Finishing 2017 in Gratitude

James’ last two months have been interesting! He had a really beautiful three weeks in October, and then something switched right before Halloween. We’re not sure if he was having a reaction to eggs with too many banana pancakes, if he had an issue with the autumn leaf mold…apparently that’s a thing, or if there was some other unknown environmental trigger. But there was a big change- he had lots of eczema and the edginess and irritability returned. And it just stuck. We couldn’t figure out how to kick it, even after removing the eggs, reducing/increasing supplement doses, etc.

 

After about a month of this flare, we decided to ditch the homemade yogurt we had been holding onto for perhaps too long. Though the 24-hour yogurt fermentation process is supposed to just about eliminate any casein or lactose, we thought it might be worth trying. Especially since the first thing anyone tells you to do in most of these healing diets is to get rid of gluten and dairy. We had previously been scared of eliminating the yogurt when he struggled to eat much of anything else, but the lack of progress prompted us to go forward with it.

 

The two weeks following yogurt elimination, we wonder if he went through a little dairy detox. He seemed really unsettled–lots of pacing and extreme mood changes. His teachers reported breakthroughs regarding gross motor development, language, and cognition, but also would share how he needed much more prompting, had trouble focusing, and had more trouble transitioning between activities.

 

Then after two weeks, he seemed to be settling! And open to trying more foods!! Until I watched one too many Hallmark movies with gleeful children and their Christmas cookies, and the mom guilt told me maybe it wouldn’t hurt to give him a bit of organic dark chocolate. And Georgia snuck him more. And then we thought he had the stomach bug. Though as it continued on, we realized it most likely was a reaction. His gut bacteria overgrowth perhaps had a huge party with that chocolate and cane sugar!

 

When he got his appetite back, he strangely requested every carb he could think of… “I want….pasta! Christmas cookies! Birthday cake! Cheerios! Pizza! Pretzels!” Though I was thrilled with all of these verbalizations, many of these things he hasn’t had in over a year. It’s so interesting what sugar can do.

 

So we are still recovering from the dark chocolate incident, but it is indeed improving. And I am grateful for the ability to bounce back and to simply know that we can and will bounce back from these hiccups by God’s grace. We’ve come to the realization that we’ll always need to be careful, and food is probably always going to be a bit of a challenge. But then I think about where this journey has taken us so far.

 

Things that may not have happened if we weren’t on this journey:

 

  • Thomas just finished his second course in his post-masters certificate in human nutrition and functional medicine.
  • James has gone from a little boy who used to catch every virus that was near him to rarely being sick (from viruses ;)..maybe from food one day!)
  • I’ve shifted my mentality from germ avoidance for my family to equipping the body to fight off germs through diet, vitamins, and a healthy environment.
  • Through a few close friends and their gentle guidance, I’ve learned the importance of taking care of myself, which makes setbacks much less scary and more like opportunities to problem-solve, learn, and grow.
  • I’m getting the opportunity to interview and learn from truly incredible guests on the upcoming podcast.
  • I’m watching my daughter turn into such a caring, empathetic little human.
  • We’ve met countless amazing people I’m not sure we would have encountered, if not for this path.
  • I’m completely humbled by the fact that you, dear reader, care enough to take the time to follow James’ story. ❤ Thank you.

 

 

I know there are many more, but I’ve already gone on longer than intended, per usual.

 

Wishing everyone many, many blessings in the upcoming year. And even more importantly, the perspective and mindset to see the blessings, even through the setbacks!

James Georgia Christmas

10 Things We’ve Learned in Helping Our Picky Eater Accept Nourishing, Whole Foods

I’m writing this post with the disclaimer that we still have a ways to go in terms of my son eating non-preferred foods and sealing up his gut lining.

BUT…six months ago, I had a child who literally ate quinoa pasta for dinner every single night. I kid you not. Every night. And who would only eat raw tomatoes and cucumbers in the veggie department, which flared his eczema. And who had eaten meat maybe five times in his life. I used to cry after any kind of nutrition/functional medicine appointment, because I knew he would straight up refuse anything I was told to feed him.

Now he’s expanded his palette to include daily mixed greens salads, chicken, grass fed beef, salmon, carrots, spaghetti squash, green beans, and all kinds of fun things hidden in smoothies. And this week he’s eaten ground beef with shredded carrots, asparagus, and onions. Who is this child??

James new meal
This is now a typical meal for James! And I took the picture after he had finished his spaghetti squash. 🙂

So here is what we’ve learned from our super smart speech and occupational therapists and from trial and error with a cute little boy who between food sensitivities and sensory pickiness gave (is giving) us a run for our money.

  1. It’s not going to be perfect. This one was really hard for me, especially because of his many food sensitivities and reactions. Take it one step at a time- sometimes with steps being weeks apart and oftentimes one step forward, two steps back.
  1. Every small step is a win. Our therapists coached us that when James lets a non-preferred food stay on his plate, that’s a win. He touched it?? Even bigger win. And if he brings it to his mouth, that’s a home run! Usually with enough exposures, we can progress through these stages. Actually eating the non-preferred food might take quite a while, but setting the foundation for him is huge.
  1. Take the pressure off. The more you can pretend to not care, the better it is. If my little man knows I’m watching him, you bet he will refuse whatever new food is on the plate. I try to engage in conversation, sing songs, or even just walk away and let him do his thing.
  1. Cut out addicting foods. This was huge for us. Possibly #1. Cutting out artificial and processed foods opened up the door for more natural alternatives. Cutting out grains for James helped his palette open up even more. Once you cut out the foods that the body is addicted to, it makes way for the stuff you really want them to consume!

