Eczema is a common skin condition that many people can relate to. And more and more, we are seeing it show up in our children. In fact, Authors, Kathrine Erlich, M.D. and Kelly Genzlinger, M.Sc., C.N.C., C.M.T.A. of Super Nutrition for Babies say that, now, 1 in 2.5 (40%) of children have allergies (often presenting as eczema), compared to 30% of adults.
I started to do a deep dive into eczema treatments when my son turned two months old and broke out in eczema from head to toe. It was an extreme case that, like it would any parent, caused me extreme stress. I worked very closely with my naturopath and paediatrician to get to the root cause, as well as treat his immediate symptoms.
Today, Austin is 10 months old and is clear skinned and thriving. We still deal with a few patches of eczema here and there, but it is nothing compared to the case we were managing several months ago. And we did it naturally. So, how did we get here?
First, it’s important to address how common eczema is today. Why is that and what can we do about it? The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care notes that there has been a major shift in disease patterns over the course of just two generations. Genetically, it would take thousands of years to change as much as we’ve seen. The authors attribute this shift to the many dietary and lifestyle changes that have occurred over the last 50 years. Children spend far less time outdoors, exposed to fewer germs and less dirt; they have fewer close encounters with peers and animals and live in highly sanitized environments. As a result of this shift in lifestyle, our immune systems do not get to flex their muscles as much as they need to fight microorganisms when they come along. We are far more likely to experience a negative immune response because of this.
Using soothing oatmeal baths to help control inflammation.
Most people, when faced with the challenge of eczema, immediately turn to a cream or other topical treatment to heal a flare up. And although this can be helpful in the short term, it’s so important to understand that skin inflammation is a symptom of something bigger that must be addressed. Otherwise, you will forever be treating the symptom--a band aid solution to a larger issue. If a person’s gut flora is not thriving, due to things like a c-section delivery for babies, poor diet, a high amount of pro-inflammatory foods, additives in vaccinations not properly detoxed by the body, use of antibiotics, chloride and fluoride in water, etc. the cell-to-cell junctures of the gut are weakened. The villi become damaged and flattened and can’t do their job. Healthy villi produce enzymes called disaccharides, which break down foods like grains and milk products. Without them, digestion of these foods becomes difficult and the body gets run down with immune system dysfunction, allergies, rashes and asthma. We see holes or leaks in the gut lining, which allow allergenic proteins into the bloodstream. The immune response to these foreign bodies in the bloodstream can show up as--you guessed it-- eczema.
This helps us understand why going deeper than the skin outbreak is important in solving the problem of eczema. First, we must figure out why the body is having an immune response and begin there.
For many people, this will be a trial-and-error process, as it was (is) for us. This can be frustrating, but a necessary part of the journey.
If you’re experiencing eczema with your little one, know that your journey might look different than ours. But by sharing our story, you may have some fresh tools to try out or to talk to your healthcare team about.
"It’s so important to understand that skin inflammation is a symptom of something bigger that must be addressed. Otherwise, you will forever be treating the symptom."
Austin was born via emergency c-section, meaning he didn’t get that push through the birth canal that I had hoped for him, which helps populate a baby’s gut with healthy bacteria. So, even before his skin issues came about, I put him on a probiotic. I used this one. When his eczema began to flare up, I worked with my naturopath who also put him on a second dose containing additional bacteria strands.
He was exclusively breastfed, so knowing that what I was eating may cause him inflammation, I removed all dairy and eggs from my diet, common inflammatory foods. If your child is older and experiencing eczema, removing pro-inflammatory foods is a great place to start. These include: dairy, eggs, gluten, refined sugars, and bad fats like hydrogenated oils. Specifically in the case of foods like dairy and eggs, which may be a big part of your food culture, try removing for at least a month and then slowly reintroducing one at a time, to see if a reaction occurs. In Austin’s case, he still seems to have minor reactions to both of these foods in prolonged doses and will break out in a new (although, thankfully not severe) patch of eczema. So I continue to cycle them, trying small amounts at a time every few weeks.
Since we know gut health plays a primary role in healing eczema, I put a lot of emphasis on feeding Austin nourishing, gut-healing foods. From the day he began food, I made meat/bone broth to feed him on its own, as well as mixed it into purees. By slow cooking organic bone-in, skin on chicken legs, it draws out important nutrients and minerals that are incredibly nourishing to the gut. He still loves my homemade broth and eats it regularly. I also use fermented foods and high quality oils to nourish the gut and skin, like flax seed and coconut oil, and use supplements like cod liver oil. With these protocols in place, we watched as Austin's healing began.
