9 Ways to Ensure Your Kids Have a Healthy Relationship To Food

1. Eat.  With your kids.  Three times a day.  Meals are important.  We are all so rushed these days.  It does take time and energy to cultivate an atmosphere of community, ritual and respect at the dinner table, but it is so important.  Many recent studies have shown what mothers have been saying all along: that families who sit down to eat together are often healthier and happier in all ways.  It really is true that the family who eats together stays together.

2. Be Thankful.  When sitting down to a meal, try to inject a little bit of ceremonial gratitude—just a little bit—or tailor your blessing to suit the energy of your family.  If your family is non-religious, just making a practice of taking a moment at the beginning of the meal to thank whoever did the cooking is a great habit to get into.  For families who are more interested in ritual and spirituality, create your own little blessing tradition.  We *are* so lucky, aren’t we?

3. Respect your children’s food preferences, without projecting your perceptions or opinions.  Very frequently, I hear parents saying to their kids as the little one reaches for something—an olive, or a piece of cheese, for example, “Oh, you don’t like olives!!!” Avoid telling your kids what they like, and what they don’t like.  I actively encourage my children to try all kinds of foods: the unusual and the pungent included.  Many people are surprised by my children’s openness to a variety of foods, and I think this has a lot to do with my decision not to tell them what they do or don’t like.  I rarely ever hear from my kids “I don’t like that”, but when I do, my response is, “Well, you might feel differently today—why don’t you give it a try?”  Usually, they do.

4. Assume that your children can, and will, eat the same foods as the rest of the family.  I can’t count how many times I have been told by well-meaning parents that “children have a different palate” or that kids’ tastebuds are radically different then adults—making it nearly impossible for them to choke down broccoli, whereas when it comes to crackers and candy, they do just fine.  While I do think my own kids are special—of course!—I don’t think they’re any different than other children when it comes to the foods they are *capable* of eating.  And I can honestly tell you that all four of my children have loved broccoli, kale, chard, etc. and eaten them all with abandon.  My kids love vegetables, because vegetables are what they are presented with.  I have never made separate meals for my kids.  They eat what we eat.  Creating special “kid meals” sends a mixed message to children, setting up an expectation that they should be catered to, as well as indicating to them that they are less sophisticated or developed than the rest of the family.  Neither of these need be true!

5. Give your children the respect and autonomy to decide when they are full.  I make a point of *never* insisting that my kids finish what is on their plates.  In fact, I don’t EVER comment on how much or how little they eat.  Our culture is rife with disordered eating.  I want my children to grow up with the freedom to listen to their bodies.  As parents, it is our responsibility to create a container and a structure for our children’s experiences, but to allow self-determination and exploration within that container.  I make sure that I give my children small portions, and if they want more, they are welcome to take more.  They may feel like eating more or less depending on the day, their physical growth, their energy level.  If they don’t feel like eating what’s on their plate, no problem, no issue, no comment.  I simply pop the leftovers in a stainless steel container, to eat later on.  If we as parents obsess over our children’s eating habits, our kids will learn to obsess over their eating habits.  Simple.

6. Sit down to eat.  Even for snacks, wherever you are.  If you’re out and about, find a bench, or bring along a picnic blanket.  Show your children that eating is a serious matter, and that we love our bodies enough to grant ourselves the dignity of taking time to savour and appreciate our foods.  Avoid eating while doing anything else.  Don’t text, don’t read, don’t watch tv while you eat.  Food is love.  The only accompaniment to a meal should be conversation.

7. Food is a right, and its own reward.  Never use food, or sweets as a reward or a punishment.  This is a sure-fire way to create pathology and anxiety around food and eating. 

