My Secret Weapon for Packing Kids' Lunches (AND Nut-Free Lunch Ideas)

healthy-lunch-box.jpg

I am often asked about refreshing ideas for the healthy lunchbox. There is high demand for tips on how to keep those fussy monkeys not only interested in their lunchbox enough to open it, but convinced enough to put whatever’s in there into their picky little mouths.

Before I get to the main event here, there are some key factors I must cover first when it comes to packing a healthy, but enticing lunchbox:

  • Macronutrient Balance: carbs, proteins & fats

  • Avoidance of packaged foods and refined ingredients

  • That whole no-nut thing

Macronutrient Balance

Does your little person ever come home from school a complete wreck? They’re a total crank machine, tantruming, whining, and complaining that they are soooooo starving but will only settle for something sweet? Kids are sensitive little people, easily swayed by colorful packaging, rainbow marshmallows, and neon sprinkles. So when it comes to nutritional intake, kids need our guidance to help keep those sensitive blood sugars balanced in order to maintain stable behaviors, focus, and energy levels. Macronutrient balance is your biggest tool as a parent and meal provider. Ensuring that every meal (and snack) includes some carbohydrates, some protein, and some fats, creates an effect of slow release energy, lasting fuel, and better focus, concentration, and levelled mood. Sounds good, am I right? This is actually a much easier thing to do than it sounds, trust me. Simply stirring in 1 Tbsp coconut oil and sprinkling 1 Tbsp of chia seeds or hemp hearts on morning granola or oatmeal will do the trick.

For more info on how to keep those blood sugars stabilized, read this

A mental note for your busy brain: CARBOHYDRATES + PROTEIN + FAT = HAPPIER KIDDOS

Avoidance of Packaged Foods & Refined Ingredients

I realize this is much easier to say than do, but I have to say it (and say it with gusto): filling up our kids with nutritionally deficient food does not serve them or us at all, not one little bit. In fact, it is a monster of a disservice. Packaged foods: cookies, cereals, granola bars, cheese sticks, cheesy bunnies, gold fish crackers, etc, etc, are potently laced with sugar, chemicals, and rancid oils that they are one of the most massive contributors to childhood obesity, the development of degenerative diseases, and the major rise of ADHD, among a plethora of other negative health effects. Not only do they have an astonishing detriment to the health of our kids, but putting this stuff in their lunchbox tells our kids that eating this way is ok.
And it isn’t.

That Whole No-Nut Thing

Take a deep breath here. I know this feels both frustrating and limiting when it comes to the effort of packing a tantalizing lunch box with a smile on your face. To be honest, this is not something we are limited by at my son’s school, but so many of my friends and clients are that I’ve done some digging and have come up with some tools and pretty awesome links for you.

Tools: seed butters, seeds, beans and bean spreads, no-nut energy balls/balls/cookies.

Nut Free Links:

Banana-Muffins-tray.jpg

Now that we got that out of the way, here’s what I’d like to tell you about today:

My Secret (not-so-secret) Weapon for Healthy Lunch Packing Success

Drumroll please…..

The Monday-to-Friday Lunch Packing Schedule

Yup, you read that right!
A lunch schedule, really, you say?
Listen, kids respond really well to schedules: they like to know what’s coming their way, what they can expect, and they are better behaved when adhering to a schedule or system.

So here it is:

  • Monday: Hot Lunch Day. Most Sundays are batch cooking days for me, I make a batch of energy bars/granola bars for lunches and bang off at least one batch of soup/stew/curry for a few meals throughout the week. I highly and enthusiastically recommend implementing “batch-cooking-Sundays” to your busy schedule, as it saves sacred time and energy throughout the week. Monday is hot lunch day, as you may have something freshly made to put in your kids’ thermos that day: soups, stews, curry, spaghetti & meatballs, whatever you fancy.

  • Tuesday: Salad Day. You may be thinking: ‘I will never get my kid to go along with salad day, are you kidding?’. Nope, I’m not. By salad, I’m talking pasta salad, rice salad, quinoa salad, kale salad, coleslaw, potato salad, and I could go on. Here are a few salad ideas to get your creative minds grooving: Quinoa SaladPasta SaladStrawberry Spinach Salad

  • Wednesday: Sandwich Day. Kids love sandwiches and Wednesdays can be one of the toughest days in the week: it’s neither at the beginning nor close to the end of the week. So here is your “go-to” day where you can give yourself permission to breakout the good ol’ pb & J, ham & cheese, or put on your fancy pants and branch out into adventurous sandwich-land, combining something like leftover chicken, pesto and roasted red peppers. My only Nutritional strong-arm here is to choose really good bread: ditch the wheat and go for old world grains (spelt, rye, kamut), ideally, locally made, with minimal ingredients. Note: If you use sandwich meats, choose organic, nitrate-free, or try using real chicken or wild salmon. Better yet, maybe you’re ready to experiment with meat-free sandwiches?

  • Thursday: Snack Plate Day. This has always been a favorite in our house because it’s both fun and incredibly simple. A “snack plate” can be whatever you have at hand and whatever you know your kid will eat. We like to fill my son’s sandwich container with a mix of raw veggies, hummus, crackers, smoked salmon nuggets or good quality salami, sometimes olives or pickles, dolmades or leftover chicken.

  • Friday: Wrap Day. A wrap is a great way to get a pile of fresh veggies into your kid. Whether you are going for a Mediterranean style with hummus and olives, or a simple turkey & pickle, it’s easy to chop up some lettuce, shred some carrots, or julienne some red peppers and slip them in there. Note: choose your wraps wisely: go for spelt and read the label to make sure there aren’t any weird additives in there.

veggie-wraps.jpg

This is my schedule suggestion. Obviously, yours can be different. However, I strongly recommend giving the idea of a lunch schedule a try. You may find that the effort really pays off, that your kids respond well to the lunch schedule, and that those little picky monkeys are actually eating all their lunch!

Looking for more specific lunch recommendations? Drop me a note and let me know what you’re looking for!
Also, once you’re rocking it, let me know how it’s going! I’d love to hear from you!

Nurturing Sick Kids & Getting Them Back To School Quickly

sick-kid-960x640.jpg

We had a healthy holiday season in our house this time around, which is not always the case, so we’ve been feeling pretty great about that. However, two weeks into school (go figure), my son comes home with a nasty cold, cough, and general-feeling-rotten-all-over bug. When I call the school to let them know he’s not coming in, they tell me that half his class is sick too. It’s that time of year; it’s the cold weather; it’s the germ spreading hands and runny noses, and it’s just real life! And so as my week was turned upside down (because I work at home and that’s where my child has been), I was inspired to share a little of what we do in our house when someone is down with a bug, to help you in yours, and to help us all get our young ones back at it as quick as possible!

Let me just start with the #1 way to help nurture your sick children:

Keep Them At Home!

We’ve all made that mistake where we’ve sent our little one out the door not realizing how sick they were, or not quite listening to the little voice in our heads that’s told us they may not be well. It happens, I know. But for all the other times you have to make the call whether to send them or not, my advice to you is this: if you have to think about it, keep them at home. I can’t say this enough because the benefits blast to bits any reasons you may have for sending them to school. I realize it can be tough to manage, and often severely inconvenient, but there is just SO many valuable reasons to keep them at home, with you, and away from other kids.

6 Reasons to Keep Sick Kids At Home

  1. Keeps Sick Germs At Home: I feel that it’s our duty, as parents, to be on the same team as all the other parents in our community and this includes looking after their kids as much as we’d hope they’d look after ours. Sending your sick kiddo to school also sends their eager-to-latch-on-to-other-hosts nasty bugs and quite easily spreads around an illness that could have been limited to one household.

  2. Sending Them To School Can Prolong Illness: Exposing an already strained immune system to other kids exponentially increases the risk of picking up another virus. Kids are little germ-spreaders and a back-to-back illness episode means double trouble all the way around!

  3. Encourages Rest: When the body is busy trying to combat an illness, its energy is being primarily used for that battle. Expending further energy simply depletes the body’s limited energy stores further and decreases chances for optimal recovery (and we must remember that a full day at school is a huge energy expenditure for the little people).

  4. Ensures Maximum Nutrient Intake: Kids do not regulate their fuel and hydration in the same way that adults do, this is a learned behaviour. During times of healing, nutritional intake is vital to recovery speed. Keeping them under your care allows you to ensure proper nutrient intake and prioritize hydration.

  5. They Want To Be With You: Kids feel safest with their parents. When they’re feeling terrible or run-down, they want to feel safe, supported, and looked after. This feeling of safety can actually encourage the body to heal. When the body is relaxed, the parasympathetic nervous system takes over (calming & healing), supporting proper nerve transmission and a state of rejuvenation.

  6. Encourages Mind-Body Connection and Intuition: Teaching kids to make their health a priority teaches them how to nurture themselves when they are sick: a super important life lesson, in my books. Showing them how important it is to take time to heal, to nurture and rest, sets them up with tools they can use throughout their lives.

So, now that you’ve got them at home, here are some easy and effective ways to get them back to feeling great (and to school)!

happy-kids-silouette.jpg

10 Tips To Get Your Littles Back To Health Quickly

  1. Liquids: Fresh juices, water, and teas are the way to go here. Some of our favourites are room temperature lemon water (detoxifying, high in Vit. C, alkalizing, supports lymph, kidneys, and liver), fresh ginger tea with lemon and manuka honey (boosts immune, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory), or freshly juiced apples/oranges and ginger (nutrient dense).

  2. Bone Broth Based Soups: At first sign of an illness, I take a whole chicken out of the freezer, defrost it, and get it cooking in the slow cooker. I will then debone it and make the bone broth in the same slow cooker overnight or for up to 48 hours. The benefits of bone broth are endless, especially during a time when the body is taxed and working hard to regain balance. For more on bone broth, click here.

  3. Reduce Mucus Causing Foods: Certain foods contribute to mucus formation in the body. Limiting these foods during times of illness can be very helpful. Some main culprits: dairy (yes, all kinds), wheat, bananas, soy, red meat, and refined sugars.

  4. Fresh Air: Unless kids are bed-ridden or extremely ill, getting a little fresh air into the lungs, some sun on the face, and introducing a change of atmosphere, are all great reasons to get them outside, if even for a short walk.

  5. Prioritize Sleep: So many of us know this, but need reminders. Here’s yours! Sleep is where the bulk of the healing happens: maximizing these hours can give us big-time headway on an illness.

  6. Give Them Probiotics: 80% of our immune system is in our intestines, populating the gut with good bacteria is essential to supporting the body through recovery from illness. Whether you have probiotic supplements or homemade kombucha, kimchi, kefir, or Bio-K’s, find a way to include probiotics in their regular diet or as supplement for at least a week, preferably a month, after first sign of illness.

  7. Lots of Good Quality Fats: Fats are integral to organ healing and regeneration, they are also highly supportive of immune function, proper digestion, and insulation during times of duress. Fats such as coconut oil, avocados, olive oil, avocado oil, hemp seed/flaxseed oil, or chia seeds and hemp hearts are all good sources for kids.

  8. Use A Diffuser: Diffusers are becoming more and more common in households these days and for good reason. Essential oils have healing powers of an altogether new level for us in the health world. Some of our favourites: theives oil, eucalyptus, lemongrass, tea tree, lemon, thyme, and rosemary. Want to learn more about essential oils? Start here

  9. Keep Them Warm: Whether there’s a fever or not, keeping the body warm encourages blood transportation, lymph regulation, and proper detoxification during illness.

  10. Boost The Immune System: All of the above will help support the immune system, but adding in some particular immune strengtheners can really up your game. Trusted immune support for kids: fresh ginger, turmeric, garlic, and onions, oil of oregano, manuka honey, Vitamin C and D, apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, elderberry, echinacea and goldenseal (*find supplements in suitable doses for children*). At our house, we love this homemade kick-ass throat serum!

Kids come first, that’s our commitment as parents. Every illness that comes along and is dealt with naturally, accumulates to create strong immune systems and confident, happy kiddos.
Keep it up parents, the pay-off is endless!

What To Do When Your Kid Can't Poop

girl on potty.jpg

Pooping trouble is something I hear of often. Constipated little bellies can be upsetting, uncomfortable, and make the little people particularly bad tempered and irritable.
Understandable.

