic, stone ground, corn, rice, wheat, buckwheat, sorghum, gluten free, millet, what have you – are out. Beans and legumes are out too, though some leniency is permitted here and there if these are soaked or sprouted (soaking raw beans before cooking gives better access to nutrients in these foods, as does sprouting.) Starches like potato are passed over in favor of parsnip, beets, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, pumpkin, snap peas, winter and summer squashes, yams, and turnips. Vegetables are included in abundance. Dairy products are entirely omitted, though the lines blur again for raw dairy products (which I enjoy as often as available). Nuts, seeds, meats, poultry, eggs, and even fish are welcomed – as long as these are sourced organically or as free of toxins as possible. Fats from ghee (clarified butter), egg yolks, palm oil, coconut oil, bacon, avocado, and nuts/seeds are used liberally. Fruits are allowable in moderation, as these are considered a potentially detrimental sugar source. Bottled fruit juices and soft drinks are off limits, with emphasis on water, mineral water, herb teas, coconut water, or almond or coconut milk (full fat of course). Want a full listing of allowable foods? One of my favorite sites on this is Balanced Bites.

What about kids? One of the first things you’ll notice about Paleo eating is that it gives more protein and a lot more fat than we are told to eat by the USDA’s current guidelines. Does eating fat raise cholesterol and make you fat? Does eating more fat raise more obese kids? Enter another voluminous debate. I fall with the Paleo people on this one, and have for a long time: In 1988, as a young intern providing nutrition in-service for staff from the Health Promotion and Education Office for the Hawaii State Department of Health, I got into a lot of trouble for saying “No, it doesn’t.” It’s true: Way back then, we already had evidence that eating cholesterol does not raise cholesterol or risks for obesity, heart disease, and diabetes as much chronically eating refined sugary foods – which is exactly what most kids eat in the US today.

Children in the US were not commonly obese before the 1970s, when meat, eggs, bacon, butter, and whole milk were still staples for many families, and when processed junk food was just getting started. There were precious few special low fat foods or diet sodas, and margarine – infamously promoted as a healthy lower fat option – was not so widely used for years to come. So, what flipped the fat switch for our kids?

Our kids became more overweight and less healthy with the kaboom in processed sugary foods. High fructose corn syrup, introduced in the 1980s, was next, and it is more present today in foods than ever. Suddenly soda became ubiquitous, versus my 1960s childhood, in which it was literally a once-a-year treat in the beach cooler (when you still needed one of these to open the can). The ’80s were also the decade that ushered in an avalanche of oral antibiotics in children – a tool widely used in feed animals to make them gain weight. Then, in the ’90s, the FDA turned a blind eye on regulating the new genetically modified (GMO, or “genetically modified organism”) food crops sprouting up. That meant that GMO foods, whose effects are so hotly debated that several countries ban them, popped up in everything from infant formulas (corn syrup, soy protein) to cereals and candy (corn and soy ingredients, again). For the first time, a generation of children was raised on refined, sugary, genetically modified foods the likes of which a human gut had never seen. While other factors surely play in – computers, video games, more couch potato-ing – there is no doubt that dramatic changes in our food supply and eating habits were key to fueling the obesity epidemic in US children.

chickpea-salmonBy going Paleo, kids automatically avoid these manipulations to our food supply that coincide with the rise of obesity and chronic disease in US children. Meanwhile, fats are essential for normal nerve and brain growth. Children need different ratios of macronutrients than adults, who are done growing. They need plenty of nutrient dense carbs, varied proteins, and ample fats. They don’t need simple sugars, refined sweeteners, additives, hormones, pesticides, or artificially altered fats in their brains. These can interfere with brain chemistry, nerve cell function, or endocrine balance.

I’ve reviewed thousands of kids’ food diaries for the last fifteen years or so, and can say that it’s not uncommon for me to find food intakes showing too little fat to support optimal growth, brain function, and learning. How much is too little? When a food diary tallies up to 20-25 grams daily for fats and oils, that’s a problem – especially if those fats come from processed foods, which are the wrong kinds of fats for a child’s brain and nervous system to grow on. And that’s not to even mention all the other critical functions of fats in a growing child’s body. I look for at least a third of a child’s calorie intake to come from healthy, whole food fats and oils – organic if possible. Paleo can do that easily.

