A Gowing Wise Kids Column
Since the inception of this column I have received numerous questions from parents striving to do the best by their children. Creating a well-designed traditional foods diet for adults is hard enough, but things get a little trickier when dealing with youngsters. The health of these dear ones is in the palm of our hands and we want to do the best we can the first time around! A majority of the questions sent my way seem to be common within the traditional food community, so I hope that you will find the answer to a question you may have been mulling over yourself.
QUESTION: How can I make traditional-food meals quicker for my growing family?
ANSWER: Preparing meals with real foods may not necessarily be “quick,” but you can make them quicker! First things first—you must willingly embrace the idea that the time and money you invest in your family’s nutrition is priceless. And not only for your immediate family, but for generations to come. So if a lack of time is hindering your food preparation efforts, do everything you can to change your commitments. Put your time and money into the things you treasure most—your family!
Second, be prepared and think ahead, which means carefully schedule your week with meal prep, and then cook big. Scan the Spring 2007 article, “Make Your Time in the Kitchen Go the Distance,” found at www.westonaprice. org under the Children’s Health section, for a collection of ideas that will get you on your way.
Essentially, get the most out of everything you make. When you throw together a yummy nutty snack bar, make a large 9 x 13 panful or even two and freeze one. When you make your kids’ favorite pancakes, double or even triple the batch (I like to have two pans going to get them done faster) and freeze the leftovers to pop in the toaster oven for a quick morning breakfast. If there is a veggie dip or dressing your kids enjoy, make sure to mark on your weekly planner to whip up a batch so you won’t be left in a lurch.
The third way to help make nutrient-dense eating easier is to think “simple.” Let go of any preconceived notions about what constitutes a meal. An appealing assortment of simple whole foods can nourish your family just as well as a four-course meal that took three hours to prepare. Consider the tempting ideas below, all of which can be used for an uncomplicated breakfast, lunch or even dinner:
- Serve a few slices of nitrate-free, pastured pork summer sausage with a hunk of cheese and some cherry tomatoes, with a glass of raw milk on the side.
- Build colorful fruit, vegetable or sandwich kabobs and serve with a hard boiled egg sprinkled with sea salt along with a glass of ginger beer or other fermented brew you have ready in the fridge.
- Blend a kefir smoothie with pineapple chunks, frozen banana, an egg yolk or two and a dash of vanilla (or any other flavors your family enjoys) and serve along with a piece of toasted sourdough bread topped with a thick layer of raw (cultured) butter. (Freeze any leftover smoothie in a popsicle mold.)
- Pull out some pre-cut carrot sticks, red pepper spears and cucumber slices to dip in the Homemade Ranch Dressing (see page 83) along with a handful of crispy nuts and a cup of whole-milk yogurt with fruit preserves swirled in.
- In a tortilla, roll up any type of leftover meat along with some pre-sliced peppers, lettuce, sprouts, or other compatible vegetables with a goodly amount of a dressing, mayo, tapenade or hummus, and serve with a glass of dairy kefir blended with a dribble of homemade chocolate syrup or grape juice.
- In warmer weather, pull out a frozen fruity popsicle made from a base of kefir (dairy or juice) or yogurt and serve it with some crispy nut trail mix along with a slice of watermelon.
- In cooler weather, warm up a serving of homemade frozen soup and add some whole grain crackers topped with almond butter and homemade fermented apple butter. These types of meals are easy to slice, pour, roll or blend; the only prerequisite is that you are well-stocked with the supplies. While serving a traditional-foods diet to your family may take more time than stopping off at the drive-thru or microwaving frozen meals, you certainly don’t have to make everything from scratch for each meal. Just make the most of when you do!
QUESTION: My child is constipated, what can I do?
ANSWER: For immediate relief, offer the Digestive Tea for Baby found in Nourishing Traditions. Abdominal massage in the natural clockwise path of the intestines, with massage oil or warm castor oil with a drop or two of either rosemary or lavender essential oil, is an excellent way to help move things along.
Magnesium is essential for intestinal muscle function and tends to have a laxative effect. Powdered magnesium products can be mixed into beverages or foods. Follow the directions on the label for the appropriate dose. There are also homeopathic combinations on the market made specifically for kids that may be worth a try.
As to the crux of the problem, the healing protocol will depend on your baby’s age. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride boldly states in her most excellent work, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, that “constipation is always a sign of deficient gut flora in children and in adults.”1 Include probiotic-rich fermented foods and beverages, such as sauerkraut, 24-hour fermented yogurt (which has little to no lactose and a milder taste than kefir for the little ones), kefir (which is particularly good for bowel health), fermented sweet potatoes and similar fermented foods in your child’s diet. If you can’t seem to get enough of these foods in, supplemental probiotics may be in order, at least for a time.
Be certain your child is well hydrated.