A common dietary treatment for intestinal dysfunction like what I have described above is implementing the GAPS diet. This is a great place to start if you’re not sure where to start.
The Weston A. Price Foundation lays this concept out well:
“Whether we are talking about foreign food antigens (food allergies), or auto-immune reactions, the issue is not so much stopping the toxic skin reaction that results in the eczema, but rather sealing and healing the gut in order to stop the leakage of foreign proteins into the blood stream, either from food or other sources. Healing the micro-flora of the gut, healing the micro-villi of the gut, and stopping the absorption of antigenic proteins is the key to stopping the vicious cycle that results in chronic eczema. All of this points to the GAPS diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet), the modified traditional diet, to start healing the gut and restoring the micro-ecology in our GI tract. From a epidemiological perspective, when we moved away from our traditional diet, with its emphasis on lacto-fermented foods, good fats, bone broths and properly prepared grains, we created the situation that has allowed chronic illnesses like eczema to flourish.”
There are other treatments you can try to help the body detox like giving sea vegetables in capsule form, which bind heavy metals and other toxins and promote excretion through the bowels. If your child is vaccinated, you can use supplements that help boost the health of the body's systems and decrease inflammation from additives in vaccines that very commonly lead to eczema outbreaks (we use this one). Additionally, the authors of Nourishing Traditions suggest using a topical that includes Sephora as the primary ingredient, a shrubby plant used as an herb in Chinese medicine to counteract allergies by stabilizing the mast cells.
And although many people turn to treatment options like steroid creams, although they control the symptom, they will never heal the individual suffering from eczema or fix the root of the problem. They may also lead to other negative side effects that complicate health later in life. Personally, we do keep a very low dose of cortisone cream on hand for any outbreak emergencies, but we use it sparingly and very infrequently with Austin’s long-term health in mind.
Homeopathics are another option to incorporate into a treatment plan. We tried sulphur pellets with Austin, and although we didn’t see much improvement, others have had great success. You can also explore psorinum, graphites, and arsenicum album.
In terms of treating the immediate symptoms (because no one wants to see their child in discomfort), here are a few topicals that we tried with varying degrees of effectiveness:
Again, this will be trial and error in order to find the topical that provides your little one with the most relief, but the key to comfort is to keep the skin hydrated and prevent any open sores. In the case of open sores in the height of Austin's outbreak, we used Correct-X by Doterra. This was a natural solution to prevent any infection and promote healing.
If you or your child has eczema, know that you must begin the healing process from the inside out. Otherwise, you will forever be chasing the symptom. Gut health is paramount for long-term health and we all deserve to achieve this.
If you are currently on this healing journey and would like a little more guidance, reach out to me. I would love to support you.
Plus: tips to manage Halloween sugar consumption
Pumpkins are aplenty and the grocery store shelves are stocked with mini chocolate bars. That can only mean one thing: another Halloween is upon us. Personally, I find this occasion a little tricky. On one hand, it's a ton of fun--the costumes, the parties, the excitement. I love it. But on the other hand, the sugary foods that tend to come along with all of the festivities can leave parents cringing a bit. So, I try to take a balanced approach here and not let myself spiral out of control around... well, control. Luckily, my oldest isn't even three yet, so although I know the harder years are ahead when it comes to Halloween candy stress, I'm going to revel in this bubble of her naivety while I still can.
That said, this is the first year my daughter may need a few household guidelines in place to manage the Halloween sugar rush. She's aware enough that if I throw out her candy after she goes to bed (like last year), she may have something to say about it in the morning. Luckily, her limited candy experience means even a couple of pieces saved for the week will leave her feeling like she won the lottery. So this year my strategy will be to have her choose five pieces from her loot (read: allows her to exercise control by offering choice). I will explain that she can have one piece each day until the five pieces are gone. Hard to say how many years this will fly for, but I think it's important to note that you set the standards in your own home when it comes to Halloween candy practices. So, whatever you're comfortable with--maybe it's eat until your belly hurts on the 31st and then choose one piece for the next day; maybe it's give all of the Wunderbars to mom and dad and you can keep the rest; some families like to employ the Switch Witch and trade out the candy for a toy, etc.--whatever your comfort level is, remember that you are the boss.
Whatever model you choose, I like the idea of incorporating choice somewhere, because, like I mentioned above, putting some control in your child's hands is key, but remember that you are ultimately the decision maker.
We love to host our friends and their littles (although, if you're reading this in 2020, that looks different this year) and one of my favourite things to do is find healthier food hacks while keeping the theme and spirit of the day in mind. Food can easily be considered "treats" or "festive" without being void of nutrients. I've chosen five fun Halloween food ideas to include in a party menu or even in your chid's meals on the 31st to make the day extra special. I've used real, whole food ingredients, and also incorporated a few more "treat" foods that we don't see often in our house (like marshmallows!), making them extra special in my almost-three-year-old's eyes.