You might think that Paleo eating means weight loss, or eating in an Atkins like fashion, in which carbohydrates are deeply limited to as few as 30 or 50 grams per day. This puts the body into ketosis or fat-burning mode. Kids can experience stunting if using a ketogenic diet long enough, as some do as a means to control seizures. Without carbs, even with enough protein and fat on board, it is hard for a young human to grow. By comparison, most school age kids whose food intakes I’ve seen are eating somewhere around 180-250 grams carbohydrate per day, depending on their age, weight, and activity level. Kids are busy and active! Unprocessed, unsweetened, whole-food carbs let them get it done and grow and learn at the same time. It’s the sources of the carbs that matter here, and once again, Paleo eating has an edge. The carb foods included are nutrient dense for vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants. Some foods – cauliflower for example – add anti-cancer effects also. Not what you get out of your usual bag of animal crackers, even if they are organic and gluten free. And by the way, cauliflower is a more versatile than you think. It cooks fast roasted or steamed, can be mashed with savory spices and garlic as a potato alternative, and subs in nicely for pasta when you might crave a pesto or marinara sauce. A favorite in our house is roasting it then tossing with sauteed pine nuts and garlic. Add some fresh chopped basil plus a little crisp crumbled bacon and it’s a meal. roastedcauliflower-copy-300x193

For sure, this is not a strategy for vegetarians. Animal foods and their pure unadulterated fats are prized in the Paleo model, as is their whole balanced protein, and minerals – unfettered by the “anti-nutrients” that can obstruct release of protein from vegetarian sources (see soaking and sprouting links above). Paleo eating is also more flexible for carb sources than the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), which swept through the autism community a few years back as a means to heal the gut.

Bottom line: Paleo is work for sure. It’s basically what my grandmothers did for cooking, minus the flour (they ate their share of raw milk, both having been born before 1890). Someone has to get in the kitchen and start cooking scratch food. No more PB and J sandwiches, yogurt tubes, cereal from a box, or granola bars. But, in my experience, it’s not as hard as you think. Any effort counts. We aren’t full-on Paleo in our house – I still do my share of baking gluten free favorites for family, and my son isn’t ready to part with brown rice pasta just yet. But we sure like this food. Once you start eating more of it, the other stuff just starts to look, taste, and feel nasty. With some planning and prioritizing, even if you manage to include just a few Paleo-inspired meals and snacks on a regular basis, you will be on your way to feeding your kids nutrient-dense, hearty, low toxin food. And it isn’t all business – look around for some pure fun recipes, like gummy snacks and “Primal Fudge“. For a great kick start cookbook, my current favorite is Practical Paleo. Dive in!

 

 

Junk Food In Pregnancy Means More Aggression, Tantrums, Anxiety For Kids

Junk Food In Pregnancy Means More Aggression, Tantrums, Anxiety For Kids

News from Australia this week: What you eat in pregnancy matters for your baby’s mental health. You already knew that, right?

Apparently, it surprised everybody that “mums who eat more unhealthy foods, such as refined cereals, sweet drinks, and salty snacks, during pregnancy have children with more behavioral problems, such as tantrums and aggression.”  Children were followed to age five. The researchers also stated, “These new findings suggest that unhealthy and ‘junk’ foods may have an impact on the risk for mental health problems in children, and they add to the growing body of evidence on the impact of unhealthy diets on the risk for depression, anxiety and even dementia.”

These findings are new?

They aren’t really. Much research has noted negative impacts on brain and development from weak nutrition. But here in the US, where the pharmaceutical industry enjoys unfettered profiteering on psychiatric medications for kids, we don’t often see doctors talking about food or supplements.

We all would likely intuit that if a pregnant woman eats a steady diet of nutritionally vacant foods, her baby is going to suffer. But this collaboration between Australian academics and a large Norwegian cohort of moms and babies puts it plain: That suffering can extend to what we categorize as psychiatric disorders.

