Vegetable hide and seek

What vegetables do you hide in bolognaise or slow-cooked meals?  Do you go for the same ones each time?  Do you leave some slightly chopped (eg carrot, mushroom) so your children will just notice them or do you whizz them all?
Along with zucchini, carrot and mushroom, I have also included some grated beetroot (yes they notice the colour but the flavour isn’t dramatically affected), brussel sprouts and even kale.

Don’t be shy of trying new vegetables!  These might be the ones you completely hide or for kale/spinach, I slice finely and then chop so there aren’t big, long ‘scary’ bits.  If the boys notice it, I don’t pretend it’s not there and I don’t make a big deal.  I might say ‘oh that’s just kale…gosh you’re doing a great job eating your dinner tonight’ or if they look terribly worried….well, at first I did say ‘it’s basil!’ as I know they eat that no worries. Once they were happy to eat it, the next time I was more confident to label it kale. The dark, leafy greens have so many health benefits…

Will you buy a bunch at your next shop to try?  Or get some brussel sprouts to finely slice?

Why your childrens’ gut health will determine their health both now and in the future

Do you dread the winter germs?  Are your children constantly sick?  Do you put it down to ‘it’s good for their immune system’?  Have you ever wondered why some children get sick far less often or present with much milder symptoms?  What if a strong immunity wasn’t just about exposure to germs?

These are many of the questions I have asked since I was little.  Why do I always get sore throats?  No one else does.  In my twenties, people were still saying, ‘oh you’re working with children, it’ll build up your immunity’.  But through many periods I suffered with sore throats more than I was well.  Mum gave me cod liver oil and Echinacea until I’d almost rather put up with the sore throat.  I never continued with these supplements, as they didn’t really work.

Enter my first born son!  Master now 4, from the start, presented with many symptoms that made me sit up and look at his health.  The eczema, the ‘ADHD’ behaviour, the redness to his cheeks, the inability to sleep… I started to look into it.  And one answer has kept coming up – THE GUT.

I will say up front, I am not an expert on the gut…yet!  But through my experiences and my current study to become a children’s health coach, I plan to know far more about the gut within the next year and spread the word wide and far.  Here is what I have learnt so far:

  • gut health is a HOT topic in scientific research and is being linked to all types of diseases, allergies and cancer, not to mention annoying symptoms such as skin issues, constipation/diarrhoea, blocked sinuses, headaches, fatigue, the list goes on and on.
  • this literally explains (in fine scientific detail of how the gut functions) how food is medicine.  Give your intestines the right foods and your intestines will keep you healthy.
  • our intestines contain more immune cells than the entire rest of our body, so good gut health is related to a stronger immunity.
  • an intact gut lining (which is only one cell thick and thus easy to disturb) and gut flora (the right balance of the ‘good bacteria’) determine gut health.
  • certain foods and other ‘nasty things’ break down the gut lining, resulting in ‘leaky gut’.  Take a look at this article, Leaky Gut Syndrome – in Plain English to see how it happens and find out how your symptoms might be related to it.  You will be quite amazed!
  • many people have leaky gut, without realising it.  This goes for children too.
  • the state of the mother’s ‘gut flora’ (the bacteria living in her intestines) is passed onto the baby in utero.  This explains my mother’s migraines, my sister’s eczema/allergies and my low immunity, sore throats and fatigue, let alone my boys’ food intolerances and associated symptoms.
  • the presence of probiotics in the intestines, prevents unwanted bacteria from growing there.  Whilst we can survive with minimal gut flora, our body will present with many undesired symptoms, let alone inflammation which leads to disease and cancer.
  • we do need to reconsider our love of completely germ- and dirt-free, antibacterial soaps, chlorinated water and each use of antibiotics.  This is all stripping away the bad bacteria but also the good ones.
  • our gut is now becoming accepted as our ‘second brain’ with up to 100 million neurons (as many as in our spinal cord), about 40 million neurotransmitters (as many as we have in the brain) and 95% of the body’s serotonin is found in the gut.
  • our gut plays a major role in mood, appetite and sleep.

