I woke this morning with this curiosity around the edges of my child’s eating. Like many of you we use an intuitive model of feeding and eating ourselves. We follow our child’s lead and expand what works and are thoughtful about what we bring into the house and work to set an example through our own food relationships. Children’s texture tolerances typically grow developmentally with age and in alignment with their temperament. Trying new food is a risk and some kids are simply going to be those adults who look at food risk and think nope. They will have a smaller array of palate and there is nothing wrong with this when it is balanced with nutritional awareness. So understand when I say navigating the edge, I don’t mean pushing a kid towards a culturally or familial idealized variety of eating. I mean exactly this, staying curious.
What I noticed and why I am writing today is this: I had retreated from the edge of my child’s eating. As the head chef in our home, I had pulled back from the edges of variety because it was safe and I simply lacked energy to face the apprehensive, “Mom what is this?” Any chef will tell you, seeing someone joyfully ravishing your food is worth all the gold in the world. And when someone, even your own child acts like what you’ve cooked is poison, as a food artist this hurts at a level.
So what I am wondering is this: What if I can pull up and out of my need to please and occasionally (likely not every night or there will be a riot), offer something he’s never seen? What if in choosing to make this a conscious and mindful choice for us both we could have an entirely different result than the past? And letting my child know this risk I am asking of him is actually MY need as an artist, not that there is something inherently wrong with his eating. Any food artist knows that cooking the same menu all the time gets BORING and a burnout can happen.
So today I stand in this current truth: As a mother, I have as much responsibility at my child’s edges as I do at his comfort level. Rich and complex human interrelating requires knowledge of both these territories and the wobbly spaces in between. I can tell you in even considering this experiment, there is a growing excitement in me as to what foods/dishes will represent this edge.
Eating living foods is one of the most important steps you can take in ensuring your family’s health. Years back, I read a phenomenal book called, Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimal Health by Jo Robinson. Her work spread awareness of how truly dead the majority of foods are that arrive at our grocery stores. In our bodies there is a constant balance being struck between oxidative stress and the antioxidants that we consume. For those antioxidants to work, they need to still be ACTIVE! A clock starts ticking the minute that carrot is pulled from the ground. Did you know that those pretty bagged organic orange carrots have been sitting stored for ~6 months? The antioxidant activity they have is zero by the time you eat them. Even the best, most expensive supplements cannot change this. Nothing can replace eating real, living foods. So what do we do?
There is an amazing woman in our community named Beth Parks. Many of you guys know her. Many of you are already members of the Farm Connection. I was super late to this party. But I AM HERE NOW!!!!! I want to admit that there are times in my life when I get down on capitalism. There are times I feel like I am being manipulated into buying things I don´t need and simply fed ideas that don’t source me. The Farm Connection has become my antidote. Eva Bunker, my business coach noted how Beth´s business is the perfect example of how the beauty of entrepreneurial spirit can add value to our lives. When we see a need, figure out a solution that only we can figure out, that also adds value to all involved; this is capitalism at its best. Beth did this. She figured out a way to link the consumer and the farmers directly, benefiting all involved. If you are already hitting the farmer’s markets and getting fresh food, my hat is off to you. If you are like me and struggle with the time and the space to make it all happen, The Farm Connection may be the answer. As the Farm Connection has grown their ability to deliver has as well. I can now have farm fresh foods that I choose delivered right to my door. (If you like the culinary challenge of the random bag of produce typically delivered by CSAs they have that too!)
Eating real food has been one of the most important first steps in my own healing process and working with others. Inflammation and oxidative stress are very intimately related. Each and every living food we eat is healing because we live in a world teeming with oxidative stress. Eating beautiful living, local food is both pleasurable and truly medicinal. If you have local family or friends to buy Christmas gifts for, I would consider a membership to the Farm Connection. It is truly a gift to our local farmers, community and to our own bodies. I am so grateful to Beth, her family and her staff. Also Eating on the Wild Side is available at the San Antonio Public Library or Amazon. A worthy read indeed!
Over the past years I have met many different children and their families who have found eating to be an adversarial part of their lives. As someone who truly loves food (maybe even too much) I feel for these children and their families. Eating is an valued act in many cultures. Unfortunately eating issues are complex. Often many factors have led to a child not enjoying eating. Chronic allergies causing food to lose flavor, anaphylaxis leading to the fear/awareness that food can kill, gut dysmotility, gut inflammation, sensory integration issues, trauma from a choking event and these are just a few on a mountainous list of reasons why a child may not enjoy eating. Children often out of fear will become extremely restrictive in their eating. As a parent with nutrition knowledge it is terrifying to watch your kid eating the same three foods day after day. Meals become stressful for everyone involved. Food delight is eventually lost for all involved.
I have recently been coaching on this concept of food delight as a likely healing pathway. I would argue that food delight has been lost for many Americans as a whole. The concept of savoring each bite of our supper seems absurd in our busy lives. I was reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life and came across what he calls The Apple Meditation (chapter 2). Even with my own mindfulness practice I can tell you I cannot remember the last time I actually savored an apple. When he suggests to smile at the apple prior to biting in I actually laughed out loud. But why do I find this hilarious? Is this revered teacher being ridiculous? Or is it that my own American lifestyle has me too busy to slow down and find the pleasure that is available to me in the beauty of the apple itself and in each bite I take? What is my relationship with pleasure in general? Eek. Cricket. Cricket.
