Oh, the holidays: a time where we tend to consume copious amounts of cheese, a wide variety of sweets and bottomless glasses of festive cocktails. Spreads like these, coupled with high-vibe social gatherings, are one of life’s greatest pleasures. We often find so much love and joy in these moments, between spending time with people we enjoy and indulging in delicious foods that remind us of the Christmas season. They signal to us that it’s time to take a break from the regular routines of life and embrace a slower, or at least more festive, way of life.
For some, overindulging during the holidays, or consuming foods that aren’t part of our regular diet, can be stressful and leave us ridden with guilt, feeling like it’s something we now must “fix”, as if something has been broken or ruined. After stepping on the scale for the first time all month, classic New Year's resolutions might begin to form in your head as you make frantic plans to “work it off” or get back to your “pre-holiday” body.
If this resonates with you, I encourage you to pause and reach for some perspective before diving head-first into the river of self-loathing. One, know that, above all else, your value as a human has nothing to do with a fluctuating number on the scale. If you struggle to come to terms with this truth, your journey needs to begin here and it may require the support of someone who can help guide you in building a healthy relationship with the scale and understanding what self-worth truly is. Secondly, be gentle with yourself. Give yourself grace and compassion, as you would to anyone else that you love. Why do we struggle so much to offer it up to ourselves? You do not need to wake up tomorrow, guns-a-blazing, ready to morph into the perfect version you have created in your head–the person you feel you now must become since you ate one too many squares from your mom’s dessert platter. When we are gentle with ourselves, we provide the safe place needed to create meaningful change, which is created out of love, rather than fear, guilt and self-hatred.
"When we are gentle with ourselves, we provide the safe place needed to create meaningful change..."
Once you can approach change from a place of self-love, you’re more likely to find small, sustainable shifts that support the lifestyle you desire. You take action because you know you are worthy of something better. Maybe you focus on water intake or daily movement goals. Perhaps you remove some of the more indulgent, sugar-laden foods that aren’t usually around, but that somehow migrated into your kitchen over the holidays. Maybe you dedicate yourself to including a source of protein with each meal. These small shifts are easily built on each other and when adopted over a period of time, don’t feel hard and unreasonable. They become habits in your day and this is how real change happens. When we throw ourselves into crash diets, they can only last as long as our willpower does and willpower is not infinite. It will run out. Lasting change has to be meaningful, it must produce results and it must be ingrained in the details of our day through the power of habit.
So, please don’t you dare feel an ounce of guilt from holiday indulgence (I say this with 12 exclamation points if you’re living in Ontario in January, 2022. IYKYK). Instead, focus on the feelings you had when you ate that delicious food and sipped on those fancy cocktails, all while laughing and connecting and holding the people you love most in this world. If you’re feeling a tug to make some changes that support your health with the arrival of the new year, I fully support you, particularly in the current state of our world. Taking your mental and physical health into your own hands has never been more important than it is today. But be gentle with yourself. These last couple of years have been rocky, to say the least. We could all use a little love and kindness and that needs to begins with our own self-talk. Small, slow, meaningful shifts can make all the difference and set you on the road to real, lasting health.
Happy New Year, from my family to yours!
A few months ago, I shared a post on Family Style Meals to encourage picky eaters to explore new foods and it was a hit, to say the least! If you have a selective eater in your home, let this be a comfort in knowing you are not alone. I’ve spoken with so many parents who struggle daily to get their child to try new foods. They’re frustrated by the dinnertime battles and worry that their child isn’t getting the nutrients they need to thrive. But at the root of their frustration is not knowing what to do about it.
Picky eating is usually a multi-faceted issue and it isn’t linear. Your child may go through periods where they are more open to trying new meals and others where they are religious about a very short list of acceptable foods. One thing I will say, to help you better understand these phases, is to pay attention to what’s going on in your child’s life. Are they going through a transition? Could they be looking for areas in their life where they can exercise more control (i.e. food choices)? Ebbs and flow in a young child’s eating is totally normal for a number of reasons, and life changes are one of them. So tune into what’s going on externally to help you better understand what’s going on at the dinner table.
"Could they be looking for areas in their life where they can exercise more control (i.e. food choices)?"
