Finding Nourishment

May 24, 2011

Nourishment is a good word. It is a word that feels positive and life sustaining, and nourishment is what I have been trying to find for my family in these past few months.

Like so many of you, I spend an enormous amount of time in the kitchen. I know that room like the back of my hand, it is my comfort zone and the space where so much more than food preparation happens. The kitchen is where I cook a meal, but also where I bring my family together to settle the day, where I find inspiration for health and healing, and where I search for that which will bring a small amount of joy to a long day.

When Jacob was diagnosed with celiac disease four years ago, I thought that changing his diet meant simply eliminating gluten from all that he ate. Over the past four years, I have learned that almost all of my kids health issues have a food component, and even their day to day behavior is greatly effected by what they eat. That might seem like it should be common sense, but it has taken me a while to really see the ways that certain foods react in their system, especially when paired with other foods. To say that it has been eye opening would be an understatement.

On my nightstand is a variety of books that talk about the ways that food influences day to day behavior of children (and I am sure it can be applied to adults as well), especially in the area of ADD and ADHD. While the boys do not seem to suffer from traditional symptoms of either of these, I was becoming increasingly aware that at certain times of the day they had less ability to focus on tasks that they were doing, and their fighting and bickering was coming up like clock work each afternoon. Beyond that, Jacob has been suffering from tics for the past 4 years, and after getting little help from his doctors I decided to see what a total overhaul in diet would do.

After reading Dr. Sears The Healthiest Kid in The Neighborhood, and The NDD Book, I realized that while I always fed my kids well, especially at meal time, I was not always feeding them the right foods. Dr. Sears goes deep into the connections between behavior and food in children, and I came to learn that the balance of carbs and protein, as well as feeding kids primarily from the major “super foods” list, is what brings about true balance in the body.

As always, I was a bit skeptical not to buy into the whole radical transformation of my child ploy, but I have to say that the shift in diet that we took after reading this information has had a major impact on both of my older boys, and myself as well. Feeding them small, high protein meals, accompanied by fruits and veggies seems to keep their blood sugar stable, their mood a bit more even, and certainly the focus and fighting has almost disappeared (they are 7 and 5, so I am not expecting them to just play nice every minute of every day). Perhaps the greatest physical change is the reduction of tics in Jacob. He notices, I notice, everyone notices that his body seems to be calmer and a lot less reactive to his environment.

What really makes me stop and take pause is the fact that as I mentioned, I really felt like I was feeding the boys great food before this. We ate good healthy meals, and they had healthy snacks. Organic crackers, rice sticks and pretzels seemed like good, low sugar snacks. Replacing those snacks with walnuts, tofu, hummus, and other high protein snacks changed things so quickly that it gave even my 5 year old the ability to understand that what he was eating was having a major impact on how he was feeling.

I am not advocating any one type of diet for children. The ways that we changed our diet really worked for us, but those same changes may not be appropriate for everyone. What I do believe is that diet and our children’s well being, both physically and behaviorally, are interconnected. The exploration of that connection is a journey that is fascinating to take, and I learned a lot more about my kids than just what foods they like and dislike. I also feel so much more connected to the ways that food is grown, packaged, and consumed, and while I thought that this journey would take us to a more complicated “system” of eating, it actually simplified everything.

Jake and Elwood have been closely involved in the process of changing our diet, and we have been reading them excerpts from books and articles that we find beneficial. From that involvement have come a few snacks and meals that we have come up with that have become staples.




Herbal Healing Broth

This broth is something that I made right after Landon was born, and that the boys have loved ever since. We make a batch up every few days, and then add chicken or tofu to it for protein. This broth is really great for anyone with a cold or flu as well, and the more garlic added, the more healing takes place.

Ingredients
1 cup of cooked beans (I use kidney)
A handful of chopped herbs
4 garlic cloves, skins removed, slightly smashed
1 bay leaf
2 strips of dried kelp

Place the herbs, bay leaf and kelp in a soup pan and cover with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add garlic and beans and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove the kelp, cut it into small strips and return to the soup. Remove the soup from the heat, and using a blender or a hand mixer, blend the soup.
This is the broth base, and anything that sounds good can be added to it. I do not use additional salt because the kelp gives a salty flavor to the broth, but extra can be added.

Morning Protein Shake

The morning meals seem essential to start the day off right, and I like this shake a few times a week just as a cool and refreshing way to pack SO much goodness into. This is really where I add in everything that my kids need for the day, like probiotics and oils that are harder to get them to take.

