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.
Click the button below for more info.
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.
+ One For The Grinch
It's not even December yet, but sign me up for some early 2020 Holiday cheer. I love me some Christmas baking, and I definitely have some in the calendar, but why stop there? There's no reason why we can't bring festivity to breakfast! With the classic combination of chocolate and mint, this chia pudding recipe is so simple and yet nutritious with a hint of decadence.
Chia seeds are full of fibre, so if you (or your kids) are struggling with constipation, I love recommending making chia seeds a regular part of your diet. You can enjoy them as a pudding, like I am here, you can throw them in a smoothie, in oatmeal, in pancakes, or even in your water bottle. That gelatinous goodness is a great way to get those bowels moving! They are also a wonderful source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein. Truly a superfood.
To create the mint flavour, I used Doterra peppermint oil, which is one of my most-used oils. It's amazing for baking, but I also diffuse it on the regular and use it as an afternoon pick-me-up by putting a drop in my palms, cupping my nose, breathing in deeply and then rubbing the rest on the back of my neck. It wakes you right up! I used this trick all the time when I was pregnant and limited to a small amount of caffeine. It's ironic because you could never use an extra coffee more than when you're growing a baby. The exhaustion is like nothing else, but of course, only a very small amount of caffeine is suggested. So, peppermint oil is a great tool to have in your back pocket when you need a little kick to get you through the day. For this recipe, 1 to 2 drops max is all you need.
Ok, so this recipe isn't actually for The Grinch... just someone who doesn't like peppermint. And by someone, I mean Dave, who assures me that a dislike for peppermint is a thing. I didn't want to leave him out of the chia seed goodness, so I came up with another classic chocolate combination, using almond butter and banana. I have to admit, if we're talking day-to-day, this would definitely have to be one of my go-to chia seed pudding recipes. You really can't go wrong. The best part is that I was able to make the chocolate chia seed base, let it sit over night and then separate it into two servings and top them according to the varying preferences of my family members (even though I felt strongly that we should all be indulging in the festive recipe and maximizing the joy opportunity).
Don't feel like holiday decadence needs to be limited to dessert (although this chocolate chia seed pudding is so good, it could totally count as a healthy dessert). Add a little festive cheer to your morning and give this recipe a try!
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.