Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nourish Your Children With Real Foods

Good nutrition is essential for children to have proper brain development and growth.  It also promotes good sleeping and good behavior.  The best way to make sure your kids are getting good nutrition is to feed them real foods, not processed foods. Goldfish crackers, Cheerios, soy milk: these are not real foods!

Let's Take a Look at Some Processed Foods
Grocery stores are filled with processed foods. For example, let's look at Goldfish crackers and Cheerios.  These are very popular foods that seem relatively benign as they're not very sweet. 

Goldfish Cracker Ingredients: Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Cheddar Cheese [(Pasteurized Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Annatto], Vegetable Oils (Sunflower, Canola and/or Soybean), Contains 2% or less of: Salt, Yeast, Sugar, Spices, Autolyzed Yeast, Leavening (Monocalcium Phosphate, Ammonium Bicarbonate, Baking Soda) and Onion Powder

"Unbleached enriched wheat flour" is a fancy way of saying refined flour that has been processed to remove all of the bran.  Unfortunately, the refining process also results in most of the vitamins and minerals being removed from the flour. As described in Nourishing Traditions, "consumption of refined calories depletes the body's precious reserves".  For this reason, foods like refined wheat flour and sugar should be considered "negative calories".

Vegetable oils like sunflower, canola, and/or soybean are oils that contain a very high amount of omega-6 fatty acid. According to The Skinny on Fats, consumption of excess omega-6 can lead to an "imbalance that can interfere with production of important prostaglandins. This disruption can result in increased tendency to form blood clots, inflammation, high blood pressure, irritation of the digestive tract, depressed immune function, sterility, cell proliferation, cancer and weight gain."

Autolyzed yeast is a flavor enhancer similar to MSG.  Since it contains free glutamic acid, autolyzed yeast can lead to the same problems as MSG. 

Cheerios Ingredients: Whole Grain Oats, Modified Corn Starch, Sugar, Salt, Tripotassium Phosphate, Wheat, Starch, Vitamin E, Calcium Carbonate, Iron and Zinc, Vitamin C, B Vitamin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin A, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3

Cheerios are touted as "heart healthy" and "whole grain", but are they actually good for you? With all the media hype these days about whole grains, the "whole grain oats" sure sound good.  However, improperly prepared whole grains can actually contribute to health problems such as cavities.  Modified corn starch is a highly processed granular powder that sometimes contains MSG.  But wait, aren't Cheerios fortified with vitamins? That means they must be good for you, right?  Unfortunately, synthetic vitamins are not as easily assimilated as natural vitamins found in real food.  There are also toxicity risks with synthetic vitamins (whereas consuming large amounts of natural vitamins in food does not pose the same risk).   Don't even get me started on Froot Loops and Spaghettios!

Real Foods Research 
Weston A. Price was a dentist who traveled the world trying to figure out why so many of his patients in the United States had such prevalent tooth decay and cavities.  Price learned that people who ate traditional foods had virtually no cavities or tooth decay, nor even cancer, diabetes, or heart disease.  When the same people started consuming modern foods (like refined white flour, pasteurized milk, canned foods, and sugar), those health problems did develop.

The diets of the people studied by Price were very different depending on what foods were available in each geographic region. However, the traditional diets had some common characteristics (from Nourishing Traditions).
  • The people "ate liberally of seafood or other animal proteins and fats in the form of organ meats and dairy products,
  • "they valued animal fats as absolutely necessary to good health,
  • "and they ate fats, meats, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains in their whole, unrefined state."
Later research discovered that traditional diets also included fermented foods.  These foods included cultured dairy products, as well as fermented vegetables, fruits, and meats. Unlike modern canning processes, the process of fermenting foods increases their nutrient content and makes them easier to digest.  Fermented foods also provide probiotics, which are especially important to ensure the right balance of gut bacteria.  In our modern age of widespread antibiotic and pharmaceutical use, people very commonly have an improper balance of gut bacteria.  As described in Gut and Psychology Syndrome, improper gut bacteria can lead to small problems such as allergies and eczema, as well as big problems like autism, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and cancer.

Feed Your Children Real Foods
To ensure the best health and development of your children, their diets should have the same characteristics as traditional diets.  This means your children should eat real foods, which are those that have not been refined or adulterated with chemicals. There should be an emphasis on consuming animal foods and fats, organic fruits and vegetables, and fermented foods.