Some kids struggle with constipation regularly.  Others have trouble when travelling, when things are changing in the home or at school, and when on antibiotics or other medications.

It is important to be mindful that every child is different and that their digestive and bowel functions will all vary. Although it is generally considered “normal” for a child to move their bowels anywhere from three times a day to once every second day, a general healthy bowel movement rule of thumb is to aim for once every day.

Firstly, it is important to avoid setting our kids up for tummy trouble. By identifying causes and potential triggers, we can steer clear of the whole uncomfortable episode all together!

Common Causes of Constipation in Children

  • Holding It: Justifiably, some kids tend to hold their bowels when they are uncomfortable, stressed, or just not near a toilet. As adults, we have years of experience with “having to go” in situations that are not ideal and we’ve learned to adjust. For little people, it’s all very new.

  • Changes in Routine: Most children thrive on a regular routine when it comes to activity, nap times, meal times, and bedtime. This reigns true for bowel movements as well. Little bowels are very sensitive and when life falls out of synch, their bowels may be affected and retain a movement or two as a result.

  • Too Much Gluten, Dairy, Sugar, or Processed Foods: Certain foods do not move well through the digestive tract and although not everyone has trouble with these foods, they are common causes for constipation.

  • Medication: Certain antidepressants, antibiotics, over-the-counter cough and cold medication, and pain relievers can contribute to constipation and bowel interruptions.

  • Family History: Children with family members that struggle with constipation may be more prone to suffer constipation issues.

 How To Encourage Regular Bowel Function in Children:

happy kids sunshine.jpg
  • Ensure Adequate Water Intake: Numero Uno! Our bowels need water to help pass stool comfortably. If there is not enough water ingested, the large intestine soaks up water from food waste making harder, difficult to pass stools. Kids are often not consuming enough water throughout the day. Always send your child with a water bottle, encourage them to drink water between activity and between meals. Although some parents feel it is easier to get their child to drink watered down juice, straight water is truly best! Some tips: flavour water with citrus fruits, cucumber, mint, watermelon, or other chopped fruit, and try herbal teas, hot or cold.

  • Encourage a High-Fibre Diet: Fibre comes from plant foods: fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Both soluble and insoluble fibres are imperative for digestive health and disease prevention although they differ in function. Soluble fibre attracts water, turning into gel during digestion, slowing digestion and allowing for proper nutrient extraction. Sources include: legumes, barley, oat bran, chia seeds, most fruits and vegetables . Insoluble fibre adds bulk to the stool, helping it to pass with ease through the stomach and the small intestines. Sources include: whole grains, nuts, flaxseeds, the skin of most fruits and vegetables. Encourage kids to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, as a constant staple in their diets.

  • Reduce Gluten, Dairy, Sugar, and Processed Foods: Although I encourage clients to keep these foods to a minimum as part of a wellness maintenance protocol, reducing these foods during times of particular constipation trouble can be very useful.

  • Keep Them Active: Exercise encourages proper fluid balance, metabolic function, and blood distribution, regular exercise in children not only promotes a healthy elimination system, but prevents disease, diabetes, and excess weight gain. It also keeps them happy.

  • Don’t Make It a Big Deal: Kids can develop anxiety around moving their bowels and the last thing they need is for someone to make a big and embarrassing deal about it. Encourage kids to take the time needed, give them a book to look at, a stool for their feet, and set a good example when it comes to toilet time. Help reassure them around using public facilities when their body tells them it’s time to go and explain that it is unnecessary and hard on the body to hold it in. Useful tool: Potty books can be very helpful in explaining bowel function, illustrating proper use of the toilet, and easing stress and frustration around bowel movements. Here’s a list of some goodies: http://www.popsugar.com/moms/Best-Children-Books-Potty-Training-20768518#photo-20768518

If you haven’t successfully avoided a backed up situation, relax, there are many ways to get those poops out without subjecting your kid to icky chemicals or drastic measures (ouch!).

 Helpful Supplements:

  • Probiotics: Find a daily probiotic for kids containing lactobacillus and bifidobacterium for best results.  Also aim to include probiotic rich fermented foods in the diet, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, water/coconut milk kefir, and kombucha.

  • Coconut Oil: High in medium chain fatty, coconut oil provides quick energy for intestinal cells, boosting their metabolism and stimulating bowel movements while softening the stool at the same time. For children try 1 tsp in the morning and 1 tsp in the evening, increasing to 2 tsps if needed. Increase dosages slowly, as too much coconut oil can cause overly loose stools and diarrhea. If the child won’t take it straight up, try mixing with a little juice and water or cacao powder and hot water.

  • Magnesium Citrate: An osmotic laxative, magnesium citrate pulls water into the intestines and is safe in moderation for even young children. It is best taken before bed in a liquid or powder form mixed with water or almond milk (doses: 1-3yrs – 65mg/day, 4-8yrs – 110mg/day, 9-18yrs – 350mg/day).

  • Slippery Elm: Fibrous and mucilaginous in nature, slippery elm provides bulk and moisture to aid in proper elimination, helps increase proper formation of mucus, and reduce excess stomach acid, making it incredibly helpful in all gastro-intestinal ailments. Look for it in powdered form at your local health food store and mix 1 tsp with warm water and a little maple syrup for sweetener. For more information on slippery elm: http://www.mommyser.com/myblog/spotlight-slippery-elm-bark

  • Fennel and Licorice Tea: Both laxative in nature and safe for little tummies, these herbal teas can provide relief of digestive discomforts and boost overall gastro-intestinal health. Separate or together, brew some herbal tea, sweeten if needed, and serve cold or hot. A nice after dinner wind-down.

To get things moving in a hurry, serve up this smoothie goodness:

The Poopie Smoothie
1 Tbsp cacao powder
1-2 tsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp water/coconut milk kefir
2 cups frozen berries
1 Tbsp ground flax/chia seeds
1 cup almond milk/coconut milk
1 tsp maple syrup (optional)

Blend all ingredients until smooth and serve.

Lastly,
Remember that we carry much of our emotional upsets in our guts, so when it comes to chronic constipation in children, it is important to address any potential underlying causes, be it dietary, lifestyle, or emotional.