Information like this doesn’t flow through a pediatrician’s office too often. What does flow through there are drug sales reps, dropping off samples and pamphlets for medications like Adderall, Abilify, Risperdal, or Straterra. Children as young as two years old have come into my practice on psychiatric medication for behavior problems or anxiety. While these may help some children, there is no question that they can also do harm or not help at all. Meanwhile, nutrition supports driven by a thorough baseline assessment and professionally monitored are reliably safe and replenishing for a child’s whole body.

Whatever a child eats, whatever a pregnant woman eats, whatever a baby eats, that is what that individual’s brain has to grow on. And a human brain needs a lot of building material. We must eat at least 29 different vitamins and minerals to not die – that is, we can’t make those nutrients within our own cells. We have to eat them. Then there are at least eight to ten different amino acids we have to ingest in order to live – meaning that we need varied and robust sources of protein. And, we must eat certain fats that are required for countless metabolic functions and cell or tissue structure. Brains in particular need ample and varied fats to grow normally.

Those are just the basics that keep humans from keeling over. A baby can be born at term, with all its moving parts, and at a normal weight, as long as those nutrients are on board in the right amounts. But will that baby be vibrant and healthy? Will s/he start off with a series of ear infections and malaise, colicky insomnia (which can slow a baby’s growth if entrenched enough), weak muscle tone, sketchy developmental progress? As far as pediatrics is practiced today in the US, a trouble-shoot with mom about food and nutrients is not the usual go-to.

It certainly can be. Optimal nutrition can support that baby for thriving to potential, and it can work for the baby in utero too. Growing, feeling contented, sleeping and eating well, and comfortably eliminating come from the right food. Besides those basic nutrients mentioned earlier, there are dozens of compounds that don’t make the daily recommended intake (DRI) list of the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board that babies probably need too. These are things that come from whole foods and varied diets that are plant-strong, rich in toxin-free fats and oils, and balanced with proteins from unprocessed, unadulterated sources (my protein picks include grass-fed organic meats, organic eggs, raw nuts, seeds, and their butters, vegetables and legumes, and even raw goat or cow’s milk if available). A varied, unprocessed food diet can deliver things like omega 3 fatty acids, lutein, carnitine, carnosine, taurine, arginine, fructooligosaccharides, fiber… not to mention supplement options like coenzyme Q-10, methylated cobalamin, betaine, alpha-lipoic acid, chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine… Have I lost you yet? I haven’t even begun. But suffice it to say, these things don’t come from processed cereals, or factory-farmed, processed dairy foods with growth hormones and pesticide residues, or sugary snacks like yogurt squeeze tubes.

Whatever your baby eats, that is all your baby’s brain has to work with, to learn, grow, sleep, develop, and thrive. Whatever your toddler or school aged child eats, the same is still true. We truly are what we eat. We can only function at the level of the weakest nutrition pieces we feed our brains and bodies, because these pieces are an ensemble – they can only truly work when all pieces are present at optimal amounts.

For children struggling with psychiatric conditions, make sure it isn’t a nutrition condition first. See my book Special Needs Kids Go Pharm Free for strategies and trouble shoot. And if there is ever a time to splurge on home cooked, organic, real food, it’s when your pregnant. Give your baby that great start.

 

 

 

 

The Best Mac and Cheese: No Cow, No Gluten

The Best Mac and Cheese: No Cow, No Gluten

Macaroni and cheese is such a staple now for families. If you have food intolerances or allergies in your house, try this workaround and see if your family can still enjoy. This is a rare favorite in my house because of food intolerances. Fluid cow’s milk is only in our fridge now and then, and when it is, I hope it’s raw and full fat (which can be had in Boulder from this dairy). Cheese if present is a raw goat milk cheddar, with occasional transgressions for organic raw cow’s milk Parmesan from Italy if I can get it (pricey). That’s it – no cow’s milk cheeses otherwise, sadly (who doesn’t love cheese?). We also have fewer forays into gluten free pasta since I’m grain-free now and leaning toward Paleo-friendly recipes. But this is such a favorite for my family that once in a while I break down and cook it up. No recipe, just from my head, remembering how I saw my mom assemble this when I was a kid. She would make a white or bechamel sauce first, then add chunks of cheddar cheese. No Kraft box stuff in my house then, or now. All ingredients organic. You can stick with just aged hard goat cheeses too if you like – and leave out even the Parmesan I added here – but don’t use soft goat cheese.