Ingredients
1 cup of yogurt (I use coconut)
2 tbsp of NuDe Raw Nutrition
3 tbsp of nut butter (I use raw almond or cashew butter, but even sunbutter works great)
1 cup of frozen blueberries
1 tbsp flax oil
1 tbsp probiotic powder
1 cup of coconut or almond milk

Blend and enjoy!



Coconut and Chocolate Lara Bars

I LOVE Lara bars. They are my energy bar of choice, but they are just way too pricey for my budget. Our favorite flavor is Chocolate Coconut Chew, and this is my homemade version. There are tons of recipes out there for other versions and flavors, and they are so quick and easy to make.

Ingredients
1 cup of chopped dates
1/3 cup of cashews (soaked for at least 3 hours)
1/3 cup of almonds (soaked for at least 3 hours)
1 tbsp of raw unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp of raw coconut butter
1/4 cup of coconut (shredded or flaked is fine)

Put all ingredients into the food processor and process into it begins to stick together. Pat down into a pan to desired thickness, and cut into bars. Refrigerate (I only make enough for about 2 days worth so that they are always fresh).

Sunflower and Pumpkin Seed Pate
I love the idea of making something ahead of time. This is the easiest recipe to put together, it can be used with a variety of fresh juices, and is a great way to get a serious helping of protein into your family.

Ingredients
1/3 cup of sunflower seeds
1/3 cup of pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup of almonds (or other nuts. If not using nuts, just add more seeds)
1 tbsp flax meal
Fresh juice (I normally use apple carrot).

Place the first four ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and grind until it resembles course meal. Place into a ramekin or bowl and add enough juice to create a thick paste. Refrigerate over night and enjoy with sliced apples, etc. in the morning.

Blueberries, avocados, any kind of nuts, tofu, hummus, veggies and salmon also make great small snacks throughout the day.

Enjoy!

You can download the recipes in PDF form here

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

annie May 12, 2011 at 3:55 pm

If only we weren't a nut-free household! I really do miss nuts as an easy and healthy source of protein, but I guess the husband is worth it. Mostly.

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Jodi Anderson May 12, 2011 at 3:57 pm

The healing broth sounds so tasty. Right now! And, it's all ingredients that I always have on hand. Thank goodness it is time to make lunch. :)

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renee @ FIMBY May 12, 2011 at 4:03 pm

I am eating this up Heather (smile). We've been a vegan kitchen for some years now (not strictly vegans but like to base our diet on plants). At first I filled out diet with homemade 100% whole wheat bread – until my husband developed a gluten intolerance and 2 children followed suit. Over the years we've transitioned more to whole plant food sources of protein like you mention but we're in the midst of a move right now and I find it's just so much easier to grab the grains. But I feel my health and energy level suffering because of it.

I can't wait to get back in the kitchen after this move and get serious again about clean, health building, life sustaining food.

Also, love this broth recipe! Thanks for sharing it. Bone broth is all the rage these days but there ain't no bones in my vegan kitchen. I love this alternative. I add miso to all my soup broths.

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Erin May 12, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Wow, this is so helpful! I'm tired of having very little to offer every time there's a snack request from my kids. We've gone off all the usuals so these recipe ideas are perfect.

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Valerie May 12, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Thanks for these great looking recipes. I have two quick questions. First, about how big are the strips of kelp? (The kelp I have are in sheets.) Second, where does one find coconut butter – I've never seen it (or is this the same as coconut oil)? We love Lara bars, I am excited to try making them myself.

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jessica May 12, 2011 at 6:05 pm

I connected with this post right away. I started seeing a nutrionist about 6 months ago and the protein/carb balance was a big foccus. I lost 20lbs just by changing my diet. I eat more often and don't feel as hungry. I do notice if I eat nut butters too often I go up a bit but I was shocked at the difference a little tweaking in food combos can do for overall health. Happy kids = happy parents, too!

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the nurtured life May 12, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Im excited to try those Lara bars. I can't eat rolled oats and have really missed my homemade granola and bars. This sounds like it might do the trick! My children are very attentive and aware of their diets, for similar reasons. They both have ailments that arise when they eat certain foods, and don't eat others. They both can recognize the effects and are careful to avoid them.

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stitchandpurl May 12, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Thank you for sharing all those recipes – I can't wait to try them!
Until recently I've worked in special needs care and education – and there I learned of how huge an impact food can have on mood and behaviour, the effects of which were often so much more immediate in the young people I worked and lived with. So I am always glad to find recipes for good stuff like this!

