Choc mint has got to be one of the best flavour combinations there is. But usually if you’re eating something choc mint, it’s a junk food. So what if I told you that you could have that incredible choc mint flavour in a creamy shake full of vegetables, healthy fat and greens? Yes, I created magic with just a few ingredients…
This one is for my good friend, Keri, who loves chocolate and shakes, but is cutting down her fruit intake and needs shake ideas that use vegetables. I think Keri, and the rest of you, are going to be roasting plenty of beetroot (beets) each week (learn how below – it’s so easy!), so you can make this all the time!
I actually named this shake after a T2 tea that Keri bought me called Red Choc Mint; a mixture of Rooibos and peppermint leaves with cocoa shells. Heaven! I know beetroot is actually purple, but this name just works. 🙂
Red Choc Mint Shake Ingredients
* 1/2 – 1 Leftover roasted beetroot (beets) see below for how to easily roast beets
* 2 Tbsp raw cacao powder
* 1/4-1/2 ripe avocado (fresh or frozen)
* Large handful mint leaves (or choc mint leaves)
* 1 tsp raw honey (or more to taste)
* Splash of coconut cream/coco milk and/or water
– Handful frozen Blueberries (or fresh)
– Handful spinach leaves
– 2-3 Eggs or egg yolks
– Pinch of sea salt
Blend all ingredients. Add more coconut cream, coconut milk or water to make a thinner shake consistency if desired.
Adding the optional berries and/or spinach will make you a larger shake with more nutrition, and very little change to the amazing taste of the shake! The eggs add protein and fat to make this shake a more complete meal, and the pinch of salt is often great at bringing together the sweet and savory flavours.
– This shake is hard to mess up, so don’t worry about exact measuring. Feel free to vary the amounts depending on your tastes and what you have available in the fridge.
– If you prefer not to have honey, you can try using a half banana instead (best frozen) or use cocoa powder instead of cacao, as it’s not as bitter (but has far less nutrients).
– We have recently had the pleasure of buying some amazing choc mint leaves from our farmer’s market, which add so much extra flavour to this shake. However, you’re more likely to have regular mint leaves on hand, so just use plenty of those!
How to Roast Beetroot (Beets)
If you are THAT pressed for time, you could try using canned beetroot (beets) in this shake. However, roasting beetroot is so ridiculously easy, that I highly recommend you try it.
Just put a few beets in the oven on the same day that you are baking or roasting something in there already. No extra time needed!
1/ Cut the beetroot off the stalks, wrap individually in foil and put in a hot oven. Approx. time for medium size beets: 1-1.5 hour at 180C (350F). Cooking time will vary depending on size of beets and temperature of oven.
2/ The beetroot is done when you can easily stick a sharp knife all the way through the center.
3/ Once cooled, the skin will slip off easily!
Eat some of the roasted beetroot immediately if you like, then save the leftovers for salads and shakes!
Are you a choc mint lover? Did this satisfy your taste buds?
Putting the words ice cream together with probiotic, essential fatty acid and superfood sounds like a fake food marketed in a psuedo health food store. But never fear, these things have come together organically and spontaneously in my kitchen. The result was such a wonderful breakfast surprise (yes we ate ice cream for breakfast), that I had to share it with you!
I was whipping up a breakfast shake for the three of us, with the little groceries I had left.
Fortunately, I always keep the freezer stocked with frozen fruits and veggies to have on hand for shakes. Not only for the times when we are low on groceries (about 4-5 days after the farmer’s market), but also because shakes are so much better with frozen ingredients! Cold and slushy…yum.
In addition to fruit and veg, I also had two other superfoods – eggs and kefir. Remember, superfoods are not just foreign expensive berries and powders. Here’s a list of the only superfoods you’ll ever need.
Into the food processor/blender went:
The Superfood Ice Cream Ingredients
– 5 egg yolks
– 2 1/2 frozen bananas
– Handful frozen strawberries (or other fruit)
– Splash of vanilla extract
– Generous splash of coconut kefir
Brad tested high for an intolerance to egg whites, and through eliminating and re-introducing them, has discovered he only shows symptoms when eating the egg whites raw.