Today, I want to equip you with another strategy to use with your selective eater that will not only encourage food exploration, but also take the pressure off you as the parent. Tonight, whether you are plating your child’s food, or you are serving family style, make sure you are offering at least one safe food. This is something you know your child recognizes and enjoys. Perhaps it’s a raw vegetable, a fruit, crackers, cheese, etc. It doesn’t matter if it “goes” with the meal. The point of this food is to provide your child with a sense of familiarity, comfort and trust.
"Make sure you are offering at least one safe food... The point of this food is to provide your child with a sense of familiarity, comfort and trust."
Hear me out: you decided to get creative in the kitchen and try a new recipe. It’s a little out of the box for your family, but you know it’s going to be delicious. Your child sees this unfamiliar dish and immediately feels anxious. Thoughts that might come up for them: What is that? It smells funny. Why is it that colour? How is it going to feel in my mouth? That’s scary. I am definitely not touching it.
Great. They’ve already made their mind up before even considering giving it a try.
Now picture this: you place this new meal on the table, but beside it, you also serve a small plate of raw carrots, cashews, sliced strawberries and other acceptable foods, available to anyone who would like some. The anxiety of a perceived expectation to eat a new, scary dish is immediately diffused. There are other foods available they know and enjoy, and this comfort may allow them the confidence to try something new as well.
Another way this could look is to make up a plate for your child that includes some of the carrots, cashews and sliced strawberries plus a very small portion of the new food. Offering just a small portion of a new food helps it appear less “scary” to your child. They aren’t staring at a huge portion that inadvertently tells them what they’re expected to eat. It’s less intimidating, plus it’s served with “safe foods” that they know they like. All in all, a much less intimidating meal but one that has the power to expand their pallet.
This is a plate I served my daughter last week. We were having shrimp tacos. Tacos? Yes. Tacos with shrimp? Scary. So, I made her a simple cheese quesadilla (safe food) and served a small portion of the other foods on the side, including the shrimp, chopped finely for easy exploration.
The next tip I want to share is to let your child play with their food! I know this goes against the messaging we grew up with, that food is to be eaten, not played with. But eating is a 5-senses experience. Beyond simply tasting, children need to look at, smell, touch and hear their food and they do this by exploring it fully. The first time you offer your child a new food, you might notice they push it around on the plate a bit, or even give it a little sniff. Even though they didn’t taste it, it’s all part of the experience of making the food familiar to them. You can even ask questions about the food that doesn’t leave your child feeling pressured to eat it, but encourages them to explore it. “What colour is that vegetable? Does it make a funny noise when you stir it around? What does it smell like?” Questions like these get your child thinking about other aspects of a food, rather than just… what is this going to taste like? Let them play! (Note: depending on your child, you may not want to talk about the food at all and allow your child to explore it in peace. In the meantime, you talk about your day, what your’re looking forward to, a funny joke you heard, etc. Anything but food. So, listen to your intuition and choose the strategy that’s right for your child)
"Eating is a 5-senses experience. Beyond simply tasting, children need to look at, smell, touch and hear their food and they do this by exploring it fully."
Picky eating can be a complex subject, but collecting tools for your toolbox and gaining a better understanding of what actually drives the behaviour is key to making it less stressful for everyone. Incorporate these tips into how you approach meal time and watch your picky eater blossom into a food explorer.
I'm a big energy ball fan for a few reasons: I love that you can double or triple batch them and throw them in the freezer for a family-friendly, easy-to-grab snack. I love that they have a dessert feel to them (Hi, I'm Lindsay and I love dessert). I also love that, while following a few key guidelines, they're pretty hard to mess up, with countless ingredient combinations to try.
But even with a million and one flavour combos out there, for the past couple of months, I've just kept coming back to this recipe. For me, it ticks all the boxes: chocolate + coconut (always a yes from me), walnuts (rich in omega-3s and antioxidants), and sweetened primarily with dates (high in fibre and antioxidants).
Whenever I'm baking with dates, even if the recipe doesn't call for it, I like to soak my dates ahead of time. It's just ensures a more reliable consistency. I usually expedite the process by boiling some water (or just turning the tap to extra hot), and soaking the dates in very hot water for a couple of hours. Otherwise, you can use regular temp and soak them all day or over night to ensure that soft, gooey consistency once combined.