1 bag Tinkaya gluten free elbow pasta

1 and 1/2 cans whole unsweetened coconut milk

1 and 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk

2-3 TBSP ghee

8 ounces raw goat milk cheddar, grated

4 ounces raw milk aged Parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 small onion, minced (about 3 TBSP)

2 teaspoons mustard powder

dash nutmeg

2-4 strands of saffron

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

2-3 TBSP gluten free flour blend (Hagman blend)

salt and pepper

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta per package instructions; meanwhile, mince onion and saute in ghee til soft but not brown. Add mustard powder , saffron strands, and nutmeg; stir over medium heat til blended and soft. Add flour, stir and heat til soft and evenly textured. Add coconut milk about 4 ounces at a time; increase to medium high heat and stir steadily. The sauce should thicken. As it gets thicker, add more coconut milk, and allow it to thicken again before adding more. Add almond milk slowly and stir to thicken again. Sauce should be bubbling gently and thicken steadily. Once it has reached a smooth even texture and thickness, add in grated cheeses and stir til smooth. Add culinary sea salt to taste, and add turmeric (helps impart color as well as subtle flavor).

Pour cooked macaroni into a greased pyrex baking dish (olive oil or ghee work fine). Then pour cheese sauce over this and mix so that it penetrates all the pasta. Sprinkle with fresh ground black pepper and paprika. If you like you can add gluten free bread crumbs on top. Bake ~35 minutes or until bubbling and browned on top. Since this much cheese in one meal is unusual for my family, this is always served with a side of digestive enzymes (DPP-IV with broad spectrum support) and/or betaine hydrochloride. These aid digestion and help us all enjoy this treat – but you may wish to go totally dairy free with a product like Daiya cheese. The coconut milk and almond milk are neutral in this recipe and don’t impart any strong flavors that don’t fit.

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Eat Now, Pay Later: How Pre-Pregnancy Choices Make A Difference

Eat Now, Pay Later: How Pre-Pregnancy Choices Make A Difference

When parents hear “nutrition matters for baby” or “kids need a good breakfast”, what does that really mean? There are plenty of vague platitudes out there filling parenting web and print media, cereal box side panels, and TV ads. But how important is this, really?

Even before pregnancy, what we moms eat and what toxins we are exposed to affect our unborn children. Whole foods organically grown in healthy toxin free soil without genetically modified seeds or feed grains will safely nourish you and your kids – and it really does matter. For example:

–  Vitamin D status before and during pregnancy may affect growth of the fetus, length of pregnancy, and immune function for baby after birth. Babies may be at more for risk intrauterine growth retardation in moms who are vitamin D deficient. Even adult outcomes for mental illnesses may be impacted by mom’s vitamin D status during pregnancy.

– Ideal iron status – not too much, or too little – is crucial for normal fetal development. Iron can cause lasting damage to fetal organs and brain tissue, if the wrong amount is on board.

– Toxic exposures for you now may influence whether your grandchildren get cancer.

– Ultrasounds may damage DNA expression in your baby’s brain. Limiting exposure to these while pregnant may be safest.

– Missing folic acid, a single simple nutrient, can have catastrophic outcomes for baby. Taking it before you conceive may prevent birth defects.

– Unvaccinated babies have fewer allergies, ADHD, and chronic disease than vaccinated children. Toxins in vaccines along with early and aggressive exposure to injected antigens may be making our children more chronically ill. This bolsters the need for strong nutrition to support strong immune response. Even vaccinations taken by mom prior to pregnancy may have a negative impact too.

– Breastfeeding is as or even more powerful than vaccination at preventing infectious diseases – so powerful in fact, that the CDC has promoted cessation of breastfeeding to keep natural antibodies from negating those in vaccines! Score another point here for nutrition solutions over pharmaceutical ones.