Consider the possibility of a food sensitivity, especially if she is consuming gluten-containing foods.
It goes without saying, make sure all the processed foods are removed or strictly limited in your child’s diet and emphasize traditional, fiber-rich choices. Make sure your child is getting plenty of activity and don’t discount the power of stress on the body.
Finally, Dr. Campbell-McBride details the benefits and process of enemas in her book, so refer to this resource for more severe cases that are not improved by the above recommendations.
QUESTION: Are there natural ways to help teething pain?
ANSWER: Royal Lee, a nutrition pioneer in the same league with Weston A. Price, had an interesting take on teething in children. Here is a snippet from an audio clip of Dr. Lee talking about the old-time remedy, barley water.
“Barley water, in the old days, was one of the weapons that were found to take care of most everything that was wrong with a youngster. When a baby’s teeth are erupting his body fluids become completely deficient in calcium. Their teeth are picking up the calcium so fast that there’s nothing left and he becomes quite distressed. A little calcium lactate and barley water and all the symptoms melt away in a matter of a few hours or almost minutes.
“Barley water: How do you make it? All you do is soak pearled barley, a cup full, in a milk bottle or quart bottle full of water in the icebox. In the old days they used to use boiling water and make a tea but now with iceboxes we don’t have to cook it to keep it from spoiling. You can soak it in the icebox for twenty-four hours, drain off the water, throw out your barley, and keep the water for drinking.”
Lee believed that no matter what the illness, barley water was an excellent remedy and a child could consume as much as desired.2
Barley water is not only rich in calcium and other minerals, but it is also soothing to the digestive tract. Add some honey to flavor and maybe a squeeze of lemon.
After making barley water, you can add the barley to soup if desired. If you are in a pinch, you can boil one cup barley in two quarts water. Once it boils, turn it down to a simmer for 30 minutes, strain, add a sweetener and chill. Note: although there is some debate, consensus is that children under one year old should not consume honey, so choose another sweetener for this age group.
In addition to barley water, there are also topical and internal homeopathic remedies as well as herbal (typically clove-based) topical solutions that may also help reduce pain. Gumming frozen foods can help tune down inflammation— try figs, mango or even washcloths. Mesh bags designed to be stuffed with anything frozen are also available to make cleanup a touch easier.
QUESTION: There are different thoughts on when to start baby on solids, what’s the scoop?
ANSWER: Many parenting experts hold to the ideal of exclusively breastfeeding a baby for the first six month of life. But after six months, baby should be started on some solid food—no primitive culture practices exclusive breastfeeding after six months. Of course, the breastfeeding should continue, at least to one year.
Many primitive peoples started their babies off with masticated liver as their baby’s first solid food.3 Another nourishing weaning food is egg yolks. The value of weaning infants on egg yolks was demonstrated in a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which found improved iron levels in babies given egg yolks. Further benefit was found in those given egg yolks enriched with essential fatty acids (that is, from foraging chickens eating grass and bugs).4 The cholesterol, fats, choline and other valuable nutrients in these foods support superior brain development.
Are there some infants who won’t do well with egg yolks or liver or may not do well starting at six months of age? Sure! Here is where you need to figure out your baby’s needs. Some babies, even as young as four months, can benefit from adding a soft-cooked egg yolk (preferably from pastured chickens) with grated liver and a dash of salt to their diet. These would be the babies that are physically mature and obviously hungry. You will know if your baby is a fast developer: they tend to sit up, crawl and walk early. Certain babies may want even more than one yolk, which is fine; follow your parental instincts and be guided by your infant.
On the other hand, some babies may not be ready until they are six months or even older to start solids. Again, be observant of your own baby. Has he already shown sensitivities? Does he appear hungry and in need of more calories? And if you decide to try it out and things don’t go as smoothly as you had hoped, let it go and try again in another three or four weeks. If it still doesn’t feel right, stop and wait another few weeks.
QUESTION: I’ve heard that offering egg yolks too early to my baby may cause an allergy, is this true?
ANSWER: Egg yolks are mostly fat, which is typically well utilized and unlikely to cause trouble. Egg whites, on the other hand, are mostly protein and more often the culprit in allergic reactions (which is why it is best to wait until at least one year of age before offering this portion of the egg).
Egg yolks do contain a small amount of protein, however, which may still be problematic for some, especially for those highly prone to allergies. How do you know if your child is susceptible to allergic reactions? Allergies tend to run in families, but not necessarily for the reasons one might suspect. While a child may have genetic tendencies, food allergies have more to do with a mother’s intestinal microflora passed on to baby. Baby picks up microflora through the birth canal, breast milk and later, feeding habits that are learned through family food choices or other learned behaviors.5 So, if mom has an overgrowth of candida, baby will also have an overgrowth of this insidious yeast. Interestingly enough, allergies and symptoms associated with an overgrowth of abnormal gut flora often will not show up until mom has weaned baby because of the antibodies found in breast milk.6 Therefore, the health and diet of mom and baby are at the foundation of allergies developing in the first place.