8. Consciously create your family’s food culture.  At our house, it goes without saying that the only foods in our cupboards and fridge are vegetables, fruits, naturally-raised meats and fish.  No juice, no sweets, no sugar, no processed foods.  Period.  Other families are different, and that’s ok.  Your home is the place where “normal” is established.  I used to get really hung up on the fact that out there in the world, people eat very differently from us.  It stressed me out a lot that out and about, my kids would be presented with foods that I “don’t approve of”!  i have relaxed a LOT.  And I have learned that my kids (aged 1 and 3) deserve a lot more credit.  I do avoid junk foods as much as possible—if someone asks if they can give my kids candy, I definitely say “no thank you”, but if we are guests at someone else’s home, we accept the food that is presented to us, with gratitude.  Later, we have a conversation that usually goes like this: “Hey Mum, we had such and such at so-and-so’s house.”  And my reply is, “Yes.  So-and-so does things very differently that we do, don’t they?!”.  Don’t get hung up!  Your home is the place where the example is set: if the food culture in your home is STRONG, then it is possible to respect the food choices of others, without getting influenced or upset.  Even at a young age, my children understand that we eat the way we do because the foods we choose make us strong, healthy, smart, and resistant to illness.  Through our example, our kids are proud of the way we eat.

9. Make peace with food yourself.  Children are deeply perceptive, and they easily pick up and internalize the feelings of guilt, shame, uneasiness, weariness that their parents exude when it comes to food.  They will also quickly pick up a sense of joy, pride, ease, and happiness around food, if this is how their parents live.  Kids are also highly susceptible to corporate advertising.  So be mindful about the kind of messages your children are receiving—from you, and from the world out there.  

Beautiful raw milk cheese.

Beautiful raw milk cheese.

Getting Political about Raw Milk

While the subject of raw milk remains a controversial one in Canada, in many countries (and several US states), an individual’s right to choose whether or not to consume natural, unadulterated milk is upheld.  During a trip to France last year, my family and I were astounded and delighted to find that outside big box stores (the French equivalent of Walmart) were raw milk coin machines, which dispensed fresh raw milk supplied by certified local farmers, to eager consumers.  Raw cow, sheep and goat’s milk was also readily available at every French farmer’s market we came across, and when I spoke to French friends about raw milk and raw milk cheeses, the response was often “Who would ever bother to eat pasteurized cheeses!!?”.  Most French people wouldn’t give the time of day to a cheese that wasn’t made with real raw milk.  (For the record, raw milk cheeses have a limited availability in Canada…but they’re hard to come by).

I have been lucky enough to have access to raw milk here in New Brunswick, on and off.  But even gifting raw milk to close friends makes farmers understandably uneasy,  especially considering the lawsuits that have been brought against Canadian farmers who dare to cross the government’s inane regulations.  

Despite the fear, misinformation and paternalism surrounding the issue of raw milk, a group of concerned citizens has organized as the Canadian Consumer Raw Milk Advocacy.  This group is petitioning for signatures from anyone who would like to see the consumption and sale of raw milk legalized in Canada.  In addition to layperson support, several scientists are contributing papers and studies to the effort, in hopes of encouraging the government to loosen the rules and to allow families to choose the foods that we believe are the most nutrient-dense and healthful.  

Please visit www.rawmilkconsumer.ca to sign the petition and/or join the effort.  For more information on raw milk vs. pasteurized milk, check out www.realmilk.com.  

Have a beautiful day!


5 Easy Ways to IMMEDIATELY Improve your Health & Nutrition

So many of us are so stressed out.  Much of the time, I am so stressed out!  But I am grateful for all of my years of research into food and nutrition.  I feel very fortunate to be in a place in my life right now, where food is no longer the source of my stress.  But it has been a journey, and I know that for most people, making drastic changes is way too much to handle all at once!

But there are some things that we can all do to improve our health and well-being through diet.  Here are some ideas.  Feel free to pick and choose, but I guarantee that if you can do even ONE of the following on a daily basis, you are going to feel so much better.  And the beautiful thing about making small, yet noticeable changes, is that feeling good can rapidly become a self-perpetuating loop.  The better we feel, the more motivated we will be to continue to do things that make us feel good!