These past two weeks, we finally cut out homemade yogurt, leaving ghee, which only has trace amounts of casein and lactose, as his only dairy product. Interestingly, he has also been more adventurous at meals than ever before. He would never dare to touch a green bean or any kind of cooked vegetable for three years, and these past couple of weeks, he has started to eat them with little to no hesitation.

  1. Build on what they know. James loves anything crunchy, so my husband sautéed little shreds of chicken into crunchy pieces using salt and ghee. Once James loved those, we could sauté them less. Then we could transfer the method to beef and eventually salmon. He eats these things easily now, which amazes me when I think just how much he used to despise any kind of meat or fish.

We’ve also recently used this method for shredded pieces of organic carrots, calling them French fries.

  1. Make smoothies. These are so amazing for sneaking foods. He loved banana and blueberry smoothies (and his body tolerated them), so we started there. We could sneak lots of his supplements in these smoothies and eventually started adding little bits of veggies. I wonder if getting a bit of the taste of mixed greens with the smoothies has now helped him to eat them regularly, with honey, of course 😉
  1. Let them play with new foods. I’ll never forget his therapists telling me to let him play with new foods. I painfully took this advice when I introduced bone broth to him, but it worked–

He was not happy to see the bowl of broth with some quinoa pasta in front of him (this was before we cut out grains), but since I knew this was a big step, I let him watch some kid music videos to allow him to relax. And then I walked away. Eventually I saw him picking up the noodles and splashing them in the broth, with the commentary, “splish, splash!” I remained in the corner in the fetal position through this process.

But eventually, he started licking his fingers. And then he started to pick up the noodles and eat them. And 10 minutes later, I saw him scooping up the broth with a spoon saying “yummy!” Totally worth the pool of soup on the table.

  1. Place non-preferred or new foods next to familiar, preferred ones. The familiarity helps take the pressure off.
  1. Think about your main goals during the meal and the factors that could detract from those. For example, using a fork is still hard and intimidating for James. When I give him a new food, I will put it in a bowl with a spoon or just on a plate for him to explore with his hands. If I want to work on utensils, I will give him a food he is very familiar with and enjoys.
  1. Play with colors and fun designs. For some kids, it helps to have a non-preferred food next to a preferred that is the same color. Or to have the foods displayed in a fun way!

Parents of picky eaters, what you have found that has worked for you and your child??

How to Make Ghee

One of the many things I am grateful for in this health adventure is our introduction to ghee, butter’s major upgrade. Ghee originates in the Indian subcontinent and has been traditionally used to promote wellness both as a food and through topical application.

 

It’s rich in fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E; high in butyrate; and has lots of both short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids. Because the milk solids are boiled out of the butter, it only has trace amounts of lactose and casein, making it allergen-friendly. By boiling out these milk solids and water, you also end up with a rich product that has a higher smoke point and is safer to use for higher temperature cooking.

 

Once you’ve cooked with ghee, you wonder how you ever cooked with anything else. So smooth, versatile, and delicious! By using ghee, we have convinced our picky eater to eat a whole lot of non-preferred foods.

 

It’s a bit on the pricey side, but the good news is that it’s really easy to make. And it’s probably one of my favorite things to make as well. I find the whole process to be therapeutic.

 

The gold standard for ghee is butter made from the milk of grass fed cows, which will give you the most health benefits. You can look to your local organic farmers or find Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter in many popular grocery stores. If you can’t find grass fed better, organic is your next best bet!

 

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to make ghee.

 

You need:

 

  • Two pounds of organic butter or grass fed butter (you can use one pound, but we go through it crazy fast)

**Note-it’s recommended to use unsalted or you will end up with salty ghee! When we didn’t have any other option, we tried salted a couple of times, and it seemed that a lot of the salt boiled out with the milk solids, so it wasn’t too bad! Just be prepared for it to be foamier. 

  • sauce pan
  • wooden spoon
  • sieve
  • several layers of cheesecloth or nutmilk bag
  • 24 ounce mason jar

 

From start to finish, the boiling process takes about 20-25 minutes with two pounds of butter and about 15 minutes with one pound. The first couple of times you do it, you want to monitor very closely, so the butter doesn’t burn. Once you get the hang of it and know what to expect, it’s a bit easier to multitask.

 

Directions:

 

  1. Cut butter into cubes

 

Ghee cubes

 

  1. Heat on medium low, scraping bottom and sides of pan to avoid burning.

 

  1. As the butter is melting, you will notice that it starts to foam.

 

Ghee foam 1

 

  1. Continue scraping the bottom and sides of the pan. The butter will start to boil, and as it bubbles, the foam will begin to clear. Bubbles will become larger and clearer as well, and foam will eventually disappear completely.

 

 

  1. As the butter continues to boil, you’ll notice the foam beginning to appear once again. Very important to continue scraping the sides and bottom of the pan to avoid burning.

 

 

  1. When it looks like this, it’s ready to be taken off the stove.
New foarm 1.4
Foamiest!

 

  1. Let the foam settle for a minute, and then strain the butter through several layers of cheesecloth. I use a nut milk bag, so I just strain it through two layers of the nut milk bag twice- the first time in a glass measuring cup, and the second directly into a mason jar.

 

Ghee strain 1
First strain
Ghee strain 2
Second strain

 

 

 

This is what you’ll see left behind.

 

Ghee strain 3

 

 

  1. Put the lid of the mason jar on loosely until it forms into a solid.
Ghee liquid
Liquid ghee
Ghee solid
Finished product!

 

Isn’t it pretty?? You can leave it at room temperature in a cabinet for up to 3 months or in the refrigerator for up to a year. Enjoy 🙂