Nonetheless, if immediate family members have allergies or other digestive conditions, such as celiac disease, use caution with offering egg yolks too early to baby. All types of digestive difficulties can compromise digestion and offer a clue to go extra slow when introducing foods.
Every baby will react differently to the introduction of a new food, whether that reaction is digestive, immune or just a taste preference. Take it slow and wait a few days before offering anything else so you can rule out the culprit. Signs of intolerance include redness around the mouth; abdominal bloating, gas and distention; irritability, fussiness, over-activity and awaking throughout the night; constipation and diarrhea; frequent regurgitation of foods; nasal or chest congestion; red, chapped or inflamed eczemalike skin rash.7
QUESTION: How many egg yolks can I feed my toddler?
ANSWER: There is no limit for children—and not for adults either! Based on what we know about traditional fats and children through the work of Weston A. Price, we need a good amount of the great brain-building nutrients found in egg yolks. If a child is requesting more egg yolk, don’t hold back. Of course, those yolks should be from properly raised, pastured chickens. Think about it this way—we often eat a number of egg yolks quite normally in certain dishes, such as egg yolk custard or an egg frittata. Of course, be sure to offer other nourishing fats (cream, coconut oil, lard, etc.) to widen the variety of nutrients your little one consumes. Chances are your child’s requests will change soon enough. Rejoice in the fact that your wee one is asking for more egg yolks instead of more cookies!
QUESTION: My child just doesn’t do well with dairy—cow or goat, raw or pasteurized. What alternatives do I have?
ANSWER: Your best alternative for a dairy beverage is the Coconut Milk Tonic found in Eat Fat Lose Fat by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig. It has the same amount of calories and calcium as milk. Straight coconut milk often makes a fine substitute for milk or even cream in recipes. Nut milks and grain milk—rice, oat, barley—are other options, but should be homemade—recipes can be found in Nourishing Traditions. Store-bought varieties tend to include synthetic nutrients. Of course, you should vehemently avoid soy milk.
If your child doesn’t do well on even raw milk, it is even more important to introduce nourishing sacred foods into your child’s diet, such as liver from organically-raised chickens, fish roe and bone marrow. If your child is a year or younger, consider making the Meat Based Formula in Nourishing Traditions. If he is older, don’t get stuck on the idea that you have to necessarily find a beverage alternative to match dairy. Try introducing other nourishing beverages, such as beet kvas and water kefir, and focus on finding inventive ways to regularly consume nutrient-dense, calcium-rich foods, particularly bone broths.
QUESTION: I make broth in large quantities, but my glass canning jars keep breaking in the freezer. What can I do?
ANSWER: Losing portions of your precious broth to broken glass is so frustrating and something I contended with for years. To remedy the situation, first reduce or concentrate your stock. Gently simmering, not boiling, your finished stock to about half of its original volume saves a tremendous amount of room in the freezer. Make your stock (per directions in Nourishing Traditions), strain and put into the fridge until the fat hardens at the top. Removing the fat is optional; however, I feel it is best to avoid overheating the fat with the extra heating. It also further reduces rancidity with extended storage in the freezer.8 Pour the broth back into a clean pot and bring to a boil, remove the lid and reduce it down again to a simmer until it is reduced to half or more of the volume. You should have an extremely gelatinous consistency once cooled, especially if range-fed meats and bones and chicken feet were used.
Then, instead of canning jars, try freezing your now condensed broth in Pyrex glass storage containers. These Pyrex containers have plastic lids and thick glass that freezes well and are available at most super-stores (such as Wal-mart or Target). These are much less likely to break than canning jars. Another possibility is to pour the cooked stock into environmentally friendly paper coffee cups. Freeze the broth and then cover the top with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, held in place with a rubber band.
Once thawed, you can use this gelatinous stock as is, or reconstitute it by adding water. It will keep in the freezer for up to six months.9
QUESTION: How can I maintain my food ideals out in the world with my kids?
ANSWER: This can be tough, especially if you are involved in a number of social activities. However, there are some steps you can take to minimize the impact of outside food influences.
For the younger crowd, perhaps the first two years, bringing a snack to the event or childcare situation usually isn’t a big deal. Children often don’t even know they are eating something different from what the others have. Take advantage of these younger years when you have more control over what goes into their mouths.
It gets a little trickier when the children get a bit older. First, pick and choose your activities carefully. Some social groups may just not be worth your child’s involvement due to the struggle that would ensue over the food being served. But for those activities you do choose, at which a snack or meal will be served, here are seven pieces of advice:
- Fill your children’s bellies with nourishing foods before leaving the house, no matter where you are going.