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Tracey May 12, 2011 at 8:56 pm

I love Lara Bars and now you give a recipe to make them?! How great …thank you!
And the best part is I actually have all the ingredients in my kitchen.

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Heather May 12, 2011 at 11:34 pm

Thankyou for all those lovely recipes and book ideas. I get so much inspiration and support from your blog.x

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Agnes May 13, 2011 at 1:54 am

Thanks for sharing this. My daughter has had lots of tummy issues and more recently after chronic stomach pain she is being tested for celiac. While I still don't have those results I do know that between her stomach troubles and her bouts of moodiness i really need to look into changing her diet (which is not "unhealthy" but obviously not right for her).

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Kelly May 13, 2011 at 1:54 am

thanks for the recipes & book recs.

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kendra May 13, 2011 at 2:09 am

what fantastic recipes! i have been doing a lot of coconut butter based things, but i think adding protein would really help me out too. thanks for sharing your research and findings here heather. much appreciated.

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Ola May 13, 2011 at 2:44 am

Thank you for sharing this. I am constantly trying to find healthy snacks for my kids. That broth sounds great!

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lacey May 12, 2011 at 8:58 pm

those lara bars sound great! we've added more and more nuts to our diet recently, and the kids don't mind. Almonds are the top pick, but I've noticed that they're pretty open to all types. Such a great alternative for to crackers and the like. I haven't really read up on the topic, but we recently watched Food Matters, so raw & superfoods have been a new goal for us. The more the better!

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Wendy May 12, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Awesome! Thanks for sharing the recipes, and I'm going to look into the books you mentioned. Love how you've included the boys in the transition/decision-making process.

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6512 and growing May 13, 2011 at 3:47 am

Amazing, the connection between food and mood. Nice sleuthing work to get your family back on track.
A friend of mine whose son had tics and behavioral issues took first gluten and then most grains (ack!) out of his diet. He is greatly improved.

Loved the pix of the Boulder Farmers Market. My love for gardening started at that market when, on a whim, I bought some tomato plants to sink into the lawn of my college rental.

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Julia May 13, 2011 at 10:22 pm

Oh my goodness, I live for posts like this. Thank you so much for sharing your recipes and thoughts – can't tell you how much I can't wait to try them. I make almost the exact same smoothie every morning but hadn't thought about throwing our probiotic powder in there. I have also been freezing them as popsicles or warm weather snacks.

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earthycrunchy May 14, 2011 at 12:09 am

You know I totally agree with you Heather. I know that I slip every once and a while with sweets. But, I had a pre-school teacher compliment me on how well behaved Eli was. She was like, "What do you feed this kid!?" It made me feel good. I am going to try the lara bars. Those look amazing. Thinking of you. ♥Kyndale

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anushka May 14, 2011 at 2:26 am

beautiful post. if only my kid would eat these foods. : ( we're just happy he's eating at all because that took a long time. i think i'll make these for my husband and i though. thanks for sharing!

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Jennifer May 14, 2011 at 2:29 am

Thanks for the good ideas. I have been finding it very difficult to find recipes/ideas for good, healthy, homemade snacks. Where did they come from or did you make them up?

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Jennifer B. Bklyn May 14, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Thank you so much for the recipes! I'm going to work up the broth asap. I've pretty much always known a basic connection to diet and mood as an adult, since I've always been severely hypoglycemic. My daughter had moderate-to-severe respiratory concerns as a toddler so that was another heads-up. It's wonderful, though, to keep reading and refining and making new, wonderful recipes, so I can't wait to take a look at the Dr. Sears book and work on some new foods!

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TenderHeartMomma May 15, 2011 at 1:43 am

Didn't know Dr. Sears wrote a book like that. Just put a hold on it at my library. I just feel I can be doing more to give my toddler the best nutrition

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Kika May 15, 2011 at 10:52 pm

I too am thrilled with your broth recipe as I don't eat meat. My youngest who is now almost six is strongly affected by diet. A year ago we removed yeast and refined sugars from her diet (amongst many other foods, even healthy ones, due to allergies) and she is doing so much better. I have to work at getting enough healthy protein and fat in her diet, though. We can't eat almonds or hazlenuts but are ok with peanuts, seeds and cashews.and also use coconut oil/milk, avocado, etc. Anyways, about two weeks after changing her diet, Ella's moods/emotional stablity totally changed and tummy aches disappeared. It took a while longer for the dark circles under her eyes to go and she still struggles at times like this (spring) b/c of envrironmental allergens. She still has sleep issues, unfortunately, and we spent a lot of money seeing a naturopath hoping for help but no results. I wonder if other readers have any experience in this department. The books i read re:allergies/autism/add/adhd do mention that kids with these issues often experience sleep disturbances and that diet can help with this but so far not for our daughter.