So how to get on top of a leaky gut?

  • Firstly, find what is irritating your children’s intestines.  We use kinesiology which is quick, pain-free and easy to test many different foods straight up.  For my boys and I, gluten is the main one, along with soy, dairy, most corn products, food additives, sugar and yeast.  That’s how ‘not flash’ the state of our guts were!
  • Eliminate all culprits as soon as you can.  This is MUCH easier said than done and is the inspiration for my new business, coming forth in the near future.  I hope to help parents transform their pantry, menus and children’s tastes, so they can make the switch as easily as possible, and discover better health.  Whilst quick elimination would get you quick results, often times it’s ‘slow and steady wins the race’.
  • Be proactive in healing the gut.  There are several foods that are wonderful for healing the gut lining.  Turmeric is a great spice to heal the gut and reduce inflammation.  Homemade chicken broth is also a fantastic healer due to the gelatin it contains, but also it’s ability to reduce inflammation.  Even slow-cooked zucchini and squash help to heal.
  • Remember that stress and emotions also play a role in gut health.  That goes for children too.  Master4 is not only physically sensitive but also emotionally sensitive.  We have literally seen stress manifest physically for him and have now learnt to work on this before looking at external factors.

And how to build up an army of probiotics?

  • Stop removing the ‘good guys’ by throwing out any ‘antibacterial’ product and using just good old soap.
  • Don’t be so quick to wash dirt off little hands or even organic fruit and veges for that matter, as good bacteria are supposed to be ingested in ‘natural ways’.  It’s the lack of good bacteria in our systems that’s making us sick, not so much the germs we come across.
  • Look at a good probiotic.  We used Inner Health Plus probiotic powder for a few years but this was sending us broke.  I finally learnt how to ferment, which brings cheaper and better probiotics, which unlike bought probiotics, are more likely to actually colonise your child’s intestines and stick around.
  • Kombucha (fermented tea) is an easy to make, cheap and wonderful way of not only bringing good bacteria to your children’s guts but it is also a delicious, fizzy drink.
5L of kombucha tea, teeming with living probiotics, you can literally see them!!!

5L of kombucha tea, teeming with living probiotics, you can literally see them!!!

  • Rethink commercially produced yoghurt as a good source of probiotics.  Most of the time it has more sugar or artificial sweetener than it’s worth for the few probiotics you’ll find left in it.  The hormones and antibiotics from the dairy also defeats the purpose, not to mention it’s pasteurized, destroying many of the enzymes and nutrients that might have been.
  • Coconut yoghurt is easy to make and has far less additives than dairy yoghurt (assuming you use canned coconut milk and not fresh coconut, which would have no additives!) and avoids all of the issues listed above.  Otherwise look for yoghurts that are processed as little as possible, with as few ingredients as possible.
  • tangy coconut yoghurt

    tangy coconut yoghurt

  • If you can fathom making fermented vegetables and enticing your children, this would be another great source of the ‘good guys’.  My next project in the making!  Remember, slow and steady wins the race.

And after you have done all of this for your children, like me, you might actually realise that your intestines have been screaming out for some love too.  Go with your gut and if you crave it, provide it with foods that heal the lining and probiotics that assist in proper digestion and fighting off unwanted germs.

Luckily I have been part of this test and I can happily say that I have had no more sore throats and feel so ‘strong’ without any of the above symptoms.  I will keep you in the loop at the end of our winter to hopefully announce how few sick days the boys have had too.   So far so good!  🙂

Let me know if you will consider looking into this for yourself or your kids!  The more people that get onto this, the more health the world will have 🙂  Heidi

* To be continued – with more information on how to make some of the super-gut-foods listed above as well as how to change your pantry towards better gut health.  But please don’t wait for me if you feel the need to start looking into this yourself!

