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Saturday, February 14, 2009

food on the brain--intial ramblings on the subject

i have also been thinking a lot about this whole radical unschooling idea of allowing kids complete freedom in choosing their foods. part of this unschooling approach is the idea that people will crave or gravitate towards anything that is monitored or restricted, plus they will never learn to self-regulate in these areas. so if there are no restrictions or hang-ups around food, kids will eventually be able find which foods work best for them and therefore develop a much healthier relationship with food.

so far i have been able to get away with controlling my kids' diet without the illusion of control, although i suspect that they energetically pick up on this nonetheless. the boys, though, will eventually become much more aware of their options and i am not sure what i will do.

My plan right now is to talk about why I make the food choices I do and have conversations about it. but in doing this, i do not want to make them fearful of particular foods or feel guilty when they eat foods i wouldn't necessarily want them to eat. i try to keep my tone light and explain that everyone has different thoughts about which foods are best to eat.

One hitch is that I have been reading some literature about the science of the brain, and from what I have been reading, I believe that before the age of 7 (generally), children don't have the capability of critical thinking and/or it's not healthy to encourage children to use this part of their brains until they are more developed. so according to this research (The Magical Child by Joseph Chilton Pearce), it's important to foster creativity and imagination rather than explaining literally how things work.

So, I just don't believe that young children have the capability of discerning at a certain level whether or not they want to take the risk of eating certain foods. They cannot understand the long term damage these foods can cause. So isn't it my job as a parent, to help my kids make healthier choices when it comes to food?

On the other hand, I wouldn't have to ask them to actually be able to understand rationally why I don't want them to eat certain foods, but intuitively, they would make healthier choices if my restrictions were not imposed on them. Trusting them in this way would allow me to let go of any hang ups I have. It's *just* that step towards ultimate trust that I would need to take.

After all, this is only my perspective about which foods are healthy and which foods are not. I have plenty of friends who are vegan and vegetarian who eat pretty much the opposite of the way I eat. Whose to say that their diets are not healthier ones?

Another issue I see here, though, is the highly addictive quality of unhealthy foods. Would an emotionally healthy child be able to avoid this type of addiction? Wouldn't that food that could potentially cause emotional disturbances and psychological problems impair the child's ability to make a healthy decision?

Gluten Free, again

About 5 years ago, when I was trying to conceive, I found out that I was gluten intolerant. The only time that I gave up gluten containing foods was just prior to getting pregnant with the boys and during my pregnancy (although I did cheat pretty often!). I have a few nagging health problems today--mostly just low energy and a need for a lot of sleep at night, never really waking refreshed. I also do worry that my mostly silent gluten intolerance may one day manifest as a serious condition. essentially, the inability to process gluten impairs our body's ability to utilize nutrients in the diet and rogue gluten proteins can also create other autoimmune conditions as well. I thought that once and for all, I will truly go gluten free and see if I feel any better.

For the past few years, I have avoided gluten as much as possible. The foods we eat revolve more around meats, dairy, veggies and fruits, and healthy oils. We eat rice pastas and gluten free oats, but I have used spelt and wheat for making breads, muffins, and pancakes. I do, however, properly prepare these by soaking, sprouting, or using a sourdough starter. While these methods neutralize many of the toxins found in grains, they also reduce the amount of gluten.

A few interesting articles to read on this subject would be www.westonaprice.org/foodfeatures/be_kind.html and www.westonaprice.org/moderndiseases/gluten-intolerance.html.

Gluten intolerance is a largely undiagnosed problem today. I guess I am writing this post mostly because if there is anyone out there plagued by any sort of health problem whether physical or psychological, I strongly suggest doing some research on gluten intolerance to see if your condition is connected to gluten.

I have seen gluten intolerance connected w/ infertility, miscaariage, thyroid disorders, migraines, all digestive complaints, autoimmune conditions, depression, bi-polar disorder, skin conditions, and cancer, just to name a few conditions off the top of my head.