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Sarah May 16, 2011 at 5:49 am

Thank you again Heather for such a timely post. My husband and all three of our children have serious food sensitivities. Tonight I was doing some research online, and I was actually re-reading Dr.Sears' elimination diet suggestions. I was praying and asking the Lord for some guidance and encouragement. Your blog immediately came to mind, and I was so instantly encouraged and connected by this post. I am very excited to read Dr.Sears book, and to try these delicious recipes. Thank you again, and I pray that you have a smooth and encouraging week. Much love

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Brooke May 16, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Heather,you really are so inspiring! I love reading your blog every time. Although j don't have my kitchen, your post reminded me that I am in control of what my kids eat, all the time, I have been thinking of an diet kind of like yours, but mostly because I find us eating carbs almost constantly. I really want my kids to eat more fruits veggies nuts etc… So it seems offering more of that and less carbs as the obvious solution. Hard to break habits though. Last couple days we have really been working on it.
What kind of bread do you eat? I am planning on making most of our bread when we get onto our house and would love some suggestions!

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Nicola @ Which Name? May 16, 2011 at 5:39 pm

As always…hitting home. Nourish is my word for the year and I just posted about food today. This small meal (we try for 6) plan with a whole grain carb/low fat protein combo has been our method for about 4 years now. As well as being healthy, it can help with weight loss if paired with morning exercise (alternating strength and aerobic daily). My current quandary is that not all healthy foods are healthy for me. (And I know that is true of you and your boys, too.) I love it when we find a bright spot on our journey for more information.

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Brenda May 16, 2011 at 10:20 pm

I love your blog. We have had major issues that we have/are resolving with diet. I highly recommend the GAPS diet the book by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride it rocked my world and has been such a blessing. I thought I was feeding my kids well till I read this.

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FrontierDreams May 17, 2011 at 4:51 am

Thank you for this post and these recipes! We are now dealing withsoyand dairy allergies and I am having a hard time finding things to eat :(

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Cheryn May 18, 2011 at 8:46 pm

such a GREAT post, thank you.
it's great to hear a personal experience of change, makes the motivation for taking the step yourself that much stronger!
as aware of and knowledgeable about foods i am, there's a laziness that exists, for it seeming so overwhelming- so your statement, "…and while I thought that this journey would take us to a more complicated "system" of eating, it actually simplified everything." – really strikes me.
i'm on it!
again, THANK YOU.

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Valarie May 19, 2011 at 10:22 pm

Thanks for a great post Heather. Both of my girls are going through major food issues right now. One for ADD and we are testing now for celiac disease. This will explain a lot through many years if this comes up positive. I love this post because it offers insight, hope, and a starting place. Thank you for sharing your journey. It is so helpful to know where to begin. Be well.

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gen May 24, 2011 at 2:01 pm

This post really resonates with me, thank you so much for an inspiring read!

I only just found you blog and was strolling through when BAM! I like the thoughts, the recipes, the references and the idea that I can tackle the concept of food causing problems.

Brilliant and awesome that you have had such results with your family.

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agambroult May 26, 2011 at 5:04 am

fascinating. Especially since, like you, I was under the impression that you (and I) were feeding your family a very healthy diet. Which you were, but it just wasn't the right nutrition for the time being. I'm so impressed that your boys have gotten so involved with it, too. What a difference that makes. BUt so have clear results it just amazing! thanks for sharing your recipes. Everything looks pretty simple and very yummy!

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shannon May 27, 2011 at 4:20 pm

so much yummy goodness here! i SO love that photo in the previous post of all the boys together. what a lovely, beautiful life you live. xo

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Shivayamama May 27, 2011 at 5:04 pm

I think that the boys being involved has been the best part because they now have gotten to a space where they understand the ways that certain foods make them feel, and they are making some pretty cool choices about the way that they want to live, rather than me just imposing it on them.
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Shivayamama May 27, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Thank you so much Gen, I am glad that you enjoyed the post. This subject has been such a focus in my life over the past few years, and it has taken me that long to really get my family to a healthy place.
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