Thursday, January 28, 2010

Be your child's detective - the clues may be on your dinner plate

Be your children’s detective. They can’t do it on their own and they need your help.

I often get stuck in the trap when my kids are misbehaving or acting out in some way of thinking that they are just trying to torture me. It will get me all riled. Often, this leads to just exacerbating an already stressful situation. BUT, I have come to realize over the years that when one of them starts getting out of sorts in a seemingly irrational way, there is often rationality behind it. And it often starts with what they have or have not eaten.

It is here where my detective skills come in handy.

I start searching for clues.

For my son, clues include red hot ears, irritability over seemingly small things, irrationality, dark circles under his eyes, and moaning.

What I have learned is he really isn't trying to torture me, but instead he is actually having a physical reaction to something.

For my son, that something is often some artificial additive in food that sends him into a tail spin. We like to pretend that he will grow out of such sensitivities, but as time goes on, we have come to realize that he has a “smart body” that simply rejects these chemical additives that pose as foods. We test our theory every so often relaxing the rules of what he can eat. And, each test often lands on its face, with a miserable child and frustrated parents.

For example, we decided to get some ice cream the other day. No big deal, right? Wrong! I was in a hurry and did not go to Maple’s the organic ice cream shop in Portland. Instead, we went to a well known shop, but one that uses artificial additives in its ingredient list. He enjoyed the ice cream thoroughly, but what followed was not so enjoyable. He was trying to do a simple homework assignment and his brain literally locked up. This “A” student couldn’t draft a simple sentence and then he became increasingly frustrated, being brought to tears. Panic starting setting in. It actually became scary.

Having been through this before, I knew what was happening and I knew he needed my patience. I was reassuring him that he was having a reaction to something he ate and to cooperate with me as we tried to work through it. I gave him water and some digestive enzymes, and then I started loading him with a real meal: homemade chicken on the grill, salad, and rice. He started to calm. His look of relief was apparent. His eyes brightened. He said, “thank you, Mom, you know what I mean; thank you in many ways.” He got on with his homework, finished it with ease, and we both said, “this is it, no more experiments.” Only real food for him.

We had a similar reaction just a few weeks earlier, but that time, it was because of a protein low. Again, my son became increasingly irrational over what seemed to be a very small issue. We were driving out of state so I could not bring him home. I stopped the car and called my husband in somewhat of a panic. He reminded me that our son had been going non stop with summer vacation trips and visitors at home and that we had not monitored his diet. Sure enough, he concluded that our son had not had sufficient protein in his diet for several days. We stopped in a real restaurant (no fast food for this family), got him a burger with a salad, and as he was eating, the panic started to fade. His body was no longer deprived. He looked at me and said “Mom, can we just forget this happened.”

For the rest of the trip, he was well fed and a charm.

It is easy in this world of fast food and boxed meals to forgot that our kids need real nourishment, not just convenience. Next time your kid acts up, do a little detective work, you just might find the answer on your dinner plate.

For a good source on the connection between diet and behavior, check out the Feingold Association website

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Spelt, An Ancient Grain. A Panacea for Better Health?

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Could spelt, an ancient grain, be a panacea for what ails the American diet?

Perhaps not a panacea, but it surely can help. With 24 million Americans with diabetes, and approximately 230 million worldwide, perhaps, this growing disease is a result of our modern diets rather than some unknown phenomenon. As more of our food supply becomes genetically engineered, processed, and bereft of natural nutritional value (not fortified), perhaps it’s the time to rediscover ancient foods that have nourished civilizations for thousands of years. Spelt is one of those incredible ancient foods, which is known for his high fiber content, 8 essential amino acids, and “is an excellent source of vitamin B2, a very good source of manganese, and a good source of niacin, thiamin, and copper.” World’s Healthiest Foods website. According to World’s Healthiest Food’s article “this particular combination of nutrients provided by spelt may make it a particularly helpful food for persons with migraine headache, atherosclerosis, or diabetes.”

Spelt products are generally found in health food stores, but one small Maine Company, Spelt Right Baking, has entered into mainstream markets. Spelt Right frozen spelt bagels are available at Hannaford Supermarkets throughout the Northeast. Hannaford also sells Vita Spelt in bulk, the spelt flour produced by Purity Foods, Inc. of Okemo, Michigan. Spelt Right products are also available at Whole Foods throughout the Northeast. Because of a demand for healthier breakfast options, Spelt Right bagels have even made their way into Portland, Maine local eateries, such as Becky’s Diner, North Star Café, Hot SuppA, the Pepper Club/Good Egg, Bintliff’s Café, Aurora Provisions, Mousse Café, and Artemisia.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

What Your Kids Eat Does Make A Difference

You would think that I know this by now...that what you feed your kids can have a huge impact on their mental and behavioral health (as well as yours). I spent years studying this; we experienced this in our own home; we fought schools over this; I even changed my career path from being a lawyer to an entrepreneur making wholesome all natural spelt (ancient grain) breads, bagels, and pizza dough as a result of this. See detailing our story. Yet, something about certain holidays -Christmas, Halloween, Easter - I get lulled into a stupor thinking that perhaps "just a little bit" of the commercial crap (artificially flavored, colored, and preserved candies) won't make an impact. But, inevitably they do. And, the crash is hard. For more information on how additives can impact you and your kids, see

Our entire family's life changed when we finally realized that our young son's diet was directly impacting his health and behavior. We have told our story many times, but are telling it again because we believe that this is such a huge issue for families.

From 2-8, our son had many health (many digestive issues) and behavioral problems, and received numerous provisional diagnoses. I was very skeptical of the diagnoses, because he did not fit the diagnostic criteria all of the time. Sometimes, he was fine; others not - either distant, miserable, off-the-wall, hyper, upset. I wanted to know what was triggering him. It all seems to obvious to me now, but it wