My biggest concern with going dairy and gluten free was finding the appropriate replacements and filling Poet's belly with lots of nourishing goodness that she actually enjoys eating. In this day and age, we are literally inundated with dairy and wheat alternatives and while this is most definitely a good thing, it is also overwhelming. Earlier this week I had a consultation with Paediatric Nutritionist and Feeding Consultant, Mandy Sacher of Wholesome Child. I wanted some basic advice from Mandy; how to boost the calcium in Poet's diet, the best options for breakfast, yummy alternatives to wheat flour and how to increase the protein and fats in the lunchbox. Poet has an amazing appetite and is usually open to trying new foods but for me, the brain power and the sheer amount of time required to muddle my way through new recipes is a bit arduous.
Mandy is passionate about making small steps to change, regardless of what you child's diet is like. She also understands the intricate relationship between children and food; the emotional and behavioural connections can't be denied. She firmly believes that treats are absolutely fine, dinnertime is a terrible time to introduce new foods and, most importantly, children are adaptable.
As part of my consultation, Mandy offered me a fabulous shopping list including preferred brands, a slew of delicious (and not difficult) recipes to try out, ingredients to create the perfect wheat alternatives and a range of calcium-rich non-dairy foods. She also sent me a detailed follow-up to our consultation with easy-to-follow suggestions that most definitely put my mind at ease.
A few things I learned:
Calcium-rich foods should be served three-times a day. Dairy alternatives include: canned sardines or salmon with bones, almonds, sesame seeds and tahini, hummus, bone broth, egg yolk, green leafy vegetables, white beans, chickpeas, dried figs, oranges, seaweed and chia seeds.
Rotating grains will help to avoid reactions or sensitivities which occur when there is too much wheat and gluten in the diet. Including other grains will also ensure a broader range of vitamins and minerals.
Fats and oils are an important part of the diet as they contribute to a wide variety of bodily functions, ranging from eye health and calcium absorption to bone growth and brain development. Suggestions include olive oil, organic animal lard, coconut butter, avocado, banana, hummus, tahini, good quality mayonnaise, nuts and seeds.
Mandy happily answered all of my questions and, with you in mind, I thought it best to share some hints and tips that resonated with me:
Three small changes we can make to improve the way our kids eat:
Swapping to wholegrains. Start with small steps...if you child eats white bread on a daily basis, swap to a wholegrain variety. The same goes for pasta and refined crackers.
Reducing sugar – try to phase sugar out and offer “sometimes food” at special times so your child knows when to expect them and doesn't constantly nag you for them. Most of the sugar we consume is hidden in our everyday food products – so learning to read food labels and to spot the hidden sugars in things like sauces, yoghurts, healthy muesli bars is really useful. For children who are use to eating lots of sugar, it can be too hard and not achievable to take an all or nothing approach. Offer healthy version of favourite sweet foods and use and use an unprocessed sugar such as coconut sugar in baking.
Focus on including the right fats in their diet… children need fat, it’s a precursor for healthy hormones immune systems and cognitive development. Try to reduce processed vegetable fats and margarine and opt for unsalted butter, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, avocado, raw nuts and chia seeds.
Three things to remember about kids and food:
Create fun and pleasant mealtime experiences! We can’t force children to love food we need to help them to develop an enjoyment for the right kids of food by helping them develop a positive attitude towards food.
Focus on variety! We need to ensure they are not eating the same foods over and over again, we need to ensure there is variety and even if they refuse to eat something such as veggies we need to still keep offering it and ensure the opportunity exists – what is not eaten today may become a firm favourite in the future – but if we stop offering it because they have refused it a few times, there wont be opportunity to enjoy it again … children’s tastebuds are forever changing!
Offer new foods at the appropriate time - after sport, at a park, at a picnic. Choose a time when there is less stress or when they show the most interest in food. Some kids are great breakfast eaters and others eat well at lunch. Dinner time is not always the best time to offer new foods as their sensory systems are often overloaded and parents are tired.
Mandy is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund her first cookbook and is offering a special consultation discount to my readers - you can get a 45minute consultation, a menu planner, shopping guide and a copy of the new book for $90 (usually $180). If you're interested, head over to Mandy's kickstarter campaign to offer your support. And, if you would like to make the banana bread pictured above this weekend, head over here for the recipe (substitute spelt for 1/2 cup buckwheat, 1/2cup arrowroot and 1/2 cup coconut flour).
...or should we just cut to the chase and call it a dumping ground? Because that's exactly what it is; somewhere to dump bags, shoes, keys and hats before you make your way into the home.
An entranceway needs to be all of this, but it can also be so much more. Because regardless of its tendency to get messy and the ease of which it collects all matter of miscellany, it's a space that welcomes you home; it cordially invites you to come on in, to take off your shoes and put down your heavy bag. With the door closed behind you, you can exhale.