Here’s to regularity!

Better Than Freezies

healthy-popsicles-960x640.jpg

I hate freezies.

Hate is a strong word, I know. But when it comes to the health of our little people, I get all wound up and start stomping my feet and throwing around strong words.  As parents, we can do better than freezies!

I have always limited my child’s exposure to processed sugar and known toxins, as most of my parent-friends do. Little growing bodies are only hindered and weighed down by chemical-laden processed foods and teaching them what and how to eat real food is a big passion of mine. There is a need to give a little as parents though, and I certainly understand that there has to be some wiggle room when it comes to treats. So, as much as I try to keep the treats to homemade, you may occasionally catch my son sipping a juice box, licking a coconut milk ice cream, munching a licorice or sucking on a gin-gin (organic ginger candy), and it’s just our way of keeping the peace and allowing him a little freedom.

Within reason.

When it comes to certain, chemically dyed, carcinogenic, plastic wrapped nasties, I absolutely just have to draw the line.

The freezie is a big one.

I’ve got to thinking that the real problem may be that people just don’t seem to really know what’s in the freezie. They may or may not have read the label, perhaps not registering, one way or another, the unrecognizable ingredients.

So here’s my contribution to better awareness.

What’s SO bad about freezies?

  1. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): The list here is quite long:

    • It is known to increase risks of obesity and development of Type 2 diabetes by spiking blood sugar levels, putting strain on the liver, and slowing metabolism.

    • It negatively affects the cardiovascular system, increasing risks of developing hypertension and elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.

    • Over 50% of HFCS is loaded with mercury, which can contribute to brain and nervous system damage, especially in children.

    • Compelling evidence suggests a strong correlation between consumption of HFCS and the rising rates of dementia.

  2. Artificial Food Dyes:

  • They are made from petroleum.

  • They are carcinogenic: Red 40, Yellow 5 & 6, contain the chemical benzene, a known carcinogen

  • Increased risk of ADHD: numerous studies have now positively linked regular consumption of artificial food dyes with development of hyperactivity disorders

  • Negatively affect hormone balance: many food dyes can increase estrogen levels, contributing to growth disruptions, increased risk of disease, decreasing immune function, and interfering with normal sexual function and development

3. Sodium Benzoate: a controversial additive used as a food preservative or antiseptic

  • Has the ability to deprive cells of oxygen, decreasing immune function and increase risk of cancer

  • Causes liver damage

  • Can increase risk of developing Parkinson’s, neuro-degenerative diseases, and premature aging

 Make Better Choices:

  • Educate Your Children: Teaching our kids about what’s in their food is a big part of our responsibility as parents and humans on this earth. The more your kids know, the better prepared they are to make good choices.

  • Make It Yourself: Homemade popsicles are super easy and quick to make. Get a popsicle mold, blend some fresh or frozen fruit and almond milk in your blender and pour. Need some inspiration?

  • Better Store Bought Treats: Look for fruit based popsicles (preferably organic), read the label, and make sure it contains ingredients that are recognizable. A few of my favourites: DeeBee’s Tea Pops, Julius, Rico’n Lalo, and Coconut Bliss.

We are what we eat. Same goes for our kids.

Resources:

http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/high-fructose-corn-syrup-dangers/

Chopra, Deepak: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepak-chopra/high-fructose-corn-syrup_b_888763.html

Monbiot, George: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/sep/10/alzheimers-junk-food-catastrophic-effect

Dr. Group, Edward: http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/4-dangers-of-food-dyes

No More Food Fights: Your Kids, School & Blood Sugar

girl with book.jpg

Whether it’s September, or after Christmas or March break, or maybe it’s just Monday….Getting your kids up on time, back to school, the routine, and long days, can be a big adjustment for us all, and an even bigger one for our little people.

As parents, we do our best to help our children slide back into the school routine without too much upheaval. We make sure they have warm clothes that fit, get them to bed early, get them up in time to catch the bus, and keep them well fed. Sure sounds easy!  But truthfully, it’s exhausting and can go pretty freakin’ sideways in a hurry.

A few tips to help the wee ones get back into the swing of school:

  1. Start early: If the first day of the week is dreadfully hard, then start one day earlier. Prepare for Monday on Sunday. Wind them down by keeping this day low-key, get them to bed on time, and encourage them to get out of bed at a decent time in the morning.

  2. Give them lots of notice: Kids do not generally like to be surprised by a change in plans. Let them know, far in advance, about how it’s all gonna go down (what times, who’s driving, what’s happening after school, etc).  Advanced notice helps kids stay calm and feel safe.

  3. Stick to a fairly rigid routine throughout the school week: Adaptation happens quicker and with much more success when a new routine gets established and stays that way. Getting wobbly on snack times, after school play dates, homework, and bedtimes, only encourages further chaos. Keep it simple, but keep it the same.

  4. Do not over-schedule them: I see this a lot. Parents get super excited about the new afterschool offerings and don’t want their kids to miss out on all the fun stuff. Understandable. Problem is, the next thing they know, their child is having melt downs, falling asleep in their dinner, and not able to concentrate at school. Trust me, there will be time for loads of exciting activities, but after they are settled in their new routine. Allowing them to adjust in a slow and calm fashion ensures more balanced moods and teaches them patience.

  5. Limit the screens: I am not a big fan of screens to begin with, I’ll admit, but it does have a time and place in this 20th century life. Especially for young people, and particularly during times of change and possible stress, it’s better to keep unnatural stimulation to a minimum. Keeping the environment quiet and calm after a very busy and over-stimulating day at school can help re-balance the brain and the nervous system, increasing recovery and preparing for rest. Try going for walks, playing a board game, or reading.

Wait a sec…
I’m not done with you yet!

Although I have occasional moments of brilliance when it comes to parenting advice, I admit it is not exactly my area of expertise. So here’s your dietary blurb on getting your kids bodies, bellies, and brains all geared up for another fantastically challenging year at school.

The Key To Balanced Kids at School: Blood Sugar Stability

Children are much more volatile than adults when it comes to food. They react more to irritants, they often show signs of deficiencies and intolerances that adults don’t generally have, and they are much more affected by fluctuating glucose (blood sugar) levels.