Energy balls are best kept in the freezer, which helps them hold their shape and reduces unnecessary mess. That said, the fridge works pretty well too.
If you're working with a batter that is a little on the runny or sticky side, you can add more of your dry base, or try popping the mixture in the fridge for 20 minutes before rolling into balls. I really prefer a small cookie scoop rather than my hands. It helps keep the balls a consistent size and also makes for less mess (are you picking up on an aversion to messes here?). If you are using your hands to roll, simply dampen your hands with a bit of water first to prevent the batter from sticking to you.
Blend all ingredients in a food processor until they are well combined. Roll the mixture into individual balls and then, after placing some loose coconut on a plate, roll each ball in the coconut until lightly covered. Place the balls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment and move to the freezer for 20 minutes. Keep your energy balls in an air tight container in the freezer or fridge.
When my daughter turned one and started displaying signs of very selective eating, I was left scratching my head. Where did I do wrong? I’m a nutrition expert, for goodness sake. I thought that meant I am omitted from this crap. So naive I was…
If you too find yourself with a picky eater, the first step is understanding that you didn’t do anything wrong! Although not everyone will face this challenge and there are many techniques we can use to minimize pickiness in our kids, release the idea that any of it is your fault. It’s a very common and normal developmental phase for a toddler to experience.
When faced with the challenge, like many parents, I began the work of turning my picky eater into a food explorer. This work is not for the faint of heart and it definitely resembles more of a marathon than a sprint. I have been working diligently on this for two years and am now starting to see the fruits of my labour (and it’s glorious!). If I wrote one post on picky eating, we’d be here for hours. There is so much to unpack, countless individual circumstances, and many shifts that may need to take place in the home around meal time. So, today I’m going to focus on one of my favourite strategies to encourage food exploration that anyone can try.
For many parents, during meal time, they will get the plates out for each family member and then serve each portion before bringing the plates to the table. They put their child’s dish down and say, “Dinner is ready!”. The child (maybe) comes up to the table, only to see exactly what has been provided to them and how much of it. With this method, we are telling our children, indirectly, exactly what we expect them to eat, taking a significant amount of power and choice away from them.
Now, if you’ve parented a young child, you know power struggles are REAL. How we’ve all made it through this stage of parenting is beyond me. Developmentally, a toddler is working to exercise their autonomy. They know they are an individual person with their own thoughts and opinions (oh, so many opinions) and they work very hard to exercise them. Feeling “in control” is extremely important to them, and that’s where a very delicate dance between parent and child begins.
One way to minimize meal time stress while giving some of that power and control back to your child is to offer your meals family style. Rather than plating their dinner for them, place each menu item on the table in a dish and let them decide what they would like to eat from said menu. They can either serve themselves, or if they aren’t quite old enough for this yet, you can invite them to tell you what they would like on their plate today, and how much. Now, you have to be prepared that they may take lots of one item and none of another, but to this I say… who cares? You have vetted each menu item and can feel good about your child eating whatever they choose, and know that this may just be the gateway you have been looking for to encourage a broader palette (more on that to come). You can let go of the frustration of putting food on their plate, only to watch them, once again, push it around with a fork, whine about wanting something else, or ignore it completely.
And this brings me to my bonus point, and what may just be a parent’s most powerful mindset shift when it comes to picky eaters. Are you ready for it? It’s called The Division of Responsibility. If you haven’t heard of this before, lean it, because this simple phrase has the potential to significantly reduce and possibly even remove meal time stress.
When it comes to meals, it’s your job to decide what to serve your child; it is their job to decide if and how much of it they will eat. That’s it. Now, let those words sink in. Then, apply them to your next dinner time. Whatever you decide to offer your child, your job ends there. This understanding alone can create a monumental shift in your family meal experience. Suddenly, you aren’t watching your child’s every move or encouraging them to try something else, or saying, “Just one more bite.” You’ve released that and, instead, are focusing on connection. “What did Liam bring for Show and Share today?”, “It rained a lot this afternoon. Do you want to put on our rain boots after dinner and jump in the puddles?”, “You’ll never guess who I saw when I was out for a walk today!”