We don't use the worlds "good" or "bad" around food. It's important to monitor your use of these terms to support children's development of a healthy relationship with food. But I don't mind using words like "nutritious" or "special treats". It's teaching our children to tune into how different foods make their bodies feel, as well as how different foods help our bodies do their jobs better than others. It teaches them that sometimes food is just meant to be enjoyed. It's teaching them intuition and balance.
"It's teaching them intuition and balance."
So, let's get into these fun (and easy) recipes that you can try with your kiddos this Hallow's Eve!
Starting off with this cute little dish, because I think it could make for a lovely breakfast or morning snack. Simply layer some pineapple and clementines (or mandarines) and top with yogurt. I've used coconut yogurt here but you could also use whipped cream if you want to make it a little more decadent. I also topped with a few chocolate sprinkles to make it extra special for the littles. (Sidenote: I used vanilla coconut yogurt and, combined with the pineapple, it gave me serious pina colada vibes. Grownup bonus).
These cantaloupe and blackberry kabobs could not be easier, but don't they look festive? They are perfect for a halloween party or to send with your child to school. Fruit in Halloween colours? You can't go wrong.
I love the look of this plate. The green apples with the spooky sauce... so good. You're already winning with apples being the main ingredient, but the star is my sneaky healthy(er) caramel sauce. Ditch the corn syrup and follow along:
1 can full fat coconut milk
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/4 maple syrup
pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan except the vanilla. Bring to a boil for 4 minutes (stirring constantly). Reduce to simmer for about 45 minutes (until liquid has reduced by half), stirring as needed. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, and let cool for about an hour. Cover and store in fridge overnight to allow for further thickening.
These are just the cutest darn ghosts I have ever seen. Plus, who doesn't love chocolate covered strawberries? I grabbed an organic white chocolate bar, melted it on the stove with 1 Tsp of coconut oil, allowed it to cool and thicken slightly before dipping my strawberries with lots of excess chocolate for a more "ghostly" shape. Let strawberries sit in the fridge on parchment paper for about 5 minutes before using small chocolate chips to make the eyes and mouth. Return to the fridge and allow to set fully before serving.
Apples + peanut butter + marshmallows = these adorable monster mouths. With three ingredients and about 5 minutes of prep, you can't go wrong throwing these on your party table. Also: how stoked was my daughter when there were marshmallows on her apples? Made her whole weekend. The sweetest part was when she saved one on her plate for a little later. After she played for a while, she went back to the table, made herself comfortable and enjoyed every moment of her third marshmallow.
Happy Halloween, friends! Tag me on instagram if you try any of these (or other!) healthy Halloween snack ideas!
I am always looking for fun snack recipes for Ayla. I want them to have a good nutritional profile, but they also have to be tasty for her to show any interest. I had seen lots of cookie recipes that used chickpeas in place of flour and thought that sounded like a great place to start for a winning, healthy snack. But as I began looking around, I couldn't quite find a recipe that I was happy with. So, taking ideas from a variety of sources, I got to work on my own creation. This hasn't always worked out for me in the past, so when I gave my first batch the official taste test, I was shocked that they were actually quite tasty!
To make things even better, these cookies are packed with fibre, and are gluten, dairy and refined sugar free.
But none of this mattered if the ultimate taste tester didn't approve. Luckily, Ayla gobbled them up! Huge mom win. I can't tell you how many hours I have spent in the kitchen coming up with what that I think will be great dishes for the babe, only to have her turn her nose up at them. I needed an ego boost.
What I love most about this recipe is that you throw all of the ingredients in a blender at once, making the prep work really quick and easy. You can have these cookies prepped and cooked in less than 45 minutes. They really do resemble the peanut butter cookie of my childhood, but with more nutritious undertones. I wanted them to be baby friendly, which means low sugar (natural or otherwise) but if you are making them for yourself or an older child, there a couple of alterations you can do to make them a bit of a sweeter treat. I used 2 tablespoons of 100% maple syrup as my sweetener, plus a banana. You could up the maple syrup for an extra kick of sweetness (perhaps 1/4-1/2 cup), as well as stir in chocolate chips just before scooping them onto your cookie sheet. Chocolate chips tend to go a long way in elevating most cookie recipes. The first batch I made definitely had a more "rustic" look to them. The second time around, I used damp hands to create more uniformed shapes and pressed down on the tops with a fork to resemble a more traditional peanut butter cookie.