We also know that raw egg whites contain enzyme inhibitors, which are destroyed through cooking, so for our shakes, we have been using mostly just the yolks. The majority of an egg’s nutrients is in the yolks anyway, including plenty of essential fatty acids (as long as your eggs are from pastured chickens!).
Frozen Fruit –
Freeze ripe fruit regularly and you will always have the makings of great shakes and homemade ice creams on hand! Bananas, especially are a great base, as their sweetness means you usually won’t need to add any other sweetener. Peel the bananas first before freezing.
Frozen bananas and a couple other ingredients are all you need to make endless varieties of 5-minute ice creams like this one.
Vanilla Extract –
Make sure you only use good quality extracts. Spend a little extra money to get the good stuff, then use extracts to add wonderful flavour to shakes, ice creams and other healthy treats. Peppermint and orange extracts add great flavour too.
Coconut Kefir –
Kefir is a fermented drink which is full of beneficial bacteria from the fermenting process. Hence it is a probiotic – it replenishes the gut with good bacteria. Kefir is traditionally made with milk, and can also be made with water.
Brad has made our own at home with raw milk and also with coconut milk, and he will post an article soon teaching you how. It’s so easy! In the meantime, you may also find kefir at your local health food shop or farmer’s market.
With more frozen fruit than liquid, and the thickness of the yolks with no whites, our shake came out thick enough to eat with a spoon – so it’s ice cream! 🙂
After serving up Brad & Kaiya’s ice cream, I added some of the egg white into the food processor, along with a handful of frozen kale to blend up for my ice cream. Just thought I’d add in that extra bit of protein, nutrients and antioxidants. The result was more a more liquidy ice cream texture, but still soooo delicious!
You could also add other ‘superfoods’, such as cacao for a chocolatey ice cream, or blueberries or beetroot for an antioxidant punch. Use the basic 5-minute ice creams recipes, and add whatever superfoods suit!
By the way, writing this the same day after having this ice cream for breakfast, it’s been four hours and I am just now starting to get hungry for lunch. The fat and nutrients in the egg yolks and kefir really satisfied my body for while, and I’ve had no cravings all morning. Now that’s the kind of ice cream I want in my life!
What did you put in your superfood ice cream? How was it?!
Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, Halloween, Valentine’s Day or any other celebratory event, everyone has their own traditions and way of celebrating, but much of it will include a lot of sugar, processed food and alcohol. These “festive foods” are strongly tied to all the happy holiday memories, making a powerful emotional connection in our minds when we eat these foods. In our minds, happiness is tied to eating marshmallow bunnies, christmas cookies, halloween candy, valentines day chocolates…and as we get older, washing it down with celebratory drinks. So it’s no wonder so many people are sick at the end of the holiday period, when it’s time to get back to school and work. Well maybe it’s time for some new traditions! Isn’t it possible to celebrate, have a holiday AND take good care of our bodies so we feel amazing even after the party is over?
All I Want For Christmas is a Good Body
The number one New Year’s resolutions are to get fit, lose weight, and eat healthy, but we spend several weeks before the new year trashing our bodies! Well, this is the year things are going to change for YOU. You are reading this article, and soon will be armed with new ways of approaching any holiday time so that you don’t come out the other side tired, sick and several kilos fatter. So let’s get to it – If there’s going to be a holiday feast and party platters, let’s talk about food!
Every Feast Starts with Meat & Veggies
Meat and veggies are always a feature at any holiday gathering, so make these foods the bulk of your plate! If you’re throwing the party or bringing a plate, make colourful and delicious meat and veggie dishes. When you go to a party, find the meat and veg and fill up on those first. What’s more festive than a roast pork with crackling and roasted vegetables? Or for summer holidays – fresh prawns, barbequed meats and colourful salads? The list of festive meat and veg dishes could be endless but here are some ideas:
– Chicken, beef, lamb or fish on skewers! Alternate the meat with colourful veggies and grill them up for an easy main party dish. Kids love to help make the skewers too.
– Roast turkey, lamb, ham, chicken, pork, or beef. Rub on some salt and herbs; crisp up the crackling; stuff poultry with cut oranges or lemons. You’ll have healthy leftovers for days.
Throw plenty of veggies in too while you’ve got the oven on. Whole sweet potatoes, pumpkin, parsnips, beetroot, onion…or cut them all up and make a roast veggie medley.