Doesn’t the energy of the scenario sound more enjoyable?
And here’s the thing about family style meals: because you are transferring so much of the power back into your child’s hands, many parents find that their kids will reach for foods they never would have considered before! It’s truly remarkable what this power transfer can inspire. Perhaps they see the roasted carrots on the table, and since they aren’t being told (directly or indirectly) that they should be eating them, they feel more empowered by the idea that it’s their choice to put them on their plate and not someone else’s. It encourages them to exercise curiosity, exploration and decision making.
If you struggle with picky eating in your family, try the technique of family style meals for a few weeks (yes, weeks--give it time), and watch the shift begin from stressful dinners to nourished connection.
One of the most common questions I get from parents about to begin the journey of solids with their baby is:
Which is better: Baby Led Weaning or Purees? Here's a quick overview to help you make the call on which feeding method is right for you and your baby.
So, your baby is a few months old and you’re starting to plan their introduction to solids. A quick Google search… a visit to your paediatrician… a scroll through Instagram…. and you quickly realize there is a LOT of information out there. Some parents are screaming from the rooftops that Baby Led Weaning is the only way to go, while others are taking the more traditional route of purees. So which is best?
Well, for the sake of time, I’m going to assume we all know what a puree is (blending up food to a smooth consistency, usually spoon-fed to baby). But, what the heck is Baby Led Weaning (BLW)?
Simply put, Baby Led Weaning is the concept of providing baby with finger foods (soft foods cut into strips, to start) and putting her in charge. Baby chooses what to eat from the foods provided and how much. Parents play a fairly small role in comparison to feeding strictly purees, where they are an instrumental part in getting the food into their baby’s mouth.
So, let’s look at the benefits of BLW.
It frees up the caregiver
Selfishly, this is one of my favourite things about BLW. Since baby is in charge of feeding himself, mom and dad aren’t tied to the highchair until the meal is over, which means you are either free to do other things nearby (alway keeping an eye on baby for safety, of course), or able to enjoy a meal yourself. Which leads me to the next benefit…
It allows the family to eat together
If your baby is in charge of feeding himself, that means everyone else can also eat at the same time, which lends itself nicely to family meals. The more your baby can see you modelling good eating behaviours, the faster they are to catch on themselves. As such, the start of creating a beautiful food culture with your kids begins.
"... the start of creating a beautiful food culture with your kids begins."
Baby is more likely to follow their own intrinsic cues
Because baby has control over what she will eat from her highchair tray, she will naturally lean into her own intuitions, reaching for more of one food over another, depending on her preferences; stopping when she is no longer hungry (babies are born with excellent hunger and fullness cues), etc. When you are spoon feeding your baby, it can be harder for her to listen to her own instincts around food.
Food prep can be easier
One of the concepts of BLW is often, “baby eats what you eat”, meaning everyone in the family eats a version of the same meal, and that can mean less food prep for you. That said, in the early days of food introduction, this likely won’t be the case, as it takes time to build up a baby’s food list, as well as food needs to be prepared in a safe way, suitable for a baby with few to no teeth, and offered in developmentally appropriate ways. For younger babies, this usually means strips, as they haven’t developed the palmer release or pincer grasp yet (ability to pick food up with index finger and thumb).
So far, it sounds like I am a BIG supporter of BLW, right? And that would be true. I am. BUT, that doesn’t mean I don’t think purees are a great idea. Because I really do! Hear me out:
Purees offer a nutrition punch like no other
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Food before one, just for fun.” But through my own learning, I have come to strongly disagree with this statement. Food before one can be so powerful to a child’s development and has the ability to set them on the path to long-term health. Purees allow you to flex your inner nutrition geek muscles and really put some food combinations together that support your baby’s health in big ways. For example, I love making my gut healing broth, freezing it in icecube trays and using it to puree various vegetable, fruit and even meat combinations. In the early days of BLW, baby is not likely to get a large amount of food in her, but will probably take in more if the food is pureed and spoon-fed. This better allows for iron consumption, as well as minerals, gelatin, fats, and various micronutrients--all beneficial to your baby’s developing systems.