An entranceway offers you breathing space before you walk further into your home and, no doubt, onto other tasks.
In past houses I've had to create an entryway because a separate space didn't exist. But in our current home, the front door leads into a sunroom; a two by three metre space bathed in light with just enough room for a small table and my desk, a shoe basket and a hat rack. On most days it's a magnet for recycling ready to be taken out, school bags, odd shoes, library books to be returned and parcels going to or coming from the post office. Hence for the better part of the week, it is a bit haphazard and in need of a tidy up.
But still, an entranceway is one of the easiest ways to keep the family home - and the family - organised. It's a place for the everyday essentials to live which ultimately saves them getting lost throughout the house (they don't get lost because they don't make it past the entranceway). And when it's time to leave the house again? The relief in knowing that the shoes, bags and hats are where you left them cannot be denied.
An entranceway is a time and sanity saver. And it's an essential element in a simple, family home.
So how can you create one for your family? A few essentials, in my opinion:
a bowl or a hook for your keys
a small table with enough space for library books, mail, collected ephemera pulled out of little pockets
a hat rack
a shoe basket
a little chair for little people who need help with their shoes and laces
a designated area for school bags whether it's a bookshelf or a cubby hole or lined up against the wall
fresh flowers or a few plants (because even the most practical of spaces needs a bit of pretty)
Implementing small changes in the family home really can make the everyday a bit simpler.
Questioning health professionals, seeking second opinions and going with your gut (and your heart) requires strength, time, patience, faith and perseverance - in abundance. I found it all this past fortnight and a change I had been resisting for two whole years suddenly felt doable.
A few weeks ago when we got confirmation that Poet would need grommets again I was feeling good about the decision and prepared to, once again, go down that path. But the niggling doubts and deeper questions just kept pushing up, regardless of how often I ignored them.
There were a few things that started to really bother Daniel and I:
- a larger set of grommets can stay in for 2-3 years and potentially leave a hole in the ear drum which will need to be fixed later on.
- Poet's hearing is only slightly affected and generally she's very well and grommets seemed to be (this time around) the expected next step (without exploring other options).
- going under anaesthesia, if only for half-an-hour, isn't ideal.
- the fluid behind the ear drum is mucous (and mucous is therefore the very heart of this health issue) so maybe we should explore that instead of using grommets as a bandaid.
We don't have any regrets about her first round of grommets in 2015; she was incredibly unwell then and along with the removal of tonsils and adenoids, she's since experienced a profound sense of wellbeing. But the root cause of this issue won't shift and so it's time to take the alternative route.
Following a discussion with close family members and understanding friends I called our naturopath to make an appointment. The results are as I expected: excess mucous, compromised immune system and a range of tonics, essential oils and lymphatic massage to rectify it. Furthermore, dietary changes are required: she's dairy and gluten free and, in solidarity, so am I.
To be completely honest with you, removing dairy and gluten from our diet has, up until now, been an option that's gone straight to the too-hard basket. It's always seemed too daunting but now, five days in, it's actually not that bad. I've made the decision, Poet's on board and relatively enthusiastic, and I'm inspired to keep going for the sake of her health. I'm not making decisions based on forever; it's simply what we're doing now in the hope that we can clear this health issue naturally.
So far I've been focussed on fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, an abundance of eggs, avocados, peanut butter and hummus as well as coconut milk, yoghurt and cream. The biggest (and most pleasant) surprise? Macadamia milk from Milkadamia - there are two local cafes who serve it and it makes for the creamiest cappuccino I've ever had. I'm an official convert!
Thankfully there are inspiring recipe resources everywhere I turn. Just last week an email from Mandy of Wholesome Child arrived in my inbox and I'm having a consultation with her tomorrow (I love a little serendipity). I'm also inspired by Stacey Clare's exuberant take on healthy eating for kids and this book is offering much comfort and guidance.
We're taking baby steps at the moment - literally day-by-day.
Feel free to share your own resources and favourite recipes...I'd love to know what works for you.
Percy: sometimes sultanas in an egg cup is the best option when patience is waning. Also, note the pumpkin soup smeared down the arm of the high chair...sometimes it just has to wait till the following day.
It's been windy for the past week; blustery, cold air whipping us all into a frenzy. Put simply, I'm a mess and completely out of sorts - irritable, frazzled, foggy headed and unbalanced. Windy weather has me cowering - all I want to do is huddle under a blanket till it eases.
It's a common event for this time of year. Just as we intuitively declutter in late winter / early spring, the earth does the same, the wind getting rid of the weight of winter to make space for new shoots and fresh leaves. Unfortunately I never manage to acclimatise, I'm just biding my time till the gusts subside (September if past years are anything to go by).