– Whole grilled fish, fish cakes, fresh prawns and other shellfish. Seafood is very festive and the possibilities are endless.
– Green beans or broccoli sprinkled with crispy bacon; grated/shredded cabbage, carrot and capsicum (bell pepper) salad with chopped nuts, raisins, orange wedges, oil and vinegar; leafy green salads with loads of colourful toppings.
Sweets without all the Sugar
The best sweet food for any occassion is fruit. Make fruit skewers, fruit salad or a fruit platter. Use as many colourful fruits as possible for the season. Cut fruit shapes with cookie cutters. Hollow out melons to use as a decorative fruit salad bowl.
Nuts and seeds are another perfect snack food for any get together. Toss raw nuts with mixed spices; serve nuts in the shell with a nutcracker; make a trail mix; roast pumpkin seeds.
One of the biggest obstacles, however, to your healthy holiday is all those chocolates, cakes, cookies and candies. Every holiday, there they are staring you in the face, luring you with happy sugar-filled fun memories. There are three ways of getting over this hurdle:
1/ Just say no. If you are the type of person who can’t just have one bite, and is easily addicted to sweets, make a pact to yourself to not even have one bite. Before each party, remind yourself of the consequences of eating sweets: weight gain, bad moods, tiredness (sugar coma), getting sick, or whatever relates to your body and goals. Fill up on meats, veggies, fruits and nuts, and if anyone asks, keep your explanation simple and upbeat.
2/ Choose your battles. Decide which holiday sweets are your absolute favourite and have a small plate or handful of that. Keep in mind the 80/20 rule – take great care of your health 80% of the time, and it will be strong enough to handle the stress, sugar, and toxins you incur 20% of the time. Have a plate of christmas pudding, a slice of pumpkin pie, or a small Lindt chocolate bunny as part of your celebration. Enjoy it slowly and leave it at that.
3/ Make paleo / primal sweets and treats. With the paleo ‘movement’ and health awareness growing rapidly, there are hundreds of recipes for baked goods and sweets with less to no sugar and flour. And being homemade, it won’t have additives and preservatives! Some great sites for these recipes:
In many of our cultures, hardly any celebration is without alcohol. However, if you are eating well, exercising and making lifestyle changes to feel healthier and/or lose weight, drinking alcohol can quickly reverse all your hard work. So try these ideas during the holidays:
If you want to only have a few drinks:
– Sip your drink slowly. Slowly drink a full glass of water between each drink.
– Drink spirits straight or only mixed with water, soda water, or sparkling water. Leave out the soda and fruit juice mixers!
– Dilute your wine and champagne. Halve your glass of white wine and fill the rest of the glass with sparkling water. Fruit puree fills up a champagne glass well and tastes nice.
– Keep lots of healthy food snacks nearby as alcohol will make you crave junk food.
If you want to celebrate without drinking at all:
– Bring a bottle of sparkling mineral water and some fresh limes, so you’ll have a nice drink for yourself. Also, drinking this in a short glass looks like a cocktail, so you won’t get pestered to have an alcoholic drink.
– Make mocktails with blended fresh or frozen fruit and sparkling mineral water.
– Think about how great you’ll feel tomorrow and know that you’re not really missing much.
Eating isn’t the only holiday activity
There is more to holidays than consuming food, alcohol and material goods! Put your time and energy into memorable activities and traditions and make your celebrations revolve around the activity.
– Go for a walk or drive to look at Christmas lights
– Set up an Easter egg hunt or a more challenging scavenger hunt for adults
– Have a Halloween costume parade and competition
– Go Caroling or sing carols at home
– Play board games, do puzzles, make crafts
– Play at the beach, in the snow, by the lake, in the park
– Serve meals at a homeless shelter or deliver old clothes to the needy
– Thoughts: Say no if you feel too busy or pressured; omit holiday traditions that are too stressful; stay within your budget and do free things; make time for yourself.
– Breath: Take time to stop and breathe and/or lay on a foam roller; use your holiday time to learn breathing techniques, meditation and yoga.
– Water: Keep drinking plenty of filtered water. Keep your water bottle with you at all times.
– Movement: Get outdoors and play; dance with friends and family or by yourself in the living room; do some stretches every morning or night; join an active group or sport.