You may have read on my Instagram page that, when the pandemic hit, I suffered a drop in milk supply (stress can do crazy things), and on top of that, my son developed an extreme case of eczema. At his four month appointment, we were told his weight gain had stalled and I had to make some big decisions about his nutrition. Ultimately, we decided to start him on solids earlier than planned, and I used purees to boost his overall health. Along with some other tools, this allowed him to gain the necessary weight and clear his eczema. Ultimately, the use of purees played a big part in his healing. So, it’s no surprise that I think they can be a great addition to your baby’s feeding regime. Although we took more of a BLW approach with my daughter, she also got purees! After all, smooth and silky is a food texture I wanted her to be familiar with as well.
Tip: If you want to avoid feeding your baby, but still want to try purees, you can pre-load their spoon and offer it to them.
I know what you’re thinking:
“Lindsay, it doesn’t sound like you’re picking a side at all. How is this helping me choose between BLW and purees?”
Well, here’s the secret: You don’t have to choose!
If you aren’t automatically drawn towards one feeding method over another, you can totally do a hybrid of the two. In fact, that’s what I did with both of my babies! My kids had very different intro-to-solids journeys, and their needs and personalities meant they needed different things.
Even if you feel very strongly about one feeding method, your baby may have different plans. Be prepared for and open to reading their cues and following their direction. This isn’t all about you, after all. Some babies want nothing to do with purees, while others are frustrated in early days with the concept of feeding themselves, and may do well with some puree offered before having them practice self-feeding. Pay attention to what your baby is telling you and let that guide your feeding journey.
Looking for more guidance on introducing solids to your baby? Introducing my self-paced course, Starting Solids with Super Nutrition. Learn how to introduce solids to your baby with confidence.
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Not ready to join a list, but want to learn more? Check out the video below all about WHY I created Starting Solids with Super Nutrition.
Ah, February: the season of love. I've never been much of a Valentine's Day enthusiast myself, but don't dislike it either. I fall somewhere in the middle, likely not playing a leading role with my participation, but happy to join in the chorus. Traditionally, Dave and I have been known to exchange a thoughtful card and make a nice dinner together with some wine. Pretty standard. Nothing fancy, but quite enjoyable, nonetheless. That said, I respect and admire the couples that really go all out with grand romantic gestures and dinner at a 5-star restaurant. And honestly, with the year we’ve had, if it was an option, I might be more likely to jump on that train, pretty much ready to seize any opportunity to do something that feels social and special! But I digress...
Whether you love or hate Valentine's Day, I think we can all agree that we inevitably associate the occasion with chocolate, along with other pink and red candy options. Now that I have children, V-day is a whole different ball game, since I now have the desire to include them in the celebrations as well. And since I need no excuse to play around with chocolate in the kitchen, this was a great opportunity to come up with some healthier, real-food, festive treats that the whole family can enjoy. They all include chocolate (obviously), but are likely better options than most store-bought treats.
So, of course, I am sharing my creations with you here. All of these were relatively simple to make while still looking very V-day-esc.
First up, we have these simple heart-shaped chocolate-dipped strawberries--like your standard chocolate-dipped strawberries, but more lovey.
1. Start by cutting the stem off a quart of strawberries in a v-shape
2. In a double boiler, pour about half a cup of dark or semi-sweet chocolate into a pot (I just used some dairy-free chocolate chips). Add about a teaspoon of coconut oil and heat over medium heat, stirring regularly.
3. When the chocolate is melted and smooth, remove from heat and stir in half a teaspoon of vanilla.
4. Put a toothpick in the end of each strawberry and dip the tops into the chocolate. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to set.
Related: Chocolate Almond Butter Stuffed Dates
Next are these heart-shaped energy snacks (or energy balls). I love these because they can easily be adapted to make them school-safe by swapping the nut butter for a seed butter. The only special tool I used was a heart-shaped cookie cutter I picked up from my local grocery store. I plan to use it Valentine's Day morning as well for pancakes.
1. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of oats with ⅓ cup of chocolate chips, ⅓ cup of goji berries, ½ cup of honey and ½ cup of peanut butter. Stir until mixed.
2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Scoop the mixture onto the sheet and form into a log shape, about 1 inch high. Gently press in some festive sprinkles into the top of the mixture (optional. I did this on half). If you don’t have a cookie cutter you’d like to use, you can skip this step and just roll the dough into balls. Fold the sprinkles in first, if using.
3. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for half an hour. This will make the dough less sticky to work with.
4. Remove from freezer and use your cookie cutter to form heart shapes. I rolled my remaining mixture into balls. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge or freezer.
Finally, I have a delicious treat that will likely be used as my Valtentine's Day dessert (primarily for Dave and I). Chocolate bark on any occasion is great because it looks impressive but is so easy to make. The simplicity mixed with decadence makes it the perfect dessert.
1. I used my dehydrator to dehydrate some thinly sliced strawberries overnight. Alternatively, you can purchase freeze-dried strawberries, or use dried cranberries or goji berries instead to give you the festive red look. But, I have to say, dried strawberries are so yummy.
2. Melt about 1 cup of dark or semi-sweet chocolate of your choice over a double boiler, stirring constantly.
3. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet and pour the melted chocolate onto the middle of the pan. Use a spatula to spread the chocolate out evenly to the desired width. I like mine fairly thin.
4. Roughly chop ¼ cup of almonds and ¼ cup of dried strawberries (or dried berries of choice). Sprinkle them onto the chocolate and lightly press down.
5. Place the pan in the freezer for about 30 minutes or until the chocolate is completely set. Remove the pan from the freezer and break your chocolate into pieces. Store in air-tight container (I like to keep mine in the freezer) and enjoy!
Happy Love Day!
1/9/2021 0 Comments
Breastfeeding: often the most natural and yet complicated journey for a woman and her baby. Today, I want to talk about the quality of your breastmilk and how that can be elevated to further benefit your baby’s development. We’re going beyond lactation cookies here (although, sign me up for some of those too). Let’s take a deep dive into the production of highly nourishing breastmilk through the use of breastfeeding superfoods.
Many of these suggestions are supported by The Weston A. Price Foundation, a not-for-profit nutrition organization that advocates for traditional foods and their scientifically proven use to support health. Below are a few of the recommendations given by WAPF to support pregnant and nursing women:
“These recommendations are scientifically geared to nourish a nursing mother with all of the minerals, enzymes, immune factors, vitamins, antioxidants and fat soluble activators she needs for herself and her baby,” (Super Nutrition for Babies, 2018).
But wait… there’s more!
There should be specific attention paid to the amount and kinds of fats in your diet, particularly when breastfeeding. Breastmilk is made up of mostly saturated fats and cholesterol. Much of baby's brain tissue is also composed of fat and to support optimal brain development, adequate fat is required in mom’s diet. Focus on incorporating a variety of fats, like grass-fed butter, eggs, cheese and meat from pasture-raised animals (when/if available to you). Medium chain triglycerides in the form of coconut oil or coconut milk feed probiotics and support thyroid health. And then, of course, clasic fat sources like oily fish, nuts and seeds will also provide you with those essential fatty acids.
Avoid consuming too many highly processed fats, like seed and vegetable oils. Outdated messaging can still be heard circulating, for some reason, leading some people to believe that these oils are not only ok to consume, but good for you. That is far from the truth. They are extremely inflammatory and can be a source of disease-causing free radicals. Look for oils that are cold-pressed and unrefined. Great examples of these are coconut, avocado and olive oil.
Now let’s talk carbohydrates. It probably isn’t surprising to know that you should be eating a variety of green vegetables, fruits, sprouted grains and some high quality starches. They are full of nutrients and fibre and don’t cause a dramatic spike in blood sugar. When talking fibre, look for some good resistant starch sources, like cooked and cooled potatoes and green bananas. Beans and legumes are another good source, but ensure they are properly soaked and cooked to remove any lectin. Resistant starches resist being digested, but feed our good gut bacteria.
Of course, the diet described above is the ideal scenario, but we can’t always get those foods in, even though we know they’re important, because…. life. To offset this, you can of course use supplements to fill in any gaps. I want to preface this list by saying that you should always work with your personal healthcare team before starting any supplement regime to make sure they are right for you. That said, here is a list of supplements you may wish to explore to optimize your breast milk production and overall health as a nursing mama:
And there you have it! The ideal foods to incorporate into your diet when breastfeeding. Being a mom is hard, and at the end of the day, we’re all just doing the best we can. So if this doesn’t seem doable to you, if you’re just not there yet, I encourage you to pick one or two items that you could see yourself incorporating into your daily life and start there! Small changes can go a long way when it comes to the long-term health of you and your baby.