Considering the kids are reacting to the weather, too - ratty, argumentative and whiny - I thought it best to put a few grounding practises in place.
If you need a little grounding, you may want to consider the following:
lavender and frankincense essential oils : known for their calming, grounding properties, I recommend diffusing frankincense and adding a few drops of lavender oil to the bath in the evening.
chamomile tea : I always reach for chamomile when I'm feeling anxious and irritable. My kids love it too (with a bit of honey) and I find that the act of stirring and sipping tea is relaxing in itself, regardless of the calming properties of chamomile.
water : when it doubt, run a bath! It's the parenting mantra I always come back to when moods are foul and I'm at my wits end. Bubbles and lavender and ten minutes reprieve is absolutely necessary on windy days.
early dinner : because remember that an early dinner saves the witching hour. And delicious, nourishing foods are just the comfort that we crave when the weather has us all a fluster. Tonight's was lamb chops, mash and green beans but I'll often serve soup/broth and buttered bread when everyone needs to be settled.
warmth : keeping everyone warm and protected from the wind is absolutely essential to protect sensitive ones. For me this means a thick, heavy jumper and a scarf and for the kids - warm feet, bonnets and a few cosy layers.
stillness : the best thing I can do is sit down and close my eyes and I'll always do this when Percy breastfeeds. Today I found it really hard to sit still - I felt jumpy, my nervous system in overdrive - so while Percy fed I closed my eyes and touched my thumb to my little finger (the earth element that promotes physical stability). And it works - it really does! I often do it before I fall asleep at night and if I'm in a yoga class and can't settle (my eyes twitch) I'll use it then, too.
breath awareness : when home is getting loud and chaotic a few seemingly dramatic sighs to exhale and release is always worth a go. And then, stretch back into balasana - pose of a child, and literally fall into the earth; it's the best grounding practise of all.
The smallest changes are the most profound, don't you think? I've been in a bit of a rut lately; a common mid-winter story in family households, most probably. But a few simple changes have had a big difference to my day-to-day and they're making me happy.
1. I've started taking my work to the library : I can easily work at home with a newborn and a crawling baby but as soon as Percy started walking and ferociously hitting the keyboard while I typed, it was time to explore other options. A few weeks ago, when the car was at the mechanic and Percy was with his grandma, I spent three incredibly productive hours at the local library. It wasn't particularly quiet, nor was I tucked into a booth surrounded by other studious folk...but somehow, being in the midst of book readers and fellow typers was continual motivation for me to write! A revelation! Working from home has its pluses (put on a load of washing when the words are stuck, make a cup of tea whenever you please, do a load of dishes between stories) but I find that being at home, surrounded by a relentless list of to-dos, is sometimes a really hard place to concentrate. I'm torn between getting chores done before the kids come home and getting the words on the page. The library offers me uninterrupted time to solely focus on my work - I'm there to write and do nothing else. I can't even make a cup of tea which, in hindsight, is often procrastination disguised as thirst. And you know what, I've rekindled my love of writing. Sometimes working from home with kids in tow is just plain, hard work. But there's a spark within me when I get to sit in the library and type because I'm there as a writer....and not a mother-running-a-house-who-is-also-trying-to-make-deadline. It's refreshing, to say the least.
2. I've started reading again : being surrounded by books does that to you. But also, I've found that while breastfeeding Percy I was spending far too much time scrolling on my phone which is often draining - on my eyes and my self-worth. But with a book in hand and pages to turn, I'm relaxed and delighted - it's twenty minutes, a few times a day, that I can spend indulging in a story and it's nourishing a part of me that's been very depleted. I used to be an avid reader - there was always a book on the go - on my bedside table, in my bag, next to me while I cooked. But motherhood leaves little space or time for novels and it's all too easy to loose your reading mojo. Thankfully it has returned, with a spirited vengeance! My recommendations? I adored The Rosie Project, Hope Farm was a gripping page-turner and I'm currently in the midst of the charming Bird by Bird. But if you're going to read one book this year, make sure it's When Breath Becomes Air. I read it in a day - couldn't put it down. It's one of the most eloquent books I've ever read. Written by a neurosurgeon as he faces a lung cancer diagnosis, it's heartbreaking, life-affirming and utterly unforgettable.
3. I've replenished my house plants : what with a disruptive few months looking for a house, moving and then settling, the last thing on my mind was plants. But now that the sun is warming this north-facing home of ours and the furniture has found its place, I felt it was time for a nursery visit. Adding a little green really does lift the general mood and it's working wonders around here.
What's making you happy today? Any book recommendations you would like to share?