As our environment becomes increasingly more fragile, low-waste (or zero-waste) living is gaining momentum--and thank goodness for that. According to The World Counts, there is over 1 billion, 600 million tons of waste dumped globally each year. That is a staggering number and one is left thinking… where will it all go?
People are starting to get the hint that their daily actions matter when it comes to preserving what environment we have left, and maybe (MAYBE) even seeing some regeneration if we act quickly and wisely.
Over the past few years, primarily after purchasing my own home, I started to become very aware of waste--specifically, mine. The garbage can towering with bags mocked me as I struggled to get to the end of the driveway on garbage day. I was conscious of the amount of plastic coming into my house on a regular basis and didn’t like it. I was working on reducing the amount of chemicals that were used in our home and realized that many were coming in disposable, plastic bottles.
Every single-use plastic item that I used regularly left me with a growing amount of guilt and maybe a little shame.
I knew I could do better.
A lot of people become paralyzed by the idea that if they aren’t doing something with 100% effort and accuracy, they might as well not do it at all. But when it comes to low-waste living, a little can go a long way. As the saying goes, a lot of people doing low-waste living imperfectly is better than one doing it perfectly. So, with these words in mind, I slowly started to shift a few habits in my home that reduce our overall impact on the environment, and quite honestly, on my wallet.
When I say I no longer buy these things, in some cases that’s a bit of a stretch. What I mean is it is very rare for me to buy these items anymore and when I do, they last a very long time. I’m not perfect and, although sometimes I wish I was, by no means an extremist. I’m just a gal trying to do the best I can. But sometimes I just need to use a piece of plastic wrap, ok?
These changes were not made overnight. Like most long-term shifts, I started slow, replacing one item at a time with a more sustainable option, and grew my list over time.
So, without further ado, here are 10 things I no longer purchase and--more importantly--what they have been replaced with: quality, sustainable products.
1. Ziplock bags
I had been feeling guilty about ziplock bags for a while. It was just one more single-use plastic that I did not need to be using and contributing to our landfills. Luckily, Stashers are an incredible replacement for plastic baggies. They are made of non-toxic silicone, have an incredible seal and can be used over and over again. I have a deep love for these bags and every time I use them, I feel proud that I will have nothing for the garbage can when I’m through. They come in multiple sizes, which is very helpful. I use the large size to freeze items or even defrost meat in (seal chicken breast in the bag and then pop it in a sink of warm water). I also love the regular size for snacks. They’re fantastic for travel because they’re zero-waste without the weight or bulk of a container. For some, the price may be a deterrent, but if you consider the fact that they are a one-time buy (and you would otherwise be continuously purchasing boxes of plastic baggies), and that you only need a few in your drawer, it's a money saver in the end. Financially and environmentally beneficial? Sign me up.
2. Plastic wrap
Let’s just keep the single-use plastic ball rolling here. I really struggled with plastic wrap. It’s just so good at what it does. And the convenience kept me coming back for more. But I couldn’t ignore another easy swap for a single-use plastic item, and so entered beeswax wraps. This genius invention is made by infusing cotton, food-grade beeswax and oil. Together, these form a breathable, moldable paper that can fit over any bowl, dish or container. They come in various sizes or can be cut to your preferred size. These wraps solve the problem of covering food while also eliminating the issue of plastic waste. They are easily washed, dried, folded and put away in the drawer until next time. There are a ton of companies out there to choose from, but being a Canadian gal myself, I highly recommend Abeego or Nature Bee, which originated right here in the Great White North.
3. Dry Shampoo
Let’s be clear--this doesn’t mean I am washing my hair every day. Hardly. My swap for store-bought shampoo actually didn’t originate out of a desire to reduce my waste (although the elimination of aerosol bottles is a huge win here). I was actually struggling with a dry scalp and found that traditional dry shampoo exacerbated the issue. I was also making a move to more natural, toxic-free hair, makeup and body products at this time in my life. When I found out how easy it was to make your own dry shampoo, I couldn’t not try it. I am a blonde, so making dry shampoo is as simple as pouring tapioca or corn starch into a small glass jar, mixing in a couple of drops of lavender essential oil (optional) and putting the lid on. That’s it! I apply with a clean makeup brush and it works great. If you are a brunette, and don’t like the white residue this (and most other dry shampoos) leaves behind, simply add a bit of cocoa (obvious bonus: smells like chocolate). Another application option is to save an old spice bottle with the holes in the top and put your mixture in it for easy sprinkle application.