And maybe yours didn't either.
Maternity leaves are sacred and and more than once I questioned if 2020 stole this experience from mothers. Over the course of the year, I know I wasn't alone in hearing several versions of the following phrase, “Oh--I’m sure this wasn’t the mat leave you envisioned, huh?” usually said with a sigh and look of sympathy. And it’s true--if you had told me a year ago that my maternity leave would turn out this way, I wouldn’t have believed you. But, regardless of what your plans were this year, I can almost guarantee you didn’t spend the last 12 months the way you thought you would.
When COVID came barrelling down the the line in March like a freight train on fire, it felt like the world was instantaneously flipped upside down and no one knew which was was up. My cozy, quiet days at home with Austin were suddenly met with a closed daycare, meaning my two year old was home as well. Organized activities came to a screeching halt, parks were closed and we were told to see no one. And because no one understood what we were up against, we complied. So, along with having absolutely no idea what was happening in the world and what kind of risk our health was facing, we also had to figure out how to parent our children, all day, every day, without support. The maternity leave I assumed I would have for the next year quite literally vanished overnight. There was no camaraderie to share with other mothers, no quiet breaks in my day during nap time, and no support from loved ones. I was devastated.
And here I sat in devastation for a few weeks. Maybe longer. And then, as the stages of grief continued, I found acceptance. I molded something that resembled a routine for our days at home. And, eventually, I found enjoyment. And just as I figured out how to find the joy in these unprecedented times, the heavens opened. And by heavens, I mean daycare. As quickly as she was pulled out, my extroverted toddler was back at school, embracing days with her friends once again. And Austin and I were back to our quiet days alone. It felt like maternity leave had returned--albeit, looking a little different than I had once imagined.
As challenging as this year has been, sometime during those three months of isolation (probably nearing the end), I decided that I refused to look back on my maternity leave with regret; that I would choose gratitude for all this year has brought. We don't get this time back, and regardless of what it looked like or when it fell, one year at home with your baby is an incredible gift. To witness your child’s first year of life, a year where the rate of change seems impossibly fast, to feed the innate connection you have with this tiny human by staying so close to them--I am incredibly thankful. So thankful that timing doesn't matter. It is irrelevant. This is why to view my maternity leave with gratitude, rather than regret, hasn't been that hard.
Here’s the thing: this year wasn’t great. I know we are all trying to choose joy and live at a higher vibration (and for the most part, I have to actively work on these things too), but when it comes to my baby and my mat leave? They have been a gift amongst the turmoil. Almost like a completely separate entity of 2020. Welcoming Austin into our family, experiencing the newborn days as a more experienced, less-anxious version of myself (compared to my first run at it), being at home and spared the chaos of my workplace as my coworkers navigated the COVID waters--these were all gifts in a year that could have been (and was for many) much more challenging for me and my family.
For some new parents, they really felt the effects of isolation as they brought their child into the world. They were denied support in a time they needed it most, as well as many “firsts” they had likely envisioned in their head, and for those individuals, I am truly sorry. As wonderful as it can be, having a baby comes with many challenges, even in the best of times. I spent a lot of time this year thinking about new moms in particular, trudging through the fourth trimester while figuring out how to care for their baby. To say this is no easy feat is a massive understatement. Although there were certainly times when I could have used some extra hands, I had the advantage of knowing (kind of) what to expect. I think this was helpful (although if you asked me back in March when I also had my two year old home from daycare, parks were closed, and we were all stuck at home… I might have been singing a different tune). These sentiments are also extended to women experiencing their first pregnancy during this time--attending appointments and ultrasounds solo, not being able to share this experience with their partner. This feels incredibly unfair for you too. My only words of comfort are, know that they will be there for the finale, and what a finale it is. Worth the wait.