 

 

10 tips to ensure your child grows to love vegetables

Yes, vegetables do play on my mind!  Here are a few things about veges and kids that I always keep in mind…

  • children need to eat a rainbow of vegetables for essential nutrients for growth and development.  Full stop!
  • exposure to a wide variety of vegetables is key.  If your child isn’t presented with vegetables, they will not stand the chance to get accustomed to them.  See I Create My Child’s Healthy Palate for more information on helping your little one to become a healthy eater
  • a child around the age of 2 years will start trying out their new found independence and say ‘no’ to a food.  This is not the time to hold back on serving up the vegetables (or any food for that matter).
  • the sooner children develop a taste for vegetables, the sooner they will have a stronger immune system, have more nutrients for their development, stay healthier for life & be more likely to come back to them…even after potentially coming off the bandwagon in teenage years!
  • education about the WHY, the importance of vegetables is crucial.  Help your child to appreciate vegetables rather than bribing them to eat their broccoli in exchange for dessert.  Even the mention of becoming a quicker runner, better dancer or growing up like their idol can be a great reason to start trying.  Moving towards talking about benefits for the body can also be started quite young.
  • it has been found that the variety of foods a child is eating at 4 years of age represents the majority of foods they will eat for the rest of their lives.  Don’t put off presenting new vegetables. 
  • you can hide vegetables but your child still needs to have the time to let their sensory system get accustomed to the different sensory properties, such as taste, texture and smell of the individual vegetable
  • a child needs the time to explore a new vegetable by looking at it, touching it and maybe even squashing it with a utensil or fingers, all with no pressure to eat.  They may need several occasions before they are ready to eat it.
  • involving children in growing or preparing vegetables is a step towards success.  See Interactive Eating – Rice Wraps
  • using different vegetables in slow-cooked meals or bolognaise can be a great way to get your child use to looking at and attempting new vegetables

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Before your next grocery shop, have a think about which vegetables you might try with your child.  Will you add some more ‘hidden’ vegetables or will you have some to present each night for the week to see how close you can get your child to trying some.

Can we throw out the thumb?

That’s it!  At two years and three months, Master 2’s THUMB-SUCKING is about to see an end.  Well as quickly as we can stop it…!
You see in the last two days I’ve noticed a few changes to his face and speech that have made me pay attention:

  • he’s now developing on ‘open bite’ where his top front teeth don’t sit neatly in front of his lower teeth…  The top ones jut out in an arch, just slightly.
  • with his teeth closed, because of his front teeth sitting forward, the middle of his top lip is forced outwards, just slightly… But his appearance looks different.
  • tongue tip sounds such as /s/, /d/, /n/ sound slightly ‘dentalised’ (ie the tongue and jaw sit forward giving that ‘fuzzy’, lispy sound).

Being a speech pathologist I have seen these changes and want to reverse them as quickly as possible to avoid face shape changes, future dental issues and of course, the dreaded speech errors.  To have more of an idea of the issues that thumb- or dummy/pacifier-sucking can have, here is a post I wrote a while back on the effects of sucking, on speech development https://iraisemykids.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/the-future-of-a-little-sucker/.

Whilst it is good to have in mind the future issues with sucking a dummy/pacifier or their thumb, it can also be very difficult to put an end to this habit.  The potential trauma to a child must be kept in mind at all times.  When stopping the habit starts to affect the parent-child relationship, this is where it might be time to back off or slow the focus a little bit.  Giving it time might be all that you need. 

So, how do you stop the sucking habit?  Whilst I don’t have the answers, I know slow and steady is a good idea and keep in mind your child’s age.  The younger they are, the less you can expect of them.  Always keep in mind shame.  Without explaining why you are trying to end the thumb- or dummy-sucking, your child may be left feeling shame for wanting to continue with a self-calming strategy that they suddenly feel is ‘not allowed’.

Here is a little bit on our journey with Master 2.