– Genetically modified organisms in food crops (GMO) are linked to increased allergies and organ damage. These foods are unlabeled in the US – so that means you’re probably feeding them to your family. Look for foods that tell you they contain no GMO ingredients. Livestock and farm raised salmon are typically fed GMO corn. Splurge on organic meats to avoid this when you can.

These are just a few bullets from the staggering amount of information on nutrigenomics – that is, how nutrients (and toxins) impact gene expression and outcomes for our babies. But one fact is too often overlooked for parents nowadays: Nutrition really matters, and it’s up to us to engage it. Your child’s immune system depends on a steady flow of toxin-free nutrients and foods, and a well functioning digestive tract, in order to mount a vigorous response to fight infection. Your child’s brain needs the same, to grow and function to potential. Nutrition is an ensemble piece if there ever was one. Nutrients and foods work together, relying on each other in cells and processes in the body, to create a hale and hearty human. No pharmaceuticals – vaccines included – do these jobs. Food and nutrients do this.

Despite this old wisdom – documented by decades of nutrition science and practice – pediatrics today pays little due to helping parents build kids’ nutrition. Nutrition studies are not part of your pediatrician’s training. Emphasis is heavy on pharmaceuticals, a shift that has happened in the last generation. As a child, I visited the pediatrician very rarely; I have not a single memory of me or any of my four siblings going to the doctor with an illness. We each passed through the rites of chickenpox, mumps, and measles; we never got ear infections; we very rarely got colds or flu. My friends came from families of three, five, or even six or seven children. I knew no one with asthma, allergies, diabetes, epilepsy, or other conditions or disabilities. With all the pharmaceuticals now given to children beginning from birth, we must ask if these are making kids less well, and more debilitated. Over half of US children now have a chronic disease or disability – obviously, using more pharmaceuticals has not improved health for our children.

Pay as much attention as you can to real food for your family. Cooking from scratch is a lot of work, but start – somewhere. Even a few more whole food meals or snacks a week will give your kids fewer toxins, more minerals, varied protein, and essential fats and oils – all key for brain and immune function. Even busy families can begin with these ideas:

–       Trade processed fortified breakfast cereals (infamous for delivering too much corn syrup, sugar, additives, or even too much iron for some children) for whole grain oatmeal, eggs, or additive-free organic breakfast meats

–       If cereal is non-negotiable, transition to organic brands that use whole grains. Add raw nuts and seeds like cashew, sunflower, or pumpkin seeds.

–       Once a week, try a session with your kids of making your own cereal. Use whole oats, nuts, seeds, cinnamon, honey – any granola recipe can do.

–       Trade sugary GMO concoctions like Ensure, Pediasure, or Carnation Instant Breakfast for power shakes made from organic almond, hemp, or coconut milk; add whey powder, nut butters like tahini, honey, and ripe banana. Let your kids experiment with ingredients, within your parameters of fruits, seeds, nut butters, cacao nibs.

–       Stuck on Cheezits and Goldfish crackers? Rotate in crunchy nut and seed mixes, Justin’s Nut Butters, raw young asparagus, or crisp bell peppers. Add dips like guacamole or hummus. If all else fails, offer nut butters and dips rich in brain building fats with the crunchy cracker favorites.

–       Is Friday pizza night? Give your own homemade a try, and let your kids in on the project. If making your own dough is daunting, purchase an empty pizza round from your grocer’s freezer section and build from there. Use organic cheeses. Experiment with toppings like olives, fresh basil leaves, raw tomato slices, scallion, or barbeque chicken; let your kids spice the pie with fresh minced oregano, raw minced garlic, or  fresh hot pepper.

–       Use a crock pot once a week for a home cooked meal. Meatballs and sauce, meatless minestrone, pot roast and vegetables, and lentil dahl are just a few meals that cook themselves and offer protein, minerals, fats, and oils.

What I usually hear in my nutrition practice is this: The more families get into preparing real food, the more they get into it. It grows on you. And the best part is seeing your children become healthier and happier, from the inside out.