My mat leave meant joy and laughter in times when we all needed a little lift and distraction from the happenings of the world. Not even a global pandemic could take away the simple joy that a new baby brings to one’s life, and for that, I am so thankful. Because the love you have for a child is above all else. Nothing can rob you of that. So, no, I am not regretful that my maternity leave fell in the year 2020. I am grateful for the simplicity it allowed in a time when my life would have most certainly been more complicated. I am grateful that, during days that I felt resentment, sadness, anger, and confusion, I also got to feel the deepest love. And I think that’s pretty lucky.
If you welcomed a baby into the world in 2020, I know the experience wasn't what you had pictured in your head. And you might need to mourn the loss of that vision. That’s ok. Take some time to do that. Sit in your sadness and, when you’re ready, release it. Then, reflect on your time at home with your little one. How incredible has it been to feel like the world slowed down enough for you to really take it all in? To watch them change every day, right in front of your eyes? To enjoy lazy afternoons on the couch while your babe slept peacefully on your chest? To feel so much love in a time that has never needed it more? What a gift. So, rather than regret, choose gratitude. You and your baby deserve it.
This year, Canadian fast-food restaurant, A&W, announced it would source 100% grass-fed beef from right here in Canada. Traditionally, a lot of grass-fed, or at the very least grass-finished beef, would need to come from Australia or New Zealand, but it seems that Canadian farmers are starting to see an opportunity in this market and changing up their model to take advantage.
A&W CEO, Susan Senical, said this initiative was developed because customers were demanding higher quality meat, fast-food or not. First of all, to this I say: Bravo, Canada! Changes like this give me hope that society is shifting to a more health-conscious collective. Sure--just because one is eating grass-fed beef doesn’t mean they are the picture of health (because, let’s be honest: that burger is coming with a side of fries), but it’s a step in the right direction. It means people are getting thoughtful about what goes into their bodies. And I like it.
I have to admit, when I first heard that A&W was providing grass-fed beef, the skeptic in me immediately went on the defensive. What’s the catch? Some of it is grass-fed? It’s fed some grass among other things? It’s fed a bit of grass, but not grass-finished? I figured, for sure, this was a huge marketing ploy, but that ultimately we weren’t really being offered true grass-fed beef. But the more I read, the more it seems that, in fact, consumers are getting 100% grass-fed beef. Cattle purchased cannot be fed any grain or feed additives. This model is also in support of the regenerative agriculture movement, something we know is extremely important for the health of our planet and food sources.
So there isn’t any catch? Well, that depends on how you look at it…
Grass-fed is great. It’s definitely what you want your beef to be, if you can swing it. But that doesn’t mean that the cows haven’t been injected with growth hormones or antibiotics. It sounds like the Canadian restaurant chain has good intentions though, and will do their best to source their beef free of these things, but if you truly want to know what your beef is eating, purchasing from a fast-food chain is likely not your best bet. Try a meat subscription service that works with small, local farms, like NIKU, True Local, or Butcher Box. Services like these make it so much easier to get the nitty gritty on your meat. You can often go right to the farmer’s website, if available. Plus, you feel good knowing you are supporting small, sustainable farms with your purchase.
That said, if you’re looking for a fast-food hamburger from time to time, I”m going to have to get on board the A&W train and say, well done. Let’s hope we see more chain restaurants thinking beyond convenience and dollar signs in the future.
For many, choosing clothes for their kids isn’t complicated. Whatever is available and inexpensive is the name of the game. Maybe those are the only considerations they have the luxury of making. But, for others, there are a few more factors that come into play: How long do I need it to last? What kind of value am I getting for my money? Is style important to me? How do I want to show up and support this industry?
Having dressed two kiddos of my own and experiencing, first-hand, how quickly we jump from size to size, as well as what brands feel good while standing up to toddler play, I am becoming more and more aware of clothing waste, quality and source.
This week, I had the pleasure of completing a guest post for Pingo Apparel, one of my favourite sustainable, eco-friendly clothing stores for children (plus some great pieces for mom and dad--check out the adult panthera sweater I'm sporting below). Head over to their site to learn 3 Reasons To Go Sustainable When Outfitting Your Kids. This year, more than ever, let's support businesses doing it right--who follow fair and ethical production practices and consider the long-term health of our planet. And, of course, support local when you can. Small businesses need us now more than ever.