People have relied upon real foods throughout history to ensure good health and proper development.  While it may take some adjustment time and extra work in the kitchen, feeding your children a nourishing diet is the best way to give them robust health.  The following links may help in easing the transition to real foods:
10 Tips for Real Food Newbies
Zapping Sugar Cravings
Questions and Answers on Kids and Traditional Foods
Packing the Perfect Lunch Box
What I Put in My Kids' School Lunches
Healthy Meals and Snacks for the Back-to-School Season
10 Healthy, Nourishing School Lunches

This post is part of Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet, and Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop!


DarkShingingStar said...

AMEN AND AMEN AND AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Laura said...

This post is awesome. People look at me like I am a crazy fool when I don't want the munchkin eating both of your examples. It is so frustrating!

Sarah Smith said...

Yes, it is amazing how many people seem to think there is nothing at all wrong with eating as many Cheerios and Goldfish as desired!

shelly said...

love it!

Barb @ A Life in Balance said...

I can't wait to look at all the links! I really need ideas with summer coming and 5 hungry children soon to be taking over the kitchen. :-)

I do fall back on goldfish. Honestly, with 5 kids to feed, it's hard to stay on top of healthy snacks some days.

Sarah Smith said...

Wow, five kids would make things a bit more difficult for sure. Before we did GAPS diet (which is grain free), I relied very heavily on homemade soaked granola (made in the dehydrator) as well as brown rice crackers from the store. Knowing what I do now about phytic acid, though, I think now I would actually buy the white rice crackers instead.

Nowadays, for an easy crunchy snack for the kids, I rely on pork rinds, dried peas (they're Just Peas brand, but they are pretty pricey), and some banana/spirulina/sprouted sesame seed crackers (made by Go Raw, but these are VERY expensive). I'm sure none of these are perfect, but sometimes you gotta take a bit of store-bought help wherever you can get it.

Taryn Kae Wilson said...

Hello Sarah! My husband just sent me the link to your blog today and I can tell we have a lot in common!
My blog is: www.woolymossroots.blogspot.com

Look forward to connecting more with you!

Love, Taryn

Anonymous said...

Yes, for those of us w/ more children, using Goldfish and Cheerios has become an act of humility. I still end up in the kitchen constantly, but minimizing cost and providing food from scratch for 7 people? I haven't seen very much (yet) to help me manage that (and the laundry and the homeschooling). Please be kind to us.

Sarah Smith said...

Hello Anonymous, I am certainly not trying to be un-kind. The ingredients in processed foods are something I choose not to let my kids consume on any regular basis. Our food budget has increased since we started eating healthy foods, but our doctor bills and over-the-counter medicine bills have dropped to nil. We also choose to save money other ways as I think spending money on good foods is worth not having some other things. There is no judgment being passed in my post, just information being provided to help people make the best decisions they can in their own situations.

Little Natural Cottage said...

I'm also a homeschooling mother with 4 young children, ages 7 yrs down to 13 mos. We are currently a household of 7 (including my husband, myself, our children and my sister, who is living with us). We eat a very healthy, whole foods diet (although not grain free), including three of us who are currently dairy and gluten free.

I can understand the frustration about the grocery budget! All of our children have huge appetites, so healthy snacks are a must! I used to rely heavily on crackers for snacks, but we very rarely eat them these days. (GF crackers are gross, by the way!)

We do rely on foods like peanut butter and almond butter on celery sticks, veggie sticks and dips, sliced fruit, raw or healthy, unsweetened yogurt (from goat's milk for our dairy-free kiddos) and homemade goodies like granola bars and protein shakes.

Our grocery budget has done some stretching as our family and our health awareness has grown... but I still spend less at the grocery store than a lot of other mommies! I've found that buying processed, prepackaged snacks costs a lot more than buying whole foods, hands down.

Kristy @ Little Natural Cottage

Christine said...

Hi, I am new to this blog so I have lots of questions. I love feeding my kids healthy food, but right now all I do is make sure whatever I buy is organic and try to make as much as possible from scratch. They drink goat milk (they are twin 18 month olds, and one has a cow milk protein allergy, peanut allergy, and egg white and yolk allergy). I am looking into RAW goat milk, and I clearly see the health benefits, but I am still a little scared of bacterial illnesses. For every article supporting it, there's a scary one against it. Any advice?