Incase this is unclear, I am happy to scream it from the mountaintops (cause I live in the country and that’s easier than climbing on somebody’s roof): the biggest key to keeping your kids happy, healthy, and focused at school is stabilizing blood sugar!!. Funny thing is, it’s a very simple thing to do (don’t you love that!).

What is blood sugar stabilization?

Simple sugars are carbohydrates that are quickly absorbed by the body to produce energy. Present in both natural (honey, maple syrup, fruits, and dairy) and processed foods (boxed cereals, cookies, crackers, candy, chocolate), these sugars (glucose, fructose, sucrose, lactose), bypass the digestive system and speed their way into the blood system. This results in energy spikes that, in turn, plummet quickly. We call this the blood sugar rollercoaster, much more obvious in children. By avoiding processed sugars, and consuming natural simple sugars in moderation, at the proper times, and combined with other nutrient dense foods, blood sugar levels can easily be moderated and balanced in a way that prevents much of the ups and downs and long term issues.

Common problems with fluctuating blood sugar include:

  • Mood swings

  • Disruptive behavior (like swinging fists, screaming, whining, and general wee-little-pains-in-the-you-know-what)

  • Energy spikes and crashes

  • Lack of concentration

  • Poor food choices

  • Increased risk of developing diabetes and other degenerative diseases

Recognize anything here?

Easy Ways to Tame the Crazy-Eyed Low Blood Sugar Dragon:

eggs-avocado-toast.jpg
  1. Macronutrient Balance: Always the first on my blood sugar stabilizing advice list! Rule of thumb: carbohydrates + protein + fat = happy kids. Humans need all three of these macronutrients, which is why they are the big guns when it comes to food departments. Carbohydrates give us energy, protein helps us to build and repair (cells, muscles, organs), and fats enable proper brain function, nutrient absorption, and insulation. Since our kids are growing so fast, it is of utmost importance for them to get all three macronutrients in abundance and regularity. It just so happens that the best way to ensure stable blood sugars is to feed them all three at every meal and snack time.

  2. Breakfast: I know, I know, you’ve heard it so many times before. Ok, but let me explain why breakfast plays such a crucial role in blood sugar stability. We wake up low because we haven’t eaten for at least 12 hours and don’t generally have any leftover fuel to get us through the morning.  So what we put in next can either slam us into the roof with fast absorbing glucose (think muffins, sugary boxed cereals, store bought granola, fruit yogourt loaded with sugary syrup, you get the picture) or set us up for a calm and focused morning (eggs + avocado + kamut toast, chia pudding + homemade granola + fruit, banana almond butter oatmeal with chia).  Think long-lasting energy and nurturing.

  3. Ready Made Snacks: This sounds a little easier than it tends to be for busy parents. My advice here is to keep it whole foods and easy. Have a few cut up vegetables, washed and ready to go, on hand. If you have the time, a protein-dense veggie dip would be ideal, but nut/seed butters or salad dressing would work. Have a nut mix handy, these are easy to make at home, simple, and free of additives and unnecessary sugars, or a homemade energy cookie/bar. Fresh fruit, toast and avocado, rice crackers and homemade (or organic store bought) hummus, are some other good ideas. If there isn’t anything ready for afterschool, they will reach for anything and everything and snack themselves silly on chips, crackers, and whatever else they can find. Try my latest power cookie recipe!

  4. Have Dinner Early: Kids are hungry afterschool, period. Having a ready made snack should tie them over for a couple of hours, but given too large a gap in time, their blood sugar will drop and they will either snack their way to suppertime and miss the main event, eat too quickly, which is hard on the digestive system, or miss their window and just be too tuckered to bother spooning it in. Try to be diligent on school nights and serve supper by 5:30/6 and have weekends be a little more free and flexible.

  5. Talk to Your Kids About Blood Sugar: Kids are smart and the more they know now, the better equipped they will be for the rest of their eating lives. It is SO important for our littles to not only understand the difference between good quality whole food and the poorer options out there, but WHY eating a certain way will be advantageous or detrimental to their body and their life quality. Kids want to know why, it’s the reason they ask us a million questions a day. Little drops of information here and there and consistency in teaching is the best way to get the big message across.

  6. Ensure They Are Drinking Enough Water: Kids should, ideally, be consuming at least 1 – 1.5 litres of water every single day and slightly more during the summer months.  By water, I mean water! This does not include juices, pops (ugh! did I even say that?), or water containing foods.

  7. And Lastly, Be A Good Example: Your kids will eat what you eat and eat the way you eat. Be aware that you are modeling for them every moment they are with you and even when they are not.  Be your best eater, your kids can thank you later (but, don’t hold your breath), and see health improvements in yourself along the way!

For more information on this topic, great meal and snack ideas, samples, a 3-day meal plan, and endless awesome food advice,  sign up for this:  “Feeding Healthy Kids” NOW ONLINE!

Preventing Eating Disorder Development In Your Kids

Youth-shawl-outside.jpg

It has taken me decades to find my voice in and around Eating Disorders. It wasn’t until I decided to cast light on my own struggles, talk openly about them and find strength in them, that I became truly able to honour my journey and begin to lend a hand to others. That’s the way life works, I guess.

I have just finished a new certification that has empowered me with tools to work more closely with Eating Disorder Recovery, but I have been working with Eating Disorders since I began my work as a Nutritionist. Although RHN’s are not trained specifically to work with ED clients, I have been finding, over the years, that every one of my clients have had some history with eating dysfunction; they have all struggled with that negative voice that has influenced how they perceive themselves, have struggled to decipher between what’s healthy and what isn’t, portion control and restriction, and they are all trying to figure out how to have a positive relationship with food and with their bodies.

You may be aware that eating disorders are still running rampant amongst society: in our young children and youth, in our 20 somethings, in our adult populations and even in the older ones. EDs are not limited to women, do not decipher between the young and the old, nor are they obvious to see even when they are right in front of you. You may be currently trying to help someone through this difficult time, still struggling with your own food dysfunction, or are petrified that this heart breaking disorder is currently breeding within your young child.

No matter your relationship intensity with Eating Disorders, there exists great power in knowledge, awareness of risk factors, and strength in prevention.

And there is help.

May it begin here.