So I find that most people (in my circle, anyway) are getting on board with the concept of natural deodorant. More and more information is surfacing cautioning people from using the chemical-laden, aluminum-filled store-bought brands. Heavy metals next to your breast tissue all day, ladies? Run for the hills. But when I tell them that I actually make my own deodorant, I usually get an eyebrow raise or two. But let me tell you--I tried countless natural brands and, being the sweaty person that I am, none of them could get me through the day without grossing myself out with my own stentch. A girlfriend actually made this deodorant for me first. That was two years ago and I have never gone back to store-bought. Not only does it last forever, but it’s super easy to make, 100% natural, incredibly inexpensive and plastic-free. I am a hard sell, and I promise you this homemade version comes out on top.
Grab the recipe for this homemade, easy, effective and natural deodorant by filling out your email below. I'll send it right to your inbox. Bye, chemicals and heavy metals. You can't sit with us.
5. Plastic hand soap bottles
My solution to the never-ending stream of plastic hand soap bottles came to me when one of my favourite shops moved in down the street. The Kind Matter Company is an eco-friendly, sustainable living store that boasts an array of household items mostly made by Canadian companies--many local. They hooked me up with hand soap from The Bare Home, a non-toxic, environmentally friendly soap that arrives in a glass bottle, which you are encouraged to refill. You can order boxes of refills directly from The Bare Home, or--and this is my preferred method--visit a refill station like The Kind Matter Co. when you run out.
Are you an Eat. Move. Live. subscriber? If so, you'll see a discount code for Kind Matter Co. in your inbox this week! That will allow you to shop 24/7 in their online store and snag some of the incredible products I've mentioned here (plus so much more) for a great price. Not signed up? No problem. Fill in your info below to access the code now.
6. Plastic dish soap bottles (and dish soap, for that matter!)
Keeping my love of The Kind Matter Co. going, when I figured out I could make my own dish soap using a toxic-free concentrate, I ran over to the shop, snagged myself a large glass pump bottle and, just like that, eliminated my need to buy any more plastic dish soap bottles. I use my concentrate (Doterra brand), mix it with water and I’m done. These bottles can be used for so many things over and over again, so be sure to grab that discount code if you haven't already and pick yourself up a couple! They also look a whole lot nicer on your counter than store-bought plastic brands. Im a minimalist at heart, so this is something I really appreciate.
7. Coffee filters
I’m not going to lie--I loved the convenience of throwing my morning grinds and filter right into the compost bin daily. But eventually I decided, even though it was composted, it was one more item I didn’t need to be buying. My coffee maker came with a reusable filter that I could easily rinse out with each use. If yours doesn’t come with one, take a look at this one and see if it would work with your pot. It’s convenient and economical and prevents those, “Shoot--I’m out of filters!” moments.
8. Cooking oil spray bottles
For convenience, I prefer to have a spray bottle of cooking oil above my stove. But we know aerosol cans aren’t our best option, and even if they’re a pump bottle, it’s one more bottle that eventually ends up in the trash. Enter this glass oil dispenser. I love this little gadget! Remove the top, fill it up with your favourite oil (I recommend avocado, fractionated coconut, or extra virgin olive oil), and you’re done.
9. All-purpose cleaner plastic bottles
This is a favourite of mine for a few reasons. For one, I love having a cleaner I’ve made (again, using my concentrate), knowing it’s safe for my home and my family. Secondly, putting your cleaner in a pretty amber bottle means you don’t mind having it out on your counter, making it even more convenient. If you don’t have a concentrate, you can totally make your own, effective, counter spray. Here’s a recipe you can check out from Crafting The Good Life, but there are a ton out there that you might want to play around with. Don’t feel like you need to purchase an all-purpose cleaner from the store to get the job done. Marketing is a powerful tool. But you can do a great cleaning job using a couple of household products you likely have in your kitchen right now.
10. Water bottles
Finally, if you are still using a plastic, disposable water bottle on a regular basis… get your life together. No excuses.
And there you have it: 10 things I don’t buy anymore! Not only did this shift make me feel good about what I was doing for the environment, but in many cases, supported the health of my family in a big way. I am saving money and planet Earth through very little effort at all, all the while creating a low-tox home environment.
If you haven’t already, I challenge you to pick one thing on this list and make the switch this week! Start small and see where it takes you. My bet is you never look back.
It’s apple season, which means my family was like most this past weekend and hit up an apple orchard. Particularly during these strange times, families are jumping on board with any and every outdoor activity available this year! Apple picking was no exception. We packed our picnic basket and trekked 45 minutes north of the city to one of the few organic orchards in our area. Apples are one of the dirty dozen foods, meaning they are one of the highest scoring fruits and vegetables in pesticides, so buying organic is important.