1. Abandon Breakfast

Oh dear.  Do I mean skip your morning meal? No no no!  Your mother was right.  Breakfast IS the most important meal of the day.  The problem is that for many of us, breakfast consists of a high-sugar, high-carb meal, that leaves us feeling really down and hungry by mid-morning.  Try having a savoury lunch-like meal for breakfast, instead.  Have Dinner for Breakfast! In our house, breakfast is almost always a very hearty omellette packed with vegetables, with a huge green salad (instead of toast!).  Which brings me to number two…

2. Eat a Massive Salad at Every Meal

And I do mean every meal! Breakfast, too.  There are heaps of recipes out there for delicious and nutritious salad dressings, and these are SO easy.  Do you love a creamy salad dressing?  Go with a yogurt base.  Or a vinaigrette?  Start with an organic olive oil.  Feel free to make as elaborate or as simple a salad as you like.  Anything goes, and nothing could be easier.  Eating a big salad with every meal will boost your health in so many ways, and for anyone wanting to lose weight, this is an absolute cornerstone, because while salads are very low in carbs, they are simultaneously very filling.  Your salad should be the *main course*, and this will transform almost every meal into a healthful one.  

3. Take Up Drinking…Water

One of the number-one things you can do for yourself is to drink water, and water-based beverages.  Not juice.  Not pop. Water is the source of life, and our bodies need water, in its purest form.  Water-based beverages include herbal teas, and feel free to squeeze some fresh lemon juice into your water, or slice a few pieces of cucumber into your carafe.  I suggest you find a beautiful pitcher that holds two or three litres, fill it in the morning, and drink it throughout the day.  I also sometimes buy an organic not-from-concentrate unsweetened cranberry juice, and simply splosh some into a big glass of water to give a hint of flavour and colour.  Removing juice (all sweet juice) from your diet and pop will also *automatically* boost your health: reducing overall caloric intake, lowering sugar, protecting your oral health, and helping you to lose weight.  

4. Become an Apple Freak

Apples are probably my number one staple food.  I include apples in my main meals, but more importantly, apples ARE my snack.  If I am ever hungry between meals, I reach for an apple, and as apples are incredibly high in fibre, pectin, and low on the glycemic index, eating apples frequently (instead of sugary and starchy snacks) WILL help you to lose weight.  Also, apples are so filling, that if you are able to eat one or two before your next meal, you will not be eating as much during the meal, guaranteed.  What company can you think of that makes a snack food so conveniently housed in an edible wrapper, so vitality-enhancing, and so beautiful (and for most of us, entirely local?).  That’s right, there is NO company out there whose packaged snack can even come close to the humble and gorgeous apple.  

5. Bless Your Food, Relax, and Love & Forgive Yourself

Not ready?  Had a bad day?  Reading this article while sitting down to a plate of fries?  Good.  Please don’t worry.  You are just fine.  Slow down, and love yourself before taking each bite.  Taste your food.  Savour each bite.  It can take time to transform.  Check in to your body, and ask yourself how you’re doing.  Sometimes the first step in getting healthy is learning to trust ourselves.  Everything is going to be ok.



Beautiful Kombucha culture!  Mysterious swirling strands…

Beautiful Kombucha culture!  Mysterious swirling strands…

How to Make Kombucha

Here is a confession for you: for a couple of weeks I harboured a shameful addiction: $4 bottles of Kombucha from our local health food store.  I’m sure you can imagine how such an obsession could bring down a family.  In financial terms, I might have been better off hitting the casino.  Geesh.  Then an acquaintance mentioned that she had been making Kombucha for a while, and that she had some culture she would be happy to give me.  I was not only happy, I was ecstatic…but also somewhat intimidated. How wrong I was!

Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage that has been around for over 2000 years.  It is rich in antioxidants, beneficial bacteria, probiotics, glucaric acids (cancer-fighting), and glucosamines (arthritis treatment).  Although no formal longitudinal studies have been done, anecdotal and experiential research suggests that Kombucha could be very helpful in preventing and treating cancers and auto-immune diseases like arthritis, fibromyalgia and others.  Some individuals have even noticed a link between drinking Kombucha and fighting depression, anxiety and other mental disorders.  

If all of this excellency weren’t enough, I have discovered, over the past few weeks, that making Kombucha is unbelievably easy, and as such, I have been freed from the financial hardship of buying the stuff.  Kombucha culture is sometimes described as a mushroom, but its scientific description is a “zoogleal mat”.  This zoogleal mat, or Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY), grows over a period of a week or two as a rubbery pancake-like substance on the surface of a mixture of tea and sugar (or honey), and like a sourdough starter, can be used infinitely, as well as providing a culture for divided batches (give some to a friend!).  

