How I Changed My Kid’s Diet

My strategy through all of this has been low-key and slow.  Cold turkey did not work for us.  I tried cold turkey GAPS diet with her and she STARVED for 3 days, despite encouraging feedback that she would start eating.  She didn’t.  So baby steps it is.  In fact, it took 8 months to implement all of the below!  From typical American diet to whole foods traditional diet, this is how we transitioned to each food:

Homemade Broth – beef and chicken.  This is probably the single most helpful staple in my kitchen.

At the beginning Emma absolutely REFUSED to drink or eat any kind of broths or soups.  Then, a couple of weeks ago she had diarrhea for 5 days straight.  By the 5th day, we were talking about going to the doctor, going on a special diet, etc.  Of course none of that would be necessary if she would’ve just drank soup.  (Homemade broths made with bones are rich in gelatin, which coats the intestine and protects it, hence the easiest and cheapest way to cure tummy troubles and ward off sickness.)  Baby Steps. So, one night I warmed up a few tablespoons of salted beef broth and sat right in front of her like I was going to feed a baby.  Then I carefully explained to her (she is 3 and a girl, so I have an advantage here : ) that her tummy was hurting and Mami knew how to fix it but she had to trust Mami and drink her broth.  A least that stopped the kicking and screaming.  Of course after 2 days of drinking broth a couple tablespoons at a time throughout the day her diarrhea was completely gone, but something I didn’t expect is that her eczema is improving.  It also kept her hydrated and so we didn’t need to use electrolyte drinks, which can’t be good for you with their fake colors and sugars.  The Plunge.  Now, about a week later, she’s been drinking with a straw each day about a half cup of broth with her lunch.  She still needs cohersion – like a yummy apple or fat slice of cheese after she finishes, but she does it.  Alternately you can use broth in mashed potatoes, sub for water in rice, ans use in other sauces like enchiladas.  My conclusion?  Trust in the foods you know heal, and then trust in your child’s intelligence and that she believes in you.

*Update May 30, 2010:  Emma still does not like broth.  I started getting sneaky.  I know this sounds gross, but I put it in her smoothies for the liquid.  I do about 2 parts broth to 1 part coconut milk, a banana, a tsp. honey, and then either berries or stone fruits.  Makes about 1-1/2 cups.   You actually can’t taste it!  (I don’t salt my broth until I cook with it.)

Yogurt.

At the beginning I bought the regular, whole milk, sweetened cups – whatever was on sale.  We started with that – about 1/4 c. each day.  Baby Steps. Then, once she was eating it regular without tummy troubles, I started buying plain whole milk yogurt too.  (Brown Cow cream top is a good one.)  Then, I would take out 2 tbsp. of the sweetened yogurt out of it’s cup and add in plain and stir well.  I kept increasing the amount of plain yogurt until she started eating 2 tbsp. sweetened yogurt mixed with 1/2 c. plain yogurt.  Alternately you could add honey or maple syrup and decrease the amount gradually.  Yogurt is great for all of the live and active cultures and is another, like broth, must-have-daily to keep your gut strong.  This entire time I was saving the sweetened yogurt CUPS and serving the new yogurt mix in them.  That way she would not suspect a change.  The Plunge. Eventually it would be nice for her to enjoy an unsweetened cup of yogurt.

Cod Liver Oil.

This is a tough one, because it tastes HORRIBLE (no sugar coating here).  Baby Steps. They came up with some gummy fish, but Emma keeps saying “they hurt my teeth”.  Not sure if it’s the chewy-ness or what, but one comment like that was enough for me to donate them.  So, she continues to take her 1/2 tsp. a day of liquid.  I absolutely cannot say enough about this Cod Liver Oil (brand matters) and what it’s done for ME and my kids.  It’s chock full of the things growing kids need, esp. those with special needs (eczema, digestive problems, autism, etc.).  Those things are vitamins A and D specifically, and essential fatty acids, EPA and DHA.  It is suspected that more than half of all American children are deficient in these essential vitamins that affect development.  The Plunge. So anyway, Emma still dislikes it, but she takes it in a little cup mixed with her probiotic.  I usually sneak up behind her and do it quick, because if she knows and makes me do it “later” she thinks about it too much and usually gags.  I might sound harsh, but I know without a doubt, that this is the best thing in the world for her.  I wish every kid could have it.

Vegetables.

