Living naturally, most of the time.

Food as family medicine: living gluten-free and beyond

Welcome to the November 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Feeding Your Family

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared recipes, stories, and advice about food and eating. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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If there is one thing I prioritize above all else, it’s food.

After diet changes brought back my fertility and dramatically improved mood issues and depression (not to mention a whole lot of other symptoms and issues, including a thyroid disorder), I am a huge believer in food being the most important medicine there is. We truly are what we eat, and in the past six years, I’ve been trying to become something healthier than the body I built up for the previous 34.

And even so, I still am not doing everything I’d like to be doing for my family, and for myself.

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Off gluten, and then some

I’ve been gluten-free since 2004 and will keep both of my kids gluten-free. For my older son, we did a gene test that showed a likelihood for celiac disease on one side and gluten sensitivity on the other. Several practitioners have intuited that both kids should stay off both gluten and dairy, so I stick to the gluten thing without a budge or an apology.

I want to build strong foundations in my children’s bodies so that they can better tolerate whatever choices they make later in life. We are not super hard-liners compared to some great GAPS or Paleo families we know, but we have been by far the most strict healthy eaters at our Expeditionary Learning magnet public school. I’m thrilled that we now have the parent at the helm of Feeding Families Well at our school, and her reputation for a mean massaged kale salad is already getting around!

We always — always — bring our own cake/muffin/snacks to birthday parties. I don’t always love the baking if it’s a busy weekend, and I don’t always involve my kids like I’d like to, but even if I bake in a rush, I am happy to have my children miss out on the sugar and artificial colors. I imagine it might be easier for a natural parent in a mainstream community to have a food sensitivity or allergy, because it’s clear-cut and not about a judgment call. I never ask anyone to accommodate us but I do ask for a few minutes of their time to tell me what they are serving so I can make an appropriate substitute. I don’t have the sense that this has ever come off as ungrateful, and I hope it hasn’t!

The one time my son’s cousin fed him crackers at my parents’ 50th anniversary party, he became a different child. We see similar reactions with sugar, with chocolate, and certainly with any accidental ingestion of artificial colors or flavors. Most of the time, he’s a healthy, happy kid, but he suffers from enough not-t00-bad stuff even on a GF diet that I just do not make a whole lot of exceptions in the “treat” category.

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Other questionable habits

And yet, I do make exceptions. My son didn’t have any dairy until age three, and then, when one practitioner recently said she felt — through applied kinesiology — that he was weak to dairy, we stopped buying even farm fresh milk and certainly cheese and yogurt. He was having such bad seasonal allergies for the second year in a row, I was determined to take out anything that might be taxing his system.

When the allergies were better but not gone the third year — after some detox protocols and acupuncture and a whole bunch of stuff — I slacked on the dairy. We still don’t buy real cheese, but we do buy almond cheese that has casein in it and occasionally goat yogurt. We sometimes let him have gluten-free pizza. I’ve never put him on the grain-free GAPS diet because, well, it’s just too hard, and there’s no smoking gun. It was tough for me but such a necessity, my IBS was so bad after my second child was born. I had pain after eating any restaurant food and eventually any starchy foods.

My son has some congestion and some dry skin on his upper arms, but he’s a happy kid who enjoys school and this year has better endurance and more of a roll-with-the-punches attitude than ever.

I do think it’s okay that I came off the grain-free GAPS diet a few months back (after two years), but I would like to ditch any prepared starches like rice crackers and do more making of my own stuff with nuts and coconut flour, which I avoided until recently because I couldn’t tolerate it. My children get at least some bone broth in them every day. They get cod liver oil sometimes, but not as regularly as I’d like, and not always the fermented Blue Ice cod liver oil if I don’t have time to mix it with the more mainstream brands whose lemon flavor they currently prefer.