We headed straight for the honey crisp rows and got to work. Although many of the trees had been picked over already (despite being there one day after the honey crisps were deemed ripe enough to pick), we were still able to get a good haul. We weren’t above picking up decent looking apples off the ground. In fact, these are referred to as “wind apples” and it usually means they fell naturally--a sign they are ripe and ready to be eaten. So I was all for the ground apples, as I liked to call them.
As soon as we got home, I got to cooking, mostly because I didn’t have anywhere to store 5 dozen apples. First, I made a couple batches of home made apple sauce, my absolute favourite. I steam the apples with skin on for added nutrients, and blend them up using the Vitamix. Sometimes I add some cinnamon, but it’s optional. If any extra liquid is needed, just grab a few tablespoons from your steaming pot. If you make a few batches, it freezes really well and means you can enjoy homemade applesauce any time of the year.
After that I obviously had to whip up an apple crumble. Gluten-free was a no brainer for me, but I also decided to keep it vegan by omitting any butter. Easy.
The ticket to a crispy crumble is to make sure the mixture is entirely coated in oil before adding it on top of your apples and then also throwing the oven on broil for a couple of minutes at the end of the cooking process. Just make sure you are watching the clock like a hawk, or you’ll end up with a burn crumble… and nobody likes that. It’s a risky game, but I think the reward is worth it.
I don’t add any sweetener to my apples, like many recipes suggest. Most apples are sweet enough and if you’ve included maple syrup in the crumble, like my recipe uses, it provides just enough added sweetness. I recommend cutting down on the sugar content by letting the apples do their thing. This recipe actually has so much goodness packed in, you could use it as a dessert or breakfast interchangeably. And what’s better than that?
If you’re looking for a last minute Thanksgiving dish, I’ve got you covered. Otherwise, this makes the perfect fall comfort food and what a fantastic excuse to eat seasonally and support local.
Vegan, Gluten-Free Apple Crumble
I am forever making batch after batch of granola. I love topping my yogurt or cottage cheese with it, and so does my daughter! It's a family hit. I find homemade far more satisfying than what I can purchase in-store. It's also one of the simplest things you can make, doesn't require specific steps/ingredients, and is generally lower sugar than store-bought.
Although my laissez-faire method of making granola would leave me with a slightly different result every time, once I nailed this consistency, I knew I had found a winning combination that needed to be documented.
What makes this recipe so good? It's the perfect balance of crunchy, sweet and nutty. You can use it as a topping or simply grab a handful on the-go as a satisfying snack. I highly doubt it will last too long in your kitchen either!
If you’re on the hunt for your next healthy dessert idea, the search is over. These almond butter stuffed dates dipped in chocolate basically taste like a turtle and I am HERE for it.
Anytime there’s chocolate involved in my baking, my daughter, Ayla, magically appears in the kitchen ready to “help” and I honestly can’t blame her. She knows she’ll likely get a taste test along the way and may even get the lick the spoon at the end. I admire her stealthy ways
So, why do I love this recipe so much? Where to start?! The base is dates, which I tell Ayla are nature’s candy because they’re just so darn chewy and sweet. They have a low glycemic index, making them an incredible natural sweetener for dessert recipes, and are a great source of potassium.
These little guys are stuffed with almond butter, making them a satisfying treat without leaving you feeling like you need to eat the whole plate. And finally, they are dipped in a dairy-free dark chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt.
I have a very special place in my heart for dark chocolate. It is my treat of choice. I have spoiled myself for life by buying high quality, organic dark chocolate with a high cacao content. It is rich and luxurious. Pro tip: keep your chocolate in the freezer. Not only does it help you limit the amount you eat in a day, making your treat last a bit longer, but I think the cold and crunch this gives makes chocolate even better. So, my chocolate lives in the freezer, always. Give it try and let me know if you agree!
This dessert is super easy to throw together. In fact, Ayla and I made it happen in about 15 minutes yesterday while her brother napped. You just have to have some patience as it sets in the fridge. To speed up the process, you can pop the plate or cookie sheet in the freezer.
This makes the perfect hostess gift or dessert plate. It looks impressive without all the work, and who doesn’t love that?
Get the recipe details below and tag me on instagram (@lindsay.m.nutrition) if you try it!
Almond Butter Stuffed Chocolate Dates
Once your baby is old enough to eat solids, but is still lacking the chompers to eat anything and everything, baby cookies, or "teething cookies" as they're sometimes called, are a must. Personally, I like to have them on hand, if nothing else, to use as an activity. Grocery shopping and the baby gets fussy? Have a cookie. On a walk and your baby is getting bored in the stroller? Eat this cookie. Need to keep baby occupied in their highchair while you prep their meal? Cookie. They're a life safer in so many situations.