– Rest/Sleep: Get to bed by 10pm on the nights when you are not out, so you don’t accumulate too much sleep debt from late night celebrating. Don’t overschedule yourself, make rest time.
The Golden Rules of Healthy Socialising
Lastly, never forget the golden rules of staying healthy at parties, dinners, and social events. These apply perfectly to holiday time:
1/ If you know there won’t be much healthy food offered, eat well before you leave home!
2/ Never stand next to the food table / buffet / snack table / bar.
3/ Carry lots of whole food snacks with you like raw veggies, nuts, fruit, egg muffins, salmon cakes, and spinach bread. This is especially important for your children!
4/ For main meals, serve up your plate then don’t go back for seconds. Avoid family style dining and buffets when possible. Learn more on portion control.
5/ Decide before you go if you will have no sugar and/or alcohol or just a little, and stick to it.
6/ Enjoy a small amount of unhealthy food and drinks if you are following the 80/20 rule for health and weight maintenance.
7/ Don’t make a big deal explaining your healthy choices. Simple, upbeat answers work best.
Above all, enjoy yourself! Stressing about the challenge of staying healthy over the holiday can cause more health problems than actually having the cookies. So instead of thinking that you will be deprived of treats and drinks, focus on all that you will receive and enjoy about the holiday – homemade food, friends and family, music and activities. Happy Holidays!
At the beginning of every season, we give our bodies two to four weeks of tender loving care, in the form of a cleanse. Think of it like a spring clean. Instead of vacuuming around the furniture and ignoring those hard to scrub spots, we really give the place a thorough cleaning and throw out unwanted clutter. Similarly, we help the body get rid of built up toxins, clear the mind of stress and negativity, and then replenish our nutrition stores for the new season. Whether it’s your 1st time or 15th time cleansing, your body will love you for it. Four times a year, this is a great time to give your digestive system and overall health that extra care.
– Remove toxins from your body and your personal environment
– Transition from disease to health
– Create an awareness on how you take care of yourself
– Educate yourself about nutrition, health and lifestyle
– Reconnect with the changing of the seasons
– Prepare your body for the different weather, food available and seasonal sickness
The Benefits of a Cleanse
– Feel nourished, hydrated and rejuvenated
– Increased awareness of your health (emotional, mental, physical and spiritual)
– Repairs digestive system, hormonal system
– Addresses chronic inflammatory and autoimmune disorders
How to Cleanse
There are many approaches to cleansing. We use a ‘gut gardening’ approach taught to us by a respected naturopath in Sydney. It consists of a ‘weeding’ phase followed by a ‘seeding’ phase. Pull out the harmful weeds, then plant more seedlings for new life to grow. The goal of the weeding phase is to eliminate the bad bacteria / parasites and fungus within our system. Then in the seeding phase, we replenish the good bacteria in the stomach, and heal the lining of the stomach. How long each phase lasts depends on your level of toxicity and the amount of time and energy you can invest in a cleanse.
In the weeding phase, we eliminate certain foods from our diet in order to starve any bad bacteria in our body, so they can no longer survive. We also drink a detox tea made by our Naturopath with specific roots and herbs that assist the detoxification. During the seeding phase we switch from drinking detox tea to drinking a probiotic, in order to replenish the colon with beneficial bacteria necessary for proper digestion. Relaxation techniques, extra sleep, and a break from strenuous exercise also give the body a nice rest and rejuvenation during this time. Other cleanse rituals may include epsom salt purges and colonics, for when we need an extra thorough clean-out.
Lastly, we assess our current health resolutions or goals, then set new goals for the next season.
Here’s an example of what your seasonal goals may look like:
a) Find local organic food sources.
b) Buy a Brita Water filter or PiMag Water Filter.
c) Exercise less at night and more in the day time.
a) Get to bed earlier than 10:30pm.
b) Reduce alcohol intake from nightly to once a week.
c) Eat leftovers for breakfast instead of cereal.
a) Get a colonic.
b) Make my own yogurt.
c) Remove Mercury Amalgam Fillings.
Receive our FREE Seasonal Cleanse Manual each season simply by joining our tribe as a free member! Includes step-by-step instructions for each phase of the cleanse, allowable food lists, sample menus, symptoms to be aware of, and ways to vary the cleanse for beginner, intermediate and advanced cleansing.