Risk Factors

Woman-mirror-beauty.jpg

Some are more at risk than others. Personality traits, relationships at home and at school, tendencies towards athleticism or beauty, can signal parents to increase awareness and connection with kids.

Indicators That Your Child May Be At Risk:

  • Low self-esteem or feelings of inadequacy

  • Perfectionism, obsessive-compulsiveness or neuroticism

  • Negative emotions or cynicism

  • Stress, high expectations of self, worry about performance, grades, acceptance

  • Depression, withdrawal from family & friends, avoidance of social interaction

  • Overvaluing body image in defining self-worth

  • Excessive worrying, anxiety, fear, doubt and pessimism

  • Heightened sensitivity or inability to cope with negative evaluations

  • Excessive tendency towards looking in the mirror, clothes, makeup, beauty & the scale

  • Trauma

Socio-Cultural Risk Factors May Include:

  • Internalizing beauty ideal of thinness, muscularity and leanness

  • Societal pressure to achieve and succeed

  • Involvement in a sport or industry with an emphasis on a thin body shape and size (e.g. ballet dancer, gymnast, model, athlete)

  • Peer pressure

  • Teasing or bullying (especially when based on weight or body shape)

  • Troubled family or personal relationships

Prevention In Openness & Connectivity

Family-field-outdoors.jpg
  • Be a Positive Role Model: More often than not, our kids’ eating habits will mimic our own. If you, yourself, have a history with EDs and still have a tendency towards those behaviours, the time to address them is NOW! Modeling is your strongest tool in preventing dysfunctional eating in your kids, I cannot say this enough. AVOID bringing the dieting mentality in to the home. AVOID criticizing your own size or imperfections in front of your children – they are likely to normalize this behaviour and repeat it.

  • Encourage Open Communication: Ensure you make yourself available as a parent as much as you possibly can. Talk to your kids about how they are doing, how they are feeling, how their relationships and societal interactions are going. Try to avoid being separated within the home by doors and walls, screens and music, do things as a family and talk about matters of the mind and the heart, regularly. If you make yourself approachable as a parent, your child is more likely to come to you when they are struggling.

  • Discuss Media Messaging & Limit Exposure: Start this conversation as early as possible and keep an ongoing and open communication around social media. There is no doubt about the power of media messaging on young minds and emotions, discuss what may be happening for the people on the screen, in their lives, discuss the pressures and damaging lifestyles of those seen as famous and beautiful. Discuss real life beauty and the difference between what comes at us via the screen and what is really happening in the real world.

  • Strengthen Self-Esteem: Encourage your children to build up their strengths and relish in their individuality in personality and passion. The more in tune your child is with their true self, the less likely they are to want to be like someone else. Teach them to stand up for themselves and be true to who they are and who they want to be in this life.

  • Discuss Physiology: Too often I encounter young people who do not understand the workings of the body; they are unaware of the functions of the organs, the digestive system, blood pH levels, hormones, or the nervous system. Borrow a physiology book from the Library or enlist the teachings of a friend and learn together about how the body works and what the body needs from food. When we are encouraged to learn about the complex and wondrous workings of the body, our understanding of its needs are greater, as is our respect for food and the body.

  • Encourage Healthy Body Image: If mirrors and scales and screens are beginning to cause some distress in your child, reduce exposure and take aim on positive body image. Comment on how bodies can be all shapes, colours, and sizes and still have so much beauty and power. Find powerful role models of all sizes. Watch body image empowerment documentaries or videos and grab some positive affirmation books from the Library. Do whatever you can to expose your child to positive body relationships, maybe find a dance/yoga teacher, friend, Nutritionist or Therapist to help you.

  • Cook & Eat Together: Social media, fast food, boxes and flashy packaging have created a vast disconnect between humans and their food, in recent decades. When the connection between the food and the body is lost, so too is respect and understanding for where food comes from and how the body utilizes it. Teaching kids to connect with their food, practice intuitive eating, and prepare and cook good food, is imperative to a positive relationship with food. Break out some new recipes, shop together, teach kitchen skills and bond over food. Better yet, find a cooking class near you and do something fun together!

  • Discuss the Dangers of Dieting: As a Holistic Nutritionist and Eating Psychology Counselor, it is in my every day practice to undo the damage that the dieting world has elicited on my clients. For decades, our society has been obsessed with thinness and restrictive eating practices, denying our natural weight, straining to find some kind of balance in mind and body in and amongst a time when we are brain washed to deny our natural tendencies. It is time to teach the young people about real food, about connecting to the earth and its givings, and about creating a level of harmony between real food and real bodies.

  • Be Strong In Your Values: Decide as a family what your values are and write them out. Post them around your house. Say them to one another regularly. Tell your friends about them. Live them. When kids have strong values, they are more likely to know who they are, to place value on themselves, and to make all decisions from a place of intention.
    Kindness. Generosity. Humanity. Love. Connectivity. Respect.
    Define yours and instill them in your kids.

Know When It’s Time To Get Help

Recognizing when it’s time to get help is crucial to gaining the upper hand within the strong hold of an Eating Disorder. Remember that enlisting the help of a professional does NOT mean that you have failed as a parent. In fact, perhaps it is an indication that your job is not to guide your child out of Eating Dysfunction, but to support her through her own journey with it. Oftentimes, the help must come from an outside source.

Want to learn more about Eating Disorder Recovery Coaching?

Want to work with me?

REACH OUT, I’d love to hear from you!

Why Rewarding Kids with Sugar is SO Detrimental

Little girl with lollipop.jpg

We’ve all done it. It’s just too easy:
“be good in the store and I’ll get you a lolly”.
The thing is: it generally works! And you can’t say that about all parental tactics, that’s for sure. But this particular tactic has extremely detrimental effects on our kids’ relationships with food. We may not see it right away (although oftentimes, we do), it may evidence itself in a few years with more sugar cravings or mood swings, or we may not notice at all until our teenagers move out and life becomes a little more complicated and rewards become something altogether different. What is a reward one day, is filling an emotional void the next.