Even after a few weeks of gluten free living, I am feeling that I have more energy when I wake up in the morning and will report back after several months of eating this way.

in the past, i could never manage this diet because i was so addicted to gluten grains. now it seems much more manageable. the foods i have a weakness for are homemade baked goods and pizza, but before i undertook this diet again, i made sure i had a gluten free recipe for these. at some point i will post the recipes.i also have a hard time while eating out, but since we are on a serious budget these days, we don't eat out anymore.

by the way, the best way to test for gluten sensitivity is to order the test from entero lab at www.finerhealth.com. blood tests are not reliable indicators.

reevaluating mealtmes

Several months back a friend mentioned that she only cooked one meal per day and that her family snacked on the leftovers for the rest of the day when they were hungry. A light bulb went off. Eating healthfully has been a part of my life now for a while, and now it seems I may have gone overboard preparing a different healthy meal three times a day for 4 people. No wondered I am stressed out.

I think one reason I am embracing this new lifestyle is that I now have a different relationship with food. I still look forward to meals, but not with the same passion (or addiction) that I used to. I think meals used to be the highlight of my day. Now I see them more as a way to stay nourished and healthy and while I enjoy eating, I no longer view eating as entertainment or a way to fill any voids in my life (well, for the most part--it's a journey).

So for the last few weeks, I have been a lot more organized when it comes to meal planning and preparation. I create a list of potential meals and a grocery list on saturdays. My meals are mostly soups loaded w/ beans, veggies, meats in a rich beef, chicken, lamb or fish broth or some sort of crock pot dish. I am making 2 kinds of broth every week and a half or so. I have this meal on the stove the whole day and for several days most of the time(if we get tired of it, i can freeze it), and I also keep out a plate of cheeses, nuts/seeds, fruit slices, and kombucha on the table for us to snack on if we get hungry. I also keep US Wellness Meats prepared meats such as jerky, beef sticks,pemmican, liverwurst, and head cheese in a low drawer in the refrigerator and a jar of milk and kefir where the boys can easily get to them. I am hoping that the boys will now take a bit more responsibility with their food and become more self aware about when they need some nourishment during the day.

At this point, I am also still making breakfasts, although I have the idea to phase this out as well or at least prepare a larger batch of bacon or sausage at the beginning of the week and some hard boiled eggs. I am starting to do this w/ potatoes, pancakes and breads right now--making enough to last for several breakfasts and for ohter meals and snacks. So maybe then I would only make a smoothie every morning and just reheat already prepared foods in our steam oven for the rest of the breakfast meal.

Not only do I appreciate this way of eating for its convenience and the fact that it's allowing my kids to self-regulate their food intake, I also would love to move towards consuming food during an even shorter period of the day. The concept of the "fast-5" diet is really intriguing to me because I think it could be super healthy for regulating insulin, weight, food cravings and digestion (which obviously all go hand in hand). For more info there is a free download at www.fast-five.com. essentially while following this diet, one would only eat during a 5 hour period every day. i actually followed a version of it, called the warrior diet, as an experiment several years ago. i thought that i would hate it, but it was great! i had so much more energy because my body didn't have to digest food all day long.

so I guess I am coming full circle from a diet of unhealthy convenience foods to healthy and convenient food.

snack recipe

i can't think of anything more creative than that title! cocoa nut seed balls just didn't sound very tasty. anyhow, i made these high energy snacks yesterday and they were--emphasis on "were"--really tasty. I want to come up w/ several more combinations and have them on hand when the kids are on the go, which is mostly 24/7, so i guess they will be eating these all day.

soaked and dehydrated walnuts
raw cocoa powder
coconut oil
sesame seeds (next time I will soak the seeds!)
flax seeds

mix all ingredients in a food processor. i placed the batter in mounds in my dehydrator and dried until i could easily pick one up without getting a sticky mess on my hands. yum! only glitch seems to be that I thought they would be so dense that i only would need one or two for a snack, but instead i ate 1/2 in one sitting.