Whenever mum and I have some extra egg-whites or time on our hands, or we just feel like baking or making snacks for our friends, we do macaroons! We took a batch to my daycare Christmas party and no one could believe that they were so healthy when we told them the ingredients. That’s how yummy they are.
Mum used to beat the egg whites for ages, trying to get them into stiff peaks. Now we have an electric hand whisk, so she’s much keener to make macaroons now! You can do it either way, but just warning you that it’s an arm workout without the electric thingy. 🙂
– Use the best ingredients you can find. Then your macaroon desserts will be super nutritious. Nutritious desserts = happy kids and happy parents. That means raw unpasteurised honey, organic vanilla essence, unsweetened coconut, unprocessed sea salt, and organic pastured eggs.
– The thicker your honey, the better your macaroons will stay together in nice little haystack cookie shapes.
– Let the macaroons cool thoroughly before eating. This is the hardest part of the recipe – waiting to eat them while they stare at you from the kitchen counter!
– Add extra ingredients to jazz up your macaroons if you like. For example, you can use cacao/cocoa powder for chocolate macaroons and natural food colouring for colourful treats.
– 6 egg whites
– 1/4 tsp sea salt
– 1/2 cup honey
– 1 tbsp vanilla
– 3 cups shredded coconut Oops, that’s 5 ingredients. Forgot about the salt! 🙂
Coconut Macaroons Recipe
Step 1: Preheat oven to 180C (350F).
Step 2: Put egg whites and the salt into a large bowl and beat them with a whisk or beaters until they form stiff peaks. This means the egg whites will get really foamy and form tiny mountains when you move the foam upward. It takes at least 5 minutes of high speed whisking so don’t rush.
Step 3: Add the honey and vanilla carefully, so you don’t lose your stiff peaks. Beat again for a little bit to make sure your egg whites stay foamy with the peaks.
Step 4: Gently mix in the shredded coconut one cup at a time.
Step 5: Use a tablespoon to scoop heaping spoonfuls onto an oven tray covered with baking paper. Form them into same size ‘haystacks’.
Step 6: Bake in the oven for 15-18 minutes until the coconut starts to brown a bit. Don’t wait for all of it to brown, or the bottom will get burned.
Step 7: Let cool completely, so the macaroons get nice and chewy. They cool faster on a wire rack. Leave the kitchen or you will be tempted to eat them all before they cool!
Amaze your family and friends with how tasty healthy treats can be. Remember that they are still snacks or dessert food, and you only need to have a couple a day. Then the pleasure lasts longer!
How did your macaroons come out? Was everyone impressed?!
– 450 g (16oz) spinach – 1/2 cup nuts or seeds – 2 crushed garlic cloves – handful fresh basil (or other herb)
– 2-3 eggs
Forget expensive energy bars, sports bars and meal replacement bars that are full of manufactured powders and other non-foods. Here you have a bar that is full of nutrients and it’s made from real food in your kitchen for a fraction of the cost. We all know how nutritious spinach is, then you’ve got protein and nutrient-rich eggs, garlic which boosts immunity in so many ways, and the healthy fats of nuts or seeds. This is a true health bar.
Mark Sisson calls this recipe Spinach Bread in his Primal Blueprint Cookbook, as you can cut it into bigger slices and use as a bread substitute to hold your meats, veggies or tuna salad, like a sandwich. We love it mainly as a snack or side dish, but have also enjoyed scooping up our scrap salads or leftover stews, or sopping up soups, like you would with bread slices. Small cut spinach bars are also great to serve with an avocado or hummus dip, instead of crackers. All my friends and clients who are mums say the best thing about these bars is that it’s the only way their kids will eat spinach. I think this may even be true for some grownups. Any way you slice it, it’s Paleo, it’s primal, it’s nutritious, easy and delicious.
– Mark Sisson’s original recipe calls for pine nuts and basil, which give the bars a pesto flavour. I find pine nuts too expensive, and therefore use whatever nuts I have on hand. I have tried almonds, walnuts, cashews, and brazil nuts. Lightly toasting the nuts in a fry pan or toaster oven gives them more flavour. To make the bars nut-free so Kaiya could take them to her daycare, I even did a batch once with sunflower seeds, and they came out great. Experiment and see what you like.
– Same goes for the basil. If you don’t have any on hand, as is often in winter, try using a different fresh herb or just omitting the herbs altogether. I once tried using thai basil from my friends garden, and it was an all new taste sensation.
– I recently found another version of this recipe on cravingsgoneclean.com where you don’t have to wilt the spinach first, if you want to try that one out too. I’m going to give it a whirl, so let’s compare notes!
– Using organic baby spinach leaves will usually be more expensive than a full bunch of organic English Spinach, so I recommend the latter, but you can use either one.
Spinach Bars Recipe
Step 1: Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Rip spinach leaves away from ribs/stems (not necessary if using baby spinach) and put in a pot. Rinse lightly and shake most water off.
Step 2: Cook spinach in the covered pot over med/low heat for a few minutes, just until wilted.
Step 3: Wrap the cooked spinach into a tea towel, cheesecloth or paper towel and squeeze out all the excess moisture.
Step 4: Pulse the nuts, garlic and herbs in a food processor until nuts are crumbled well but not completely broken down.
Step 5: Add to the food processor your wilted spinach, salt and pepper to taste. Pulse for 10 seconds.
Step 6: Stir in the eggs. Pour mixture into a shallow pan, like a slice pan or pie tin, and spread evenly.
Step 7: Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
Step 8: Let cool, then slice into squares, rectangles or triangles of your desired size.
What nuts and herbs did you put in your spinach bars? Did you eat them as bread, snacks, or both?
Your choice of fillings: – Leftover meat, chicken, fish – Leftover vegetables – Raw vegetables – Cooked rice or quinoa (optional)
When you think of sushi, fish comes to mind. Salmon and tuna are the most popular; even teriyaki chicken. However, just like the wonderfully versatile egg muffins, homemade sushi can be made with almost any meat and veg, so the combinations are endless. You can use almost ANY leftover foods in them. Just think of the nori sheet (seaweed) like a tortilla or pita – something to wrap your delicious food in!
– Paleo Peoples: if you don’t eat rice or quinoa, no worries! Just roll the meat and veg ingredients of your choice into the nori sheet (seaweed) like a sandwich wrap.
– For best digestion and nutrition, soak your rice or quinoa (in filtered water, with a splash of vinegar or lemon juice) uncovered, overnight or all day before cooking.
– Brown rice cooked slowly (about 45 minutes on lowest heat) with a few tablespoons of butter (the Nourishing Traditions way) makes for nice sticky rice which is easy for rolling sushi.
– A bamboo sushi rolling mat is handy but not necessary. Check for one at your local variety/$1 shop.
Sushi Rolls Recipe
Step 1: Lay nori sheet on clean cutting board or bamboo sushi roller if you have one.
Step 2: Put rice or quinoa (if using) onto the nori sheet and flatten evenly. Traditionally, the rice goes to the edge of the nori sheet, but you can use less if rice fills you up easily (like me). More rice = fatter sushi roll.
Step 3: Slice meat and veggie leftovers, raw foods and other ingredients as desired. Lay in middle of nori, on top of rice or quinoa (if using).
Step 4: Roll nori sheet away from you, first making one big roll to start the shape, then rolling up sheet to the end.
Step 5: Use a bit of water to lightly wet the edge of the nori roll, then finish rolling. The water will make it stick closed.
Step 6: Slice sushi into desired roll size with a very sharp knife.
Growing up in Mexico I took for granted that nutrition was passed down from mother to daughter, and that products like corn and beans were staples of any healthy diet. When I came to the U.S. in 2007, I found myself separated from family and my long time family doctor. My husband on deployment in the middle- east and I was 5 months pregnant with my first child, living with my in-laws (which I had met only once before). This was not exactly my ideal support group for a first pregnancy.
A difficult and worrying pregnancy
I turned to doctors for guidance in my pregnancy, following the standard prenatal diet of mostly grains, some dairy, lean proteins, and little fat. But I rapidly began to notice problems for myself and the pregnancy. Problems such as constipation, repeated yeast infections, ongoing fatigue, low back problems and swelled joints among others. I was assured by doctors here in the states and by my family doctor back in Mexico that these were all normal symptoms of pregnancy.