Here is how I make it.  I have not used any measurements, and you won’t need to either.  Just play it by ear.  In my experience, Kombucha is very forgiving!

In a high-quality stainless steel pot, boil several cups of water, and then add a couple of bags of premium organic tea: black or green will work well.  I like to use green tea.  Allow the tea to steep for several minutes, maybe even an hour or two.  When the tea is lukewarm—wrist-temperature—add half a cup or so of honey.  Most recipes for Kombucha call for sugar, but I prefer to use a natural unprocessed sweetener.  Mix in your sweetener, and then taste it.  Do you like that?  Good.  If not, add more, or add a little water if you find the mixture too strong.  Then add a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar.  Then add the scoby that hopefully your friend gave you in a mason jar.  Make sure that the tea has cooled quite significantly before adding the scoby.  Excessive heat will kill your culture.  Then cover with a clean tea towel and place in a warm-ish location.  Leave well enough alone for about 8-9 days.  

After a week and a half or so, go get your covered bowl.  With very very clean hands, remove the tea towel, and then pick up the thick “skin” that has grown on top of your kombucha, and place on a clean plate.  Pour the liquid underneath into bottles (I have re-used our expensive health-food store kombucha bottles!) saving half a cup of the original kombucha along with your scoby.  

Now do it all over again!  Each batch can be a bit larger, and you can start a new batch with some of the strands of culture underneath the main scoby.  This can also be passed on to others.  

Have fun!

Wise Words

Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Appreciate your friends. Continue to learn. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is. 

—Mary Anne Radmacher 

Botticelli…and the pomegranate…

Botticelli…and the pomegranate…

Wise Words

To insure good health: eat lightly, breathe deeply, live moderately, cultivate cheerfulness, and maintain an interest in life.

—William Louden

Mind the Body: Depression, Nutrition, and Moving Away from Drug Dependency

I have received several messages lately from people looking for advice and guidance on the subject of depression, and the connection between food and depression. When it comes to these issues, I definitely speak from experience. In my twenties, I was “diagnosed” with depression and other mental issues. Instead of accepting this “diagnosis”, or the suggestion to use pharmaceutical drugs, I reassessed my life, my relationships, my approach to nourishment, and my attitude. While many areas of my life remain challenging, I can definitely say that I am not in any way depressed, and haven’t been for many years now.

I hold the rather controversial view that depression is not a disease, but rather a state that is caused by a combination of factors including real life circumstances, patterns developed during childhood, attitudes and habits concerning food and nutrition, and other issues that may contribute. Interestingly, there are an increasing number of health professionals who are also starting to believe that depression is not a physiological state—except of course, in that when we are feeling depressed, our bodies respond accordingly.

Not only do I believe that pharmaceutical anti-depressants are less effective than a holistic approach, but I also agree with many doctors who think that chemical anti-depressants can *cause* significant damage to our bodies and minds, leading to long-term and often irreversible consequences.

Invariably, certain foods and substances that we ingest, will create stress in the body, which can contribute to, and exacerbate a depressed state: caffeine for many people can negatively effect mood. The “western” diet, characterized by a high intake of refined products, flours, sugars, and processed foods have been shown in a number of studies, to possibly be linked to depression, whereas a “traditional” diet made up of whole vegetables, fruits, and naturally raised meats and fish has been associated with lower levels of depression.

Another often under-appreciated factor in treating depression naturally is exercise. I have heard several doctors suggest that the effects of a daily one-hour exercise session would achieve equivalent or greater results than a pharmaceutical anti-depressant, and I can attest to this both personally, and in terms of the experience of friends and acquaintances.

Our bodies and minds are complex, and wholly interconnected. It is not simply the foods we eat that affect our headspace, but our entire lives—and of course, the preparation and consumption of food is a major aspect of life. Despite my conviction that depression is not a “disease”, it is nonetheless, of course, a very serious issue. And in order to overcome depression, we need to examine our entire lives, our attitudes, our beliefs, and our relationship to food, our bodies, and each other.

I respect the opinion of Dr. Mercola when it comes to many questions of nutrition and lifestyle, and I certainly agree with his take on depression and anti-depressants. I urge anyone dealing with depression to read his article on depression here.

And this article also has some good ideas and observations on the link between nutrition and depression.

All the Best!