That said, they can often be filled with added sugars and lack any real nutritional value. So, I decided to come up with a cookie that was easy to gum, but also provided sustenance. Enter: my Real Food Baby Cookies. It's an activity and a snack all in one, packed with fibre, healthy fats and protein.
Just beginning your baby's journey with solid foods? Check out this Intro to Solids guide, which includes my own real-life experience of my daughter's food introduction from the perspective of a nutrition nut.
I'm no stranger to coming up with a healthy swap for a classic dish, like my quinoa breakfast bowl. Dreaming up a cookie recipe that you can feel good about giving your baby seemed like the natural move. And here's the great news: it's easy! There are only 6 ingredients and you likely have most if not all of them in your kitchen right now!
You can choose to use quick oats, or grind your oats into a flour if you'd like a smoother texture. My two and half year old loves this recipe too, so if you're cooking for older kids, you could consider mixing in some raisons or pumpkin seeds for added flavour and nutrients.
Check out the recipe below and tag me on Instagram if you give them a try! Don't forget to share them with any other mamas out there who are looking to step up their baby-friendly recipe game. Our babes deserve the best :)
We've got a pretty decent meal plan happening from Monday to Friday in our house. It isn't too strict, but gives us enough structure at the beginning of the week that we feel organized and aren't scrambling at 3pm every day, wondering what the heck we're going to feed our family. My only rule (most weeks) is I don't cook or do dishes on Friday! Easily the best house rule I've ever created. And with everything going on in the world right now, it's another great excuse to support our local restaurants. It's so relaxing at the end of the week, knowing I don't have to prep dinner for anyone (except maybe Austin, depending on what we decide to order).
My second favourite day in our meal plan is Thursday, because Thursdays we like to save for pasta night. And this particular pasta dish is my current fave in our dinner rotation! It hits my flavour profile on the dot and I end up saying "mmmm" out loud every time I eat it. It's tangy, it's savoury... it's pasta. What more could you want in a dish? I can usually pick out a star ingredient in a meal, but all of the components just come together so nicely that I simply can't pick a winner this time.
I like shrimp, but you could easily swap out your protein for chicken if seafood isn't your thing. Or, you could take it the other direction and add in scallops (but for the price, maybe save those for date night).
You can use whatever pasta you'd like, but our go-to is always a quinoa and lentil noodle. From a nutrition standpoint, when compared to white or even whole wheat pasta, it just makes more sense. Quinoa and lentil noodles provide a good hit of protein and fibre, making this meal far more satiating. Our other favourite is cauliflower linguine. However, I like to order that from Natura Market and don't always have it on hand.
My favourite way to cook shrimp is with grass-fed butter, garlic and lemon. Seriously, it's a flavour explosion and if you haven't cooked shrimp in butter... what are you even doing with your life?
You can also add in whatever vegetables you'd like, but I love the sweetness of baked tomatoes and the punch of colour the broccoli gives this dish. The mushrooms add a nice meaty texture. These three make for some pretty breezy prep. A good prep hack is to wash all of your veg in a big sink of soapy water as soon as you bring it home from the grocery store (I like to use a natural concentrate). It makes prepping meals later in the week just that much easier, because all produce is already washed and ready to go.
The finishing touches of most pasta dishes should always be a drizzle of high quality olive oil and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. And with this dish, throw on an extra squeeze of lemon.
Trust me--you're going to want to add this dish onto next week's meal plan. It doesn't disappoint.
Lemon + Garlic Shrimp Primavera
There’s always a few buzz words popping up in the world of nutrition. Different seasons bring different trends (celery juice, anyone? And do you remember the cayenne and lemon juice craze 10 years ago? I vividly remember someone passing out from this one. True story). Some of these trends have valid health benefits but are often not sustainable practices. Good thing--save some celery for the rest of us, people.
The reason why it’s called a trend is that it tends to come and go. So why do people jump on board with these fleeting eating habits? And why don’t they stick around? The second question is easy to answer, in my opinion. They trend rather than stick because most of these practices aren’t sustainable. I would also suggest that most people don’t receive the magical results they are looking for, if you really dive into their reason for trying it. So after a while, losing motivation to keep up the unsustainable practice because their weight or health ideals aren’t coming true, they slowly stop their new routine. But why did they start in the first place? When it comes to health and weight loss, I think a lot of people are looking for that “magic pill.” And I get it. They are hoping that they have finally found the answer they have been searching for that will get them to that “ideal” they have in their head. But in the end, these practices rarely work, which leaves us wondering… what DOES actually work? How do people get themselves to a healthy, happy place and stay there?