- Send your little munchkin off with something yummy. If you need to pack some maple syrup-sweetened treat or some cookie bar with a touch of chocolate mixed in, do it. Your child is bound to favor your homemade treat over the processed non-food that is typically served.
- Have a big sippy or closed container filled to the brim with raw milk. Milk is milk; the childcare workers don’t know the difference. And if my child fills himself up on nourishing raw milk, all the better.
- Take advantage of the food-allergy frenzy. It is not fibbing when you say that your child has sensitivities to sugar and white flour—there are negative biological consequences to consuming such ingredients.
- When possible, make change happen. Talk to the coordinators of whatever group you are involved in and see if you can educate them on the dangers of Goldfish and graham crackers and switch them over to serving fresh fruits, chunks of cheese or boxes of raisins. If it comes down to it, offer to purchase the snack for everyone when your child attends—a bunch of bananas can be fairly inexpensive.
- Stay cool. The more fuss you make over your kids’ not eating something, the more they will want to eat it. If your children do get their paws on something you don’t approve of, cringe on the inside and keep a smile on the outside.
- Have a strong courage of conviction. Tell your family, “We don’t eat these foods because it weakens our immune system and makes us sick more often,” or “it eats away at the calcium in our bones.” Explain to your precious children that your family holds to these principles because you love then so much and don’t want any harm to come to then. For older children, education is paramount; visit farms, watch documentaries and read books on the value of eating nourishing whole foods as well as on the devastation that afflicts the land and animals subjected to conventional chemicalbased methods. While he may believe you and understand your reasons, some extra motivation may be in order. One idea is to come up with some type of trade. In exchange for the candy handed out in class, make his favorite dessert the coming weekend or add a few stickers to his collection. Let your children go trick-or-treating and then buy back their candy with real money. Use your imagination!
One last thought. We could live in a bubble, but what fun would that be? Life is too thrilling, and having friends is all part of the experience. Not all our friends will live the same lifestyle we do, although seeking some out is a good idea. I have found that friends actually see how we eat, become interested and make many positive changes on their own accord. However, there is a point when it is important to honor the efforts others have put into making a food and just eat it, such as when visiting a friend’s home or celebrating a buddy’s birthday. Sure you could put up a fuss and make your kid miss out on the cake or even show up late after the cake has been served. But if your child has a few bites of cake with mysterious processed ingredients once every few months, it should be fine, unless there is a particular health condition. Of course, if you can encourage the mom of your child’s friend to make a homemade cake instead of buying it pre-made, all those partaking will be better for it!
If you are feeding your family nourishing traditional foods a majority of the time, rare encounters with the processed birthday cake or burger made from commercially-raised hamburger meat will be of little consequence. Moreover, try to get your child more interested in the activities of the gathering than the food. I have noticed my preschooler will eat a bite or two of cake and then he is off and running again to join in the fun.
Live life to its fullest and be aware of the stress you place on yourself and family around your food ideals. Forgoing any flexibility may be counterproductive to your overall health goals!
Homemade Ranch Dressing
1/2 cup homemade mayo (see Nourishing Traditions or Eat Fat Lose Fat)
1/2 cup crème fraîche, kefir cheese or sour cream (preferably homemade, see Nourishing Traditions)
1-2 tablespoons of spice mix (see below)
Italian Spice Mix Recipe
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon evaporated cane juice sugar (Rapadura or Sucanat) or just add a dab of honey to the final recipe
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon celery seed powder
1 tablespoon sea salt
Blend all ingredients and enjoy as dressing or dip.
- Campbell-McBride, Natasha M.D. Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural treatment for autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, depression schizophrenia. Medinform Publishing. 2004. p. 226.
- Lee, Royal. “Drugs for Starvation. Calcium + Vitamin C for Fevers-Especially Children.” Transcription of the audio clip used in the presentation by Dr. George Goodheart, Nutrtional Wisdom of the Masters. Lectures of Dr. Royal Lee, Volume II. Published on Audio Disc by Selene River Press, Inc. Published in Wellness Star News with permission from Michael Dobbins, D.C. Found at http://www.wellness-star.com/
- Fallon, Sally. Nourishing Traditions. “Feeding Babies.” New Trends. 1999, p. 600.
- “Nutritional effect of including egg yolk in the weaning diet of breast-fed and formula-fed infants: a randomized controlled trial.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 75, No. 6, 1084-1092, June 2002
- Campbell-McBride, Natasha M.D. Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural treatment for autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, depression schizophrenia. Medinform Publishing. 2004. pp. 231-232
- Ibid., p. 56
- Percival, Mark. D.C. N.D. Infant Nutrition. Health Coach System. 1995.
- Bailey, Janet. Keeping Food Fresh: How to Choose and Store Everything You Eat. Harper and Row Publishers. 1989, page 193 9. Ibid., p. 193.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2008.