Harmful Repercussions of Rewarding Kids with Sugar

  1. They will confuse sweet foods with true happiness: Once a child receives a sugary goodie as a reward, they will associate this goodie with your happiness and thus, their own. They may follow through with the thinking pattern that when they do something good (which evidently should make us happy all on its own), that happiness is then earned through food. In later years, they may wind up seeking sweets as a reward for their hard work, without looking for other constructive ways to feel good. And when they feel sadness, they may attempt to bring about happiness through sugar.

  2. Sends the message that rewards are necessary: Instead of feeling pride and gratitude when they have accomplished something, the child will feel entitled to receive a reward. Furthermore, every time they think about attempting something new or daring, it will be conditional upon receiving a reward. This may teach the child not to seek out things in life that render genuine joy and pride, but to attempt a task conditionally, dependent only on what they will receive afterwards.

  3. Tells the child that you approve of sugar consumption: How many times have I heard: “it’s just this once”, “it’s a special treat”, “you’ve been so good”, “just this once”, etc. Each time you use sugary treats as a reward for good behaviour or because of a special occasion, (or for any of the other easy-to-drum-up reasons) you are normalizing them, and essentially, telling your child that you approve of these foods. Is this a message you want to send?

  4. Encourages mindless eating: The very minute eating becomes about something other than fuel and nourishment, we encourage disconnect and mindless eating styles. Each time a child eats in this fashion further encourages them to disconnect from from their food, increasing the chances of dysfunctional eating habits.

  5. It connects emotional needs to food: This one is really, deeply important. When we tie emotional needs together with food (particularly sugar), a deeply rooted bond is created and then, reaffirmed time and time again, each time a sugary reward is given. Humans need emotional connection; it is a crucial part of our existence. When we replace positive emotional connections with a substitute (insert sugar), essentially, we create a negative emotional pattern that pulls the human being away from creating positive emotional connections with other human beings and (perhaps most importantly) with themselves.

(Just A Few of the Endless)
Good Reasons to Minimize Your Child’s Sugar Consumption

M-Ms.jpg

Sugar:

  • Disrupts proper blood sugar stability

  • Interferes with a child’s natural ability to regulate their eating

  • Supports bad habits around food

  • Will spoil their palate

  • Interferes with hunger and satiation signals

  • Contributes to dental decay

  • Feeds cancer cells

  • Promotes inflammation

  • Increases chances of developing of Diabetes

  • Contributes to obesity & disordered eating

BIG-TIME Game Changers When It Comes to Raising Healthy Eaters

Model Good Behaviours: You are the strongest, most prevalent, role model for your children. Most of your behaviours, the good and the bad, will evidence themselves in your children to varying degrees. If you are able to model respect and grace with food, that will naturally reflect in your kids. Similarly, if you are the kind of eater that rewards yourself with ice cream and chocolate bars at the end of a tough day, your kids will do that too.
Educate Them: Talk to your kids about food and health. Often. Give your kids the tools they need to make good and confident choices around food. If they understand the dangers of over-consuming sugars, dangerous additives, and food dyes, they will be better equipped to make educated decisions.
Let Them Cook: Get your kids in the kitchen! I can’t say this enough. Kids love a bit of control (ok fine, a lot), so let them be creative, teach them to read a recipe, and show them how to adjust flavourings in foods. The earlier you set them up with the knowledge and know-how in the kitchen, the better equipped they will be for later in life, when you are not there.
Set Boundaries: I will often encourage parents to set realistic, but firm boundaries with food. Kids need boundaries; they thrive with healthy boundaries. And so too, do adults. Be firm about what foods you will bend on at special times (coconut ice cream?) and those that you can never get behind (freezies). These boundaries teach kids how to say “no” when something doesn’t align with their values; when choosing what foods to eat and with all other decision-making.
Reward Them With Pride: Show your kids what a healthy reward looks like: a proud smile, a long hug, engaging eye contact, words of praise and encouragement. Healthy praise has no comparison; it’s what all kids are really after: your approval. The reward of healthy praise tells kids to honour their strengths, it supports their ability to make good decisions, and gives them permission to prioritize being true to them selves.
They may surprise you.
That may be all they need as reward.

Related Articles:
Encouraging Positive Body Image In Your Kids
No More Food Fights: Your Kids, School, & Blood Sugar
My Secret Weapon For Packing Kids’ Lunches

Raising Intuitive Eaters

little-boy-with-carrot-soft.jpg

Did you grow up in a home where you had to finish what was on your plate before you could leave the table or get any dessert?
If you behaved well, were you rewarded with a trip to the ice cream shop or the candy store?
If you did not behave well, were certain foods refused, restricted, or taken away? Were you sent to your room without any dinner?

Most of us were raised to believe that certain foods were “bad” while others were “good” and that how we behaved would dictate what we got to eat that day. It made parenting sense at the time and most households were raising children with these eating guidelines, under good intentions. The problem with this way of raising eaters, is that it teaches children to detach from food; to put food into “good” and “bad” categories; igniting feelings of insecurity, lack of control, guilt, and shame when it comes to food. This detachment and regulated/restricted style of raising eaters was, and still is, un-intentionally contributing to the, still-rampant, development of disordered eating.

What if we were to teach our children differently about eating practices? What if we were to encourage them to listen to their body’s needs and desires innately, without trying to dictate how and what they should eat? Who would they become as eaters?

The truth is that we are designed to be intuitive eaters. When we are tuned in to our selves, our hunger and satiety signals, then the body and mind know what to eat, when, and how much. Intuitive eating naturally contributes to balanced weight, energy levels, moods, and strong health. Encouraging the development of the intuitive eater, early on, is an amazing way to set our kids up to be confident, healthy eaters.

Raising an Intuitive Eater

kids-holding-hands-park.jpg

  • Be a good role model: You may or may not have noticed already that your children will adopt your habits around food. They look to you for guidance and, regardless as to what you attempt to teach, will mimic what you do. Lead by example, not with instruction.

  • Convey the message that hunger is natural, normal, and a “correct” sensation: Sometimes kids are hungry at the most inconvenient times. Or incessantly. Or not hungry when you think they should be. Their body is not necessarily going to be hungry when you think it should be and it is crucial to not shame or make-wrong their natural hunger signals, but rather, respect them.