This is where we find intuitive eating. It lives right here, at the end of that question. Now, there is also a huge emotional aspect that needs to be discussed here, but if we attempted to tackle that right now, this post would be a book. But know that you have to get to a place where you are ready and willing to eat intuitively and accept the benefits that it can bring to your life, despite the fact that you may not reach the ideal body that exists in your head. You need to deal with your crap and figure out why that ideal has manifested and determine how to move past it to the things that are ultimately more important, like long-term health and feeling great in your own skin, reducing your risk for chronic disease and increasing energy levels. Knowing and believing that healthy looks different in all people is an important shift here.
(Note: I had to move past MY own crap just to be able to write a post like this. There is no way that gym-rat, performance-based, aesthetics-focused Lindsay that was kicking around this blog five years ago would have the ability to write these words from an authentic place. I had to live it first)
My own journey to intuitive eating has been an interesting one and has certainly seen many seasons. Upon reflection, I think I made it here through experience, further education, shifting focus, and maturity. Before getting pregnant with my daughter, I was really into fitness and ate to support my goals. This meant learning how to track food and reach certain macronutrient goals in order to maximize performance in the gym. I am not afraid to say that I actually really enjoyed this for many months (maybe years) and treated it primarily as a hobby and learning experience. I learned a lot about using nutrition to fuel performance and even coached other people with similar goals. And although this is not how I eat today, I do believe, if used correctly, there can be a time and place for tracking and that it can be a major tool for understanding how food acts as fuel, how our body reacts to different macronutrients, and what food is made up of. That said, I also believe food tracking can lead to obsessive behaviours and can easily spiral out of control if attempted by the wrong personality type. This is extremely important. Tracking at any point in one’s life, even if just meant for a short period, is NOT for everyone and can even be dangerous.
However, after becoming pregnant with my daughter, a couple of things happened. I was way too sick and exhausted during my first trimester to even think about focusing on gym performance, and also my priorities quickly began to shift. Suddenly, I was much more interested in long-term health for not only myself, but my child. I was very aware that I was now in my 30s and started to look into my future and envision the healthy life I wanted for myself and my family as I got older. I began to eat for my overall health and not necessarily for aesthetic and performance goals. I looked at food as fuel for my growing baby and aimed to optimize my choices as much as I could to support her.
Additionally, I became incredibly appreciative of the female body and all it is capable of. I developed so much gratitude for my body and its abilities, which lead to having more compassion for myself and giving how I looked on the outside less power and importance. And so began my journey of intuitive eating and eating for long-term health.
As it turns out, it’s a much more sustainable place to live. It’s far less complicated and stressful as food tracking and works, well… forever. When you eat intuitively, you learn to turn inwards and listen to what your body needs. You nourish your body with the foods that make you feel strong, satisfied and energized. This knowing allows you to embrace flavours you instinctively love and maybe even try new recipes.
Personally, I found myself gobbling up seasonal foods and literally felt them allowed them nourishing me as nature intended through our transition from hot to cold in this Canadian climate. I didn't exhaust my will power by constantly fighting cravings, but learned to enjoy certain foods without going crazy, because I was not restricting. There was no pressure. It's a lovely lifestyle, if I do say so myself.
Would I still use food tracking and performance-based eating if the mood struck? For sure! If I decide that those goals are something I would like to focus on again, I would most likely create a hybrid of intuitive eating for long-term health plus focusing on the foods/eating style that brought me closer to my goals (i.e. no chemical laden zero-calorie drinks or sugar free pudding). It really depends on how aggressive the goal is, how badly you want it and why. I would suggest it would be suitable for a very small population.
People often wonder if different styles of eating can fit under the intuitive eating umbrella, like paleo, vegetarian or keto. I would say, yes. But it may be difficult to eat within these specific parameters without feeling the effects of “diet culture,” which can often lie within the realms of deprivation. So, that’s something to keep in mind. I’m not big on labels. Your diet may be more reflective of a keto or plant-based paradigm, but there is absolutely no need to label yourself as such. It’s unimportant. Eat to feel well. That is all.
Now, we can’t really talk about intuitive eating without addressing emotions. If we are eating intuitively, emotions naturally fit in there somehow. Can that cloud things a little bit? Very likely. If you’ve ever been an emotional eater, it can often be a result of deprivation and it’s very important to heal this first before being able to fully embrace the benefits of intuitive eating. If this is you, I really encourage you to work on this part first, either by exploring resources yourself or finding a professional to speak with. It’s an important step towards long-term health and building a healthy relationship with food.
If you want to discuss the world of intuitive eating more, feel free to reach out. I would love to support you on this journey.