My son can be counted on to eat most any veggie besides squash (which he’ll eat in a muffin or pie without complaint), but my daughter tends to get by on foods that are white — gluten-free carbs, cauliflower, potato, apple. She has never met a dried fruit she didn’t like, and I’m pretty sure she would benefit from more things green, but peas in broth is about all I can get, unless she’s starving and takes a shine to green beans. I have a hunch that she’s just a lot more stubborn on all fronts and that once she gets out of the preschooler phase and that someday, she really will eat more foods.

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IMG_3980My personal food scorecard

I feel good about a lot of things I do, including regularly making and using chicken stock/bone broth and soaking and drying my nuts. We get most of our meat and eggs from local sources, though not as direct as we used to. My children have a hot breakfast every morning and never eat boxed cereal with extruded grains. But they eat plenty of other things I’m not wild about.

There’s a lot of room for improvement. If I really had my game on, I would be:

  • making coconut yogurt and kefir (from coconut milk without guar gum, which I have got to order if I’m not going to make coconut milk myself!) IMG_3830
  • making water kefir (which I hope will change soon) and kombucha if I feel like I can do it safely without letting it get moldy, or at least getting it from MTO kombucha, which really agreed with me when I tried it recently and is locally produced
  • cooking with coconut flour and almond flour almost exclusively (instead of sometimes using GF flours and mixes)
  • making lots of fermented foods regularly (and not buying them, or not often) and making sure both kids actually eat them
  • making beef bone broth and fish bone broth in addition to chicken broth, which I make often
  • using my crock pot a whole lot more!
  • gardening more effectively and using what we grow in all our mealsIMG_4655
  • trying and finding ways to get more colorful veggies into my daughter other than putting skin-free zucchini in baked goods
  • finding ways to get my daughter to eat more protein that isn’t processed/prepared and green vegetables that are not in the form of baby food pouches
  • finding ways to involve my children in cooking moreIMG_1755
  • making our own almond milk regularly rather than feeding my kids the stuff in tetra packs with synthetic Vitamin D2
  • making my own marshmallows when activities with s’mores come up, and pairing those with homemade grain-free cookies, maybe like the Paleo Parents’ coconut flour non-sugar cookies with a little added ginger and nutmeg
  • juicing most days
  • sprouting

If I could do all these things, I would feel better about occasional cheats and treats. We do live in the real world, and I don’t want my kids to rebel later for a feeling of deprivation.

I want them to understand why we do what we do and to stand by our beliefs without coming off as judgmental of others who make different choices. This is perhaps the most difficult dance!

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon November 12 with all the carnival links.)