At the Beginning, Emma would not eat vegetables.  I think this was because when they were introduced as a baby, I never salted or buttered them.  Then as other foods got introduced veggies sat on the back burner way too long until her taste for sweets took over.  Baby Steps.  This is a sneaky endeavor.  Emma likes onion flavor, but not pieces.  So I micro grate onion in eggs, broth, mashed potatoes, biscuits, etc.   Someday when she starts liking broth pureed soups will be fabulous for veggies.  She will eat greens in macaroni cheese combos like Swiss Chard Lasagna.  She will also eat pancakes with vegetable puree in them like Sorghum Pancakes.  And other than that, vegetables are still a work in progress.

Milk

At the Beginning. Again, once Emma’s tummy is problem free for weeks, I introduced milk flavored mixed with gross chocolate syrup and taken with a Lactaid tablet for “insurance”.    Raw milk that is  from a local dairy farm that produces delicious, clean, whole, un-pasteurized milk.  Many believe that the enzymes and healthy bacteria found in milk direct from the cow are destroyed during pasteurization.  The lack of these enzymes makes milk a very difficult product to digest for many.  You would never drink milk from a cow that was meant to be pasteurized – that would make you sick.  The practices used to produce the milk starting from the diet are very different.  Baby Steps. Once Emma drank chocolate milk for 3-4 days I started decreasing the amount of syrup.  I also started using a sippy cup that was opaque so she could not see the color of the milk.  The Plunge. By the end of 2 weeks, she was drinking “chocolate milk” in a sippy cup that had no chocolate at all in it.  (Sly smile.)

Grains.

I have learned so much about these buggers.  Everybody knows white bread is bad, right?  Just checking.  But did you know that 100% whole wheat bread may be close to just as bad for you?  The reason is that the grains – whether they be wheat berries or oats, have something called phytic acid.  This is what Wikipedia has to say about it:

Phytic acid is found within the hulls of nuts, seeds, and grains.[1] In-home food preparation techniques can reduce the phytic acid in all of these foods. Simply cooking the food will reduce the phytic acid to some degree. More effective methods are soaking in an acid medium, lactic acid fermentation, and sprouting.[6]

Phytic acid is a strong chelator of important minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, and can therefore contribute to mineral deficiencies in people whose diets rely on these foods for their mineral intake… It also acts as an acid, chelating the vitamin niacin, which is basic, causing the condition known as pellagra.[10] In this way, it is an anti-nutrient… For people with a particularly low intake of essential minerals, especially young children and those in developing countries, this effect can be undesirable…

At the Beginning. The last Doctor’s visit Emma went to she was told to stop eating all forms of wheat, rice, corn and soy.  And that’s what we did.  Meats and fruit.  Do you know how many products on the shelf contain those 4?  If you aren’t eating seaweed 24/7, they are in EVERYTHING.  It was impractical.  This had to be a plunge because of Emma’s condition.  Soaking grains was the solution to Emma’s grain allergies, and it’s helped the whole family.  You know how Grandma soaked the beans for 24 hours before cooking them?  This is what it’s about.  Anti-nutrients.  And you can do the same thing with oats, breads, rice, and corn.  I truly believe that this is the more practical approach to the gluten-free lifestyle, in most cases.  For celiacs, of course they can’t have gluten.  But for those with sensitivities, soak your grains!  You will feel fabulous!  A HUGE help for me with recipes has been Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.  A side note – Emmanuel finally gave me the green light to buy my food mill and it should arrive this week so I can be grinding my own flours very soon!  If you are still reading this and live in San Antonio, come over and I’ll grind for free!

Snacks.

I should include this because although a seemingly small detail, snacks were previously ruining old Emma’s diet.  She would fill up in between meals (and in between destinations in the car) on Cheerios and Goldfish.  Then when we sat down to dinner, there was no appetite.  Sometimes she would eat the fun things like mashed potatoes, but there was no room in her tummy for the most nutritious items on her plate.  So this item was a complete plunge.  We quit snacks cold turkey.  There was crying in the car especially for about 5 days, and then it stopped.  She started eating more, thank goodness.  Snacks starting coming into our lives again around the holidays when we were traveling.  I cut up fruit, brought cheese sticks, rolled up pieces of ham and bought organic potato chips fried in expeller-pressed oils like sunflower (Central Market Organic brand).  They were mostly grain-free options.  Last week I finally tried making crackers from the Yogurt Dough recipe in Nourishing Traditions.  Oh man the kids are so grateful for these when we are on-the-go.  It’s nice to not feel guilty about a snack, too.  I will continue to make this, and practice getting them thin.

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