At my first ultrasound doctors noticed that my baby was smaller than average for American babies. In Mexico the ideal weight is about 75% of what is called healthy in the U.S.A. Soon enough I had all kinds of expensive equipment wrapped around my belly day and night monitoring my child like some kind of alien experiment. Every possible scenario was put to me for the low weight. Specialists questioned me on everything I was doing. Did I smoke? (which I didn’t ), did I sleep well? (which I did), and all kinds of genetic problems were looked at as possible causes. Not one doctor (or I admit, myself until later) thought to ask what should be the most basic question when concerned with any health problem. WHAT WAS I EATING?
An unsettled, unwell baby
After the birth and our subsequent escape from the hospital, my daughter started having feeding problems. She was having a hard time latching and when she did latch my breast milk acted like a drug that will put her right to sleep within 5 min. She was obviously not eating enough so I started supplementing her with (milk base) formula. While on formula she started having intense projectile vomiting after feedings which, needless to say, lowered her caloric intake even more then when she was just falling asleep. After more tests the Doctors concluded that my daughter was lactose- intolerant and switched her to soy base formula.
The switch in formula didn’t seem to have any effect on her symptoms, but I was following the recommendations of my pediatrician so it had to be getting better… When it came the time to give her food, rice cereals were held up as the best food you can start your baby on. When the switch to cereals still didn’t seem to help my daughter’s retention of food, or her weight, I turned to my Grandma for some Mexican remedies. I was also told by my Grandma to give her something we call Atoles (corn flour mixed with water that results in a pudding like consistency) to help her stomach with heavier foods, and try to put some much needed calories into her system. If this was the path to fixing my daughters growth and development problems, all physical evidence was lacking.
A big scare from the doctors, and rigorous testing
In one of her regular well-child checkups the Doctor in residence was so concerned with my daughters weight and general lack of health (skin, hair, attention) that she told my husband and me that our daughter might have Turner Syndrome a rare but not unheard of genetic condition where the child (almost always a girl) lacks the second X chromosome. The Doctor recommended that have specialized testing. While she seemed to know enough to scare us with a diagnosis to an incurable and untreatable genetic disorder she did not seem to know anything else of the syndrome. When tests came back negative, the Doctor and Specialists all recommended (in a way the Catholic Church might have recommended a conversion in the 12th century to a heretic!!) that we submit our daughter to a battery of genetic testing so that they could find out the reason for her gut problems. After they described some of the testing as Minor Extraction of Organ Tissues, my husband and I drew the line. We felt that the best way to help our daughters gut problems did not start by allowing her guts to be harvested in some kind of witch hunt for a “Problem” which no one could find. The backlash we encountered from the medical community about this decision was severe, and only ended when we threatened legal action against some of the doctors. Well that and our loss of my husband’s Health Care Plan.
Maybe it has something to do with diet…
After speaking to Dave Werner (of Crossfit North Fame) he recommended that we talk to Robb Wolf. Robb gave us the ground breaking idea that “hey what you feed yourself matters! Is it any different for your kid?!” He proposed that our daughter was not stricken with some lurking syndrome and genetic disorder but was instead chronically misfed. We tried a strict month to month gluten-casein free diet (one of the most overlooked digestive problems.). I rapidly put together a diary and tracked everything she was eating including a weight and height chart every month to see if she was moving in the right direction.
Paleo principles gave my daughter a new life
After 6 months of a Paleo Diet my daughter’s skin color was starting to glow rather than looking jaundice and yellow. She went from weighting 16 pounds and 28 ½ inches at 17 months (less than the 3rd percentile for height and weight) to much healthier looking 23 pounds and 37 ½ inches at 31 months (still 3rd percentile for weight but in the upper 80 percentile for height)! Her hair started looking shinny and she was growing eyelashes, which before had been short and had the tendency to fall out often. This was particularly noticeable since my second daughter’s eyelashes are huge and full. Her motor skills improved surprisingly fast and she quickly reached all the developmental milestones that she had missed. She is now a healthy child who loves doing summer salts, running, interacting with people and her siblings, growling at her grandpa and would choose sautéed liver and onions over a cookie 9 times out of 10….no plan is perfect!