  • Nut Free Desserts for the Holidays — Becky at Crafty Garden Mama will be talking about navigating the holidays with peanut allergies in the family.
  • Making Peace with My Picky Eater — Once upon a time, there was a boy who would try anything. And then he turned 3. Thus began the dinner chronicles at Dionna at Code Name: Mama‘s house.
  • Foodie Morphed by Motherhood — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis reflects on the changes of her family’s food culture since becoming a mother, and shares a snapshot of their current food rhythm.
  • Introducing First Foods — Wondering what your little one should take a bite of first? That Mama Gretchen explains baby-led weaning/baby self-feeding and answers a number of questions that may come to mind!
  • Feeding Your Family — Coconut Oil!!! — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama is a coconut oil devotee. In this post, she shares her favorite ways to include coconut oil in her family’s diet as well as why she feels it is important to do so.
  • We Thank the Earth for its Food! — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle spends hours in the kitchen each day trying to make medicine in the form of food.
  • Focusing on Healthy, Gluten-Free Foods for My Family — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares what her family is doing to eat healthily along with her recipe for gluten-free peanut butter oat bran muffins.
  • Intolerancesustainablemum laments the misunderstanding surrounding food intolerances.
  • Don’t Let Food Sensitivities Ruin Your Holidays! — Rachel, the Titus 2 Homemaker, talks about ways to enjoy the holidays even if you wrestle with food sensitivities.
  • Losing grains, keeping empathy: Paleo and fat acceptance — Lauren at Hobo Mama vlogs about her family’s decision to cut grains to improve health — and hopes she can retain her position as a proponent of size acceptance even as she loses weight.
  • Easy Homemade Crockpot Mac & Cheese — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work, shakes off the blue-box blues with an easy crockpot mac-and-cheese recipe with no artificial dyes or excessive preservatives … just creamy, delicious, comfort-food goodness.
  • Extended Family Dinners — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about sharing family dinners with housemates and why it works for her.
  • Five Suggestions for Eating Healthy During the Holidays — No need to feel powerless when it comes to our highly sugared/processed food culture during the holidays &emdash; Andrea at It Takes Time offers tips to stay on track.
  • How to feed your family — no food required! — Jessica at JessicaCary.com is kind of obsessed with food. But, lately she’s realized there’s more to nourishment than what she cooks up in the kitchen.
  • Food as family medicine: living gluten-free and beyond — Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama sticks to her gluten-free guns but sees room for improvement in her pursuit of a real-food family table.
  • Feeding My Family — Challenges and Growth — Susan at Together Walking shares what has been most challenging about feeding her two kids and how she has grown in the kitchen since becoming a mother.
  • How I Lost 75 Lbs — What I Eat & My Top 5 Tips — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares how she and her family became healthy, happy and active.
  • The Weight of Motherhood — Revolution Momma at Raising a Revolution rethinks her relationship with food after struggling with post-pregnancy weight gain.
  • Geek Food: Pumpkin Pasties — While Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy and family might have food sensitivities, their geekery knows no limits. So, when faced with a desire to recreate Pumpkin Pasties from Harry Potter, they do not shy away!
  • Pumpkin Harvest Muffins — This summer Mama is Inspired and family grew pumpkins, and this autumn they are baking scrumptious, healthy muffins out of those pumpkins.
  • Reintroducing Meat to the Vegetarian Tummy — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares some of the considerations she explored before transitioning from a vegetarian diet to reintroducing meat as a protein source and a few tips on making it an easy one.
  • Thanksgiving Meal, Thankful? — Jorje of Momma Jorje has never felt terribly thankful for Thanksgiving itself. Perhaps that could change if she’s a little more invested?
  • 5 Ways to Use Healing Bone Broth — It’s that time of year again, when unpleasant little bugs make their way into our homes. For Megan of The Boho Mama, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, homemade stock or bone broth is a natural remedy.

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4 Responses to “Food as family medicine: living gluten-free and beyond”

  1. Yep, sounds like you’re a total failure. ;) So joking there — you’re far, far beyond where I am with my kids. I wish I could get my whole family on board the grain-free or at least gluten-free train — Sam’s grain-free, but the kids are NOT having it, and he doesn’t want to push it. I suspect my sons’ radically different size concerns might regulate if grains were out of the picture, but it is what it is right now. As you say, when there’s no smoking gun, it’s hard to make huge and undesired changes like that.

    I used to call my older son’s preferences the All White Food Diet. Sounds like your daughter’s a kindred spirit. :) I have to believe that’s some sort of ingrained evolutionary protective system.

    Anyway, it sounds like you’re doing really well so far, and you can be my inspiration!

  2. I have really been aching to try a good coconut milk yogurt recipe, but I’m nervous. I never made yogurt even when we were on dairy.

    It sounds like you all are incredibly mindful – your kids have an amazing start!

  3. Jessica says:

    You are so kind! I will try to post someday in the who-knows-how-distant future when I get things going on cultured coconut!

  4. Jessica says:

    Thank you for sharing, Lauren. If you saw my house, I doubt you’d think I qualify as anything like inspiration, but I’ll certainly take the kind words and let them warm my heart!
    I know we are all doing the best we can. Even if I grumble about what I’m not doing at any given moment, I do try to trust that everything will happen and unfold as it needs to for us to each learn our life lessons at the right time.

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