  • Children are innately self-regulating: The really little ones need your guidance, its true, but as our kids grow into themselves more and more, they will be able to sense when they need food, what kind of food they need, and how much. Help them to notice and to listen to what the body wants and needs. Offer suggestions and guidance, but allow them the chance to speak on behalf of their body.

  • Make as few issues around food intakes and choices, as possible: Do not make a big stink about whether or not they are eating their broccoli. If your child doesn’t want their broccoli, let it go. Offer some other food choices that might work better, and try broccoli again another time. Making big issues around food tells children that they are wrong or right, good or bad, as an eater, and sets the stage for food fights.

  • Allow “treat foods”: sugar has great downfalls and dangerous affects on health, this much we know for sure. However, the dose makes the poison and, when it comes to raising intuitive, balanced eaters, restricting treat intake often has the opposite effect than what we are aiming for. The goal with intuitive eating is to entice kids to listen inwards, not to strain or restrict or ignite feelings of being burdened by the idea of eating. Choosing better treat options and including them in the diet at reasonable times, is a great way of keeping the idea of pleasure present with food, of developing good decision making skills, and of maintaining balance.

  • Let them play with food: kids love to squish food in their hands, chop vegetables into tiny pieces, and mix up special concoctions. Let them explore. It may be messy and oftentimes a bit of a waste, but messes can be cleaned up and you can choose what they use to experiment with. Food should signal fun to kids; they can connect with fun, they understand it. They are more likely to try new foods and develop a positive relationship with food, if they know that it can also be fun.

  • Children seek autonomy: allow them to serve themselves as soon as they are developmentally able; involve children in food shopping and meal prep. Essentially, give them a little control. Perhaps they can help pick dinner meals or pack their own lunches? Involve them so that they can feel as though they, too, are making some of the decisions around food.

  • Introduce new foods gently and keep trying: trouble with picky eaters? It’s common in youngsters to develop aversions to certain tastes and textures, or not want their foods to mix. As the parent, you may either facilitate an ongoing issue, or gently lead your child towards a more balanced eating style. Introduce a new food alongside other foods you know he will eat. Coerce him gently, but if he is refusing, set it aside for the day and try again tomorrow. Introduce only 1 new food at a time, to avoid overwhelming the child. Most importantly, do not give up. Children are evolving constantly, if you stop trying, that tells them that it is not important. Rather, stay positive and keep trying, showing the child that you believe in him/her and know they are a good eater.

  • Remember your role as parent: stay neutral when serving food; eat a variety of foods yourself, maintain good table manners, and DO NOT bribe, reward, or comfort with food. Try not to be attached to whether or not your child finishes their meal or likes what you serve. Let it be ok, however they feel about food at any given time. If they are upset at the dinner table, take them aside, to a quiet space, and talk about what is going on.

  • Make meal times a positive experience: Talking about what everyone did that day, their favourite part of the day, what they look forward to tomorrow, etc. are all great ways to encourage positive energy at the dinner table. Create a peaceful atmosphere and avoid intense or heated conversations and save them for a more appropriate time.

  • Talk about nutrition and “healthy/nutritious/growing/vital” foods: why do we eat food? What does the body need to grow strong and healthy? Invite discussion around nutrition and how important it is to you that your children be healthy. This kind of talk will evoke curiosity for more information and a possible interest in more food related activities and culinary exploration.

Lastly, don’t be too hard on yourself.
We do our best as parents, and that is enough.

Want more? Here are some related blogs:

Encouraging Positive Body Image In Your Kids
Why Rewarding Kids With Sugar is SO Detrimental

3 After-School Smoothies Your Kids Will Love

blackberry-smoothies-.jpg

Every parent is familiar with the after school blood sugar crash. The kids come home from school, rockin’ the grumps, dragging their feet, dumping their backpacks and mitts and hat and jacket and whatever else they’ve got all over the floor while they whine that they are SOOOOOOOOOO hungry! They “can’t handle anything” and must eat right this minute!
When you make a suggestion, they let out an exasperated sigh and give you the look of hangry death.

I hope you are laughing (and not crying) by now, because you’ve seen this a thousand times.

Well, fellow Feeding-Hangry-Kids Enthusiasts, I’ve got a plan for you:

Make it a smoothie.
In fact, let them make it themselves. 

We’ve been on the after-school smoothie train here for a while and let me tell you, it’s changed the atmosphere in our house considerably. Ok fine, so the dumping of all the clothing is still a work-in-progress (you got me there), but my son will often come in from school and head straight for the freezer. He’ll pull out whatever frozen fruit we have and line up some other tasty ingredients on the counter (often coconut milk, hemp hearts, almond butter, vanilla, cacao) and hit up the blender. It is such an effective way to nip the hangry quickly, deliciously, and plus, he’s become quite the smoothie maker (we are still working on the cleaning up part  ).

Here are some of our favourite recipes that have become staples over the last few years. I will often use these recipes with Kids Cooking Camps and after-school programs and the kids love to try coming up with their own creations. I believe that giving kids some reins in the kitchen early is a great way to set them up with the desire to cook. It also nurtures a more connective relationship with food and provides them with some basic guidelines for good nutrition & a general set of kitchen skills.

Good Morning Sunshine

1 ½ cup spinach (or other leafy greens)
1 cup coconut water
1 orange, peeled and diced
1 cup frozen mango or pineapple or a mix of both
Juice of 1 lime
Pinch of salt

  • Place all ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth.

Strawberry Shortcake Smoothie

1 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup coconut milk
¼ cup grated beets
1-2 handfuls of chopped spinach
2 Tbsp hemp hearts
1-2 Tbsp honey (optional)
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla

  • Place all ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately. Makes 2-3 servings.

chocolate-smoothies.jpg

Afternoon Pick-Me-Up Chocolate Smoothie

½ cup coconut milk
½ cup water
2 Tbsp cacao powder
Pinch salt
½ – 1 whole banana
1 pitted medjool date
2 Tbsp almond butter
1 Tbsp coconut oil
A few ice cubes

  • Place all ingredients in your blender and combine until smooth.

Stay SMOOTH & Don’t let the After-School Hangrys get you down!

Like always, if you try these smoothies and love them, please let me know!!
Better yet, take a pic and tag me on facebook or instagram!

Looking for more healthy kid inspiration?