Pleasure and enjoyment are absolutely contagious. This way of creating desire is what the entire American advertising industry is based upon. The folks in the commercials aren’t just bored with their new phone or car. They are loving every second of it. So that we might as well…
My simple theory is we can all benefit from more food pleasure. More mindfulness can provide actual enjoyment if we stop ourselves long enough to create space for the experience of eating. Food pleasure is contagious even to the most picky of eaters. Make food that is beautiful and delicious to you and your family. Show pleasure when you eat and describe what you are experiencing to your child. They may not jump right onto that broccoli but I bet you will at least have their attention when you begin describing the pleasure you get from its funny shape and brilliant green and the crunchiness. Man…now I want some broccoli. I’m telling you. Ham it up. It’s ok to be over the top with this. It’s ok to feel totally silly. But if your picky eater starts adding foods to their favorite three by you having fun and enjoying yourself wouldn’t it be worth it?
The apple in your hand has the body of the Cosmos.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
ebook available for download at the San Antonio Public Library
When I grew up my grandmother’s garden was organic not because she was new-age (not at all) but because she had lived before pesticides were wide-spread. The old farmers learned how to use what they had to keep pests from their plants. Sadly in our modern world pesticides are widespread and the approach to food production is about keeping things cheap not nutritious. In some cases the pressure to keep things affordable at the market has made some foods downright dangerous to consume. This is especially true for children as their little bodies are not as savvy at removing toxins as most adults. The Dirty Dozen is a great place to begin to get strategic about your use of organic fruits and vegetables. Ideally they’d be all we ate but kids are expensive and many folks budgets do not allow them to buy 100% organic all the time. In some areas they are simply not available year round. Dr. Andrew Weil and his team have already done a great job of detailing the information of the Dirty Dozen Plus. For our family one of the ways we get more organic fruits and veggies for less is buying frozen options. When fruits and vegetables are flash frozen they are preserved at their ripest and most tastiest point in their lives which makes them yummy when we cook them up.
Now if you want to get really radical grow your own organic food. It is an adventure and great way to help get kids interested in vegetables. They are so much sweeter and tastier when they are fresh from the garden. Even though we have 0.13 acres we have a tiny little above ground bed that we built out of cinder blocks. It has been just the right size to get us started down the road of organic gardening. We got a great ebook for gardening in Central Texas and just started planting. We started with a winter garden which in San Antonio is way easier and takes much less watering. Now days we’ve gotten fancy and do some summer gardening thanks to drip irrigation. I used a drip kit from Amazon and built a nice little system…that I actually forgot to shut off today. Luckily it is such a slow flow of water forgetting about it isn’t nearly as harmful as say a sprinkler or a flowing hose.
The long awaited Poop Smoothie blog!!!! This smoothie developed at our house as a way to find a non-inflammatory plant based protein source for mildly dairy-sensitive Julien as he was transitioning off of breast milk. It has found its way into my practice because I come in contact with a ton of allergies (food/environmental) in the population I work with on the south side of San Antonio. I also see a lot of children suffering terribly from constipation. I theorize that these two types of kids are related through their guts and will write more about the science and medicinal properties behind this smoothie as the site builds. For now you get the recipe and some light background information.
Smoothies require a blender of some sort. If you have a blender then the first thing you need to buy is some of Macro Greens powder. 10z should be about 25$. In San Antonio I have to order it on Amazon as our Whole Foods no longer carries it. It is not cheap but it will take you months to finish. Store it in the FRIDGE if you live in Texas as it is
the only cool dark place that exists in our homes. This is truly the best tasting green powder on Earth. I have tested many of them out on my family. Understand there are a ton of desiccated vegetables, probiotics and other bitter goodness in this can. They have used stevia to mask the bitter taste. I think it makes all the difference for a kid palate. Especially for any kid not used to eating any greens.
The other core ingredient to a poop smoothie is Manitoba Organic Hemp Protein. This stuff packs ~7gms of fiber in 1/2 scoop or 2 tbs. If you are new to this: Fiber + appropriate fluids + healthy gut =’s nice poops. Store this in the freezer with your smoothie bananas to prevent your ground hemp seeds from becoming rancid.
Ground hemp is essentially nutty and undetectable healthiness in a smoothie.
Poop smoothie recipe
1 c unsweetened vanilla almond milk (if tree nut allergies sub in coconut or rice milk)
2 TBS of hemp powder
1 tsp Macro Greens
Frozen cherries (anti inflammatory)
Frozen blueberries (anti inflammatory)
1/2 frozen banana (peel and freeze any older bananas for this purpose)
1/2 tsp of cinnamon (an anti inflammatory/antiviral flavor enhancer)
Of note, Trader Joes has a markedly cheaper green powder (not GF) and hemp protein (not organic) available for anyone with financial restrictions/lots of kids to make smoothies for! Another awesome fact about TJs is that if your kids don’t approve of their products you can return them for a full refund. 100% satisfaction guaranteed. Whole Foods also does this if you save your receipt.