Master 2 only sucks his thumb when he has his comforter monkey.  I am tucking it away in the day and whilst Mr2 has asked where it is, we have joked that he is at work and distract him by wondering what job he does and I list off options for Mr2.  He laughs with me so I know he is okay with the concept.  I give monkey back for sleep, so he still sees him twice a day.  When he wants monkey in the day, we will have a fun game of hide and seek and find monkey.  I am being careful not to hide monkey so much that Master 2 can only think about ‘not letting go of monkey’ and end up sucking his thumb more.  We have made the rule ‘no monkey in the car’ which Master 2 has gone along with, with the distraction of his music in the car.

We have talked about the thumb pushing his teeth out and how my aunt who is a dentist is going to check on his teeth soon to see how he is going with less thumb sucking.  He now asks me if he can suck his thumb before he goes to bed.  I let him, knowing it’s a compromise for less sucking in the day and that he will anyway.  We will keep the talk up about less thumb sucking and I give him other ideas of what to do when he holds monkey (stroking him, holding a second toy) with no pressure to take it on yet.  I am going with education early so hopefully he can make his decision to really quit as soon as he is ready.  We are lucky he doesn’t suck his thumb without monkey.
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Ps this is Master 2’s ‘big smile’. The best I could get of the wriggling boy!

Identify your child’s interests and help them to learn!

Can you name five of your child’s interests (not including branded items)?
Does your child know they have interests?  Do you encourage them?  Have you pointed out how other children have different interests?  Did you know that the easiest way for a child to learn skills, is through their interests? 

A cup full of love…for me

 

Last week the parenting gods battered me (I’m sure I’m not the only one!)… But how do you take care of yourself, like ‘they’ tell you to, when you just don’t have the time?
On this day I didn’t even have the time to get to yoga, so I found a quicker way to give myself love.

I came across this tahini/date/pear smoothie (thanks Janella Purcell).
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Whilst I don’t feel the need for ’emotional eating’, I figured this would be a nutritious and filling snack AND would give me an opportunity to be mindful, taking the time to make myself something I wouldn’t normally, along with the cinnamon sprinkle on top!  I didn’t even multitask.

By slowing down to make this smoothie, knowing it wouldn’t take THAT long out of my day, I’ve given myself a little bit back.  Cinnamon and a warm drink didn’t go astray either.

I’d love to know the small things you do for yourself as a parent, even when you don’t have the time!


HUNGER

We take HUNGER seriously in our household. Do you know the signs of hunger your child exhibits?I know for us, there might be:
– crying at the drop of a hat
– inability to go and play properly
– asking for a hug
– erratic/silly behaviour
– inability to make a choice
– just hanging around me

For us as adults, we have learnt to recognize hunger and act on it.  But this doesn’t come automatically to young children and thus they may display all types of behaviours due to their ‘uncomfortable feeling’ and the brain’s need for fuel.
We liken it to recharging the car with petrol to ‘go’.  And when I can sense hunger, I am very quick to get food out before blood sugar levels drop any lower.  And knowing how I can’t make choices when I’m hungry, I don’t bother offering a choice for the kids, but grab something they will surely eat!


Do you take note of your child’s hunger and explain this to them?

Sun, air and earth for our kids

Can you picture that feeling when you’ve been out for a picnic, seen a bit of sun, experienced some fresh air and had your bare feet on the ground?

There is a reason it is so rejuvenating.  I’ve recently learnt about your body’s real need for vitamin D from the sun (& how the second most common cause of skin cancer is sunscreen, the chemicals we slop on our kids every day); fresh, re-electrified air (not stagnant) and the benefits of receiving ‘grounding’ from the earth, by going barefoot. Simple things but there are scientific reasons for them!  And we also feel good after it too.  Don’t you?

The trouble is, on some days it can be hard to achieve all of these.  Especially when you are at work or too tired to get out of the house with a newborn.  Give it a go when you can and take mental note of how much better you feel after a good dose of nature.

And what about promoting these benefits for your children?  Do you encourage opening their windows?  Do you promote fans over air conditioning?  Do you let them go bare foot here and there?  Do you let them have a small amount of sun exposure each day, without the need for sunscreen?  Do they spend more time indoors than outdoors?

Ps the way we avoid the sunscreen issue is by using a natural one. UV Natural from health food stores.