3 more kids later, things are very different
I never questioned nature’s plan for my gut again. This was a life changing experience that showed me and my family a better and healthier way to live. The Paleo Diet is not just a “diet” in the American sense of the word or a random selection of foods. It is a life style choice and has profound effects for not just the food you eat but helps to open the door to asking “is this the best way, just because it is done this way?” It is the best gift you could ever give to others and yourself. Even though none of my other children have ever shown any pronounced sign of malnutrition as did my eldest, my husband and I have steadfastly fed them all the same, with splendid results. Currently all my kids enjoy the benefits of the Paleo Diet, and have from an early stage (yes! they really eat meat and vegetables by 6 months). They rarely get sick and when I say rarely I mean never except a day of sniffles here and there. What is more, in the pregnancies following the first, I was conscious and attentive to the fact that what I feed myself, I feed my unborn child. And pregnancy far from being chronically painful and a hazard to all your hard earned fitness gains can actually be enjoyed for what it is…. the peace you get before the storm. Your health starts in your gut! So you might as well treat it like your most precious piece of equipment.
Consuelo Werner is mother of 4, freelance interpreter and translator/copy editor, food blogger, paleo philosopher, expert linguist and passionate about cooking! Check out her blog: Healthy Guts.net or follow her on twitter @ConsueloWerner.
Consuelo says, “For busy moms: How to avoid weird chemically processed foods on a budget and experimenting with YOUR CHILD’S taste of food. I will share with you simple techniques I have found to get your kids to eat adult food and the skills to allow even the novice cook to make healthy, hardy and nutritious meals that will help keep you and your family healthy and happy.”
Have you struggled through a difficult pregnancy and/or had a very sick baby? Have you ever changed your diet to make your pregnancies and/or kids healthier?
Have you been told to add vegetables to at least two of your daily meals? Do you often plan a meal, and then ‘throw in’ a vegetable on the side to ensure you get your veggies? Do you regularly have to throw away vegetables that rotted in your fridge because you forgot to prepare and eat them?
Why do so many of us struggle to include vegetables in our diet?
Surely we are all aware that vegetables provide the human body with a vast array of nutrients that keep our immune systems strong and our bodies running optimally. This fact has been drilled into our minds since we were old enough to eat these life-giving plants, yet so many of us still struggle to ‘eat our greens’ and ‘eat a nice variety of colourful veggies’ each day. So many of us try to make up for the lack of veggies we are eating by spending too much on “superfoods” and vitamin supplements – unnecessary and poor substitutes for the real thing.
So if vegetables are life-giving, primal plant foods, why am I telling you not to add them to your meals?
Well I, too, used to struggle to get my ‘daily requirements’ of vegetables. I too, used to treat vegetables as an afterthought; something that needed to be ‘added’ to my meals. So what changed? My mindset. You see, we can look at meals as having main components plus the things that are added. In a typical modern day western society meal, the two main components are meat (or other animal food) and starch, such as potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, couscous, etc. Vegetables are just a small addition, if at all included. In contrast, the two main components of Primal Meals are animal food and plant food – READ: meat and vegetables. With Primal Meals, vegetables don’t just get added as an afterthought, they are a main component of the meal.
This simple swap of starch for vegetables sounds so simple but is a huge step toward optimal health.
Moving vegetables up from co-star to leading role may take some practice, so use all the resources on this Primal Health site. To learn about many different kinds of vegetables and what to do with them, start with our vegetable cheat sheet. To get creative with vegetables in your meals, use leftovers in a new dish. Try a new veggie every week or month. Try different ways of preparing the same old vegetables.
Does eating vegetables at every meal sound like punishment?
You don’t like many vegetables? Don’t worry, I have been there too, and I know what to do to change that.
1/ Buy organically grown vegetables. Traditional growing methods and lack of chemical sprays do wonders for a plant’s deliciousness.
2/ Roast, steam, slow-cook, grill or pan-fry vegetables instead of boiling, which just heats the taste (and nutrients) right out of those delicate plants.
3/ Make use of nature’s nutritious, delicious condiments: grass-fed full-fat real butter, unrefined sea salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegars, herbs and spices.
Veggies that I used to hate – brussel sprouts, eggplant, mushrooms – are now favourites. Wait til you see how your own taste buds will change.
Decide right now to make vegetables a main component of your meals (and even snacks!), and you can finally see what a difference all those nutrients can make to how you feel every day and for the rest of your life. And you’ll never again have to think about adding vegetables to your meals, as they will already be there!