Christine said...

One more question, sorry... I've heard so much lately about diets rich in fruits and veggies, whole grains, etc. with little or no meat is healthiest. So, what I'm reading here is all new to me. I don't think anyone argues that organic fruits and veggies are a must, but the no-grain, more meat idea is hard for me to grasp. I want to understand more, and maybe start implementing some of this, but I don't know where to start. Like I mentioned in the last post, I have one baby who's allergic to eggs and cow milk, so that somewhat limits us. Any advice on where to begin is appreciated!

Sarah Smith said...

Hi Christine,
Raw milk is wonderful! My advice on raw milk is to make sure that you trust your raw dairy farmer. The source we use tests the milk for bacteria, and allows the animals to graze (which means the animals are healthier than if they were confined). If possible, go to the dairy and check out their practices to make sure they look sanitary. You might be interested in this post:


Sarah Smith said...

Hi Christine,
You'll have to learn more and decide for yourself, but I know that once I read Nourishing Traditions (by Sally Fallon), I became utterly convinced that animal-based foods should be the cornerstone of a healthy diet. You also might want to look at Weston Price's book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. The pictures in that book are amazing at showing the difference diet (and particularly animal foods) can make on physical development. This video shows some of the pictures and info from that book:

As for the food allergies, have you heard of the GAPS diet? It can actually cure food allergies (among many other things as well). My family successfully used this diet to help my daughter's immune system and poor weight gain, and it cured my joint pain as well. It is a very nourishing diet that focuses on animal meat and fat, broths, fruits and veggies.

christine said...

Thanks so much, Sara. I just recently read about the GAPS diet. Is an 18 month old too young? I guess I just need to learn more about it, but I just have lots of questions like, "How long does it need to be implemented in order to cure allergies," "How do you know when to start re-introducing other foods," etc.
Thanks for your help.

Sarah Smith said...

Hi Christine,
You might want to check out this site about GAPS. http://gaps.me/preview/?page_id=34
I do not think there is any age too young for GAPS, as part of the point of it is to make sure the foods are ones that are easily digested. For instance, there is an emphasis on egg yolks, rather than whole eggs. Since we started GAPS while my son was still nursing exclusively, he has been raised on GAPS (he is now 24 months old). From what I can tell, GAPS takes longer for people that are older or people with serious problems (such as autism). I've heard of young kids being seeing huge improvements by just following the diet for a few months. As for introducing other foods, you'll have to experiment a bit when the time comes. The GAPS book talks quite a bit about how to slowly introduce foods. There is a very specific, very slow progression that is used for dairy products specifically, starting with putting some whey on the skin and letting it stay there overnight to look for any red irritation in the morning. If nothing shows, then you would give a very small amount of whey, slowly building up to more and then progressing to yogurt and finally to raw milk.

Oh, another link you might like is this one about feeding babies. If you scroll down towards the bottom, there are some good ideas for foods for babies that follow the Weston Price nutrition principles. http://www.westonaprice.org/childrens-health/nourishing-a-growing-baby

Christine said...

Thank you! I looked at those links and they are very helpful.

The second stage of the GAPS diet says to add egg yolks, but my 18 month old has been allergy tested and is allergic to egg yolks and egg whites. How can I implement the GAPS diet with that as an allergen? I know they say you are supposed to do the skin test first, but is that enough? It seems like giving her something I know she is allergic to can't possible help heal her stomach.
Sorry for so many questions, but thank you for the information!

Sarah Smith said...

Hi Christine,
My guess is that you would just skip any food she is allergic to and try it a few months later. For instance, we found problems with certain nuts (especially almonds), so we avoided them for awhile and then gradually reintroduced them.

Also, I searched through Dr. Natasha's FAQS and found the following:
53. Why are eggs so difficult for many GAPS patients to handle?

Eggs are very easy to handle for the majority of people. When there is a true allergy to eggs you have to avoid them and use egg-free recipes in my book. Many people with egg allergy only react to the egg white and can have egg yolks. Use the Sensitivity Test to see if you are one of those people. People who get flatulence and other digestive symptoms from eggs have abnormal gut flora and need to work on changing it. Raw eggs are much easier to digest than cooked eggs, so start from raw if eggs cause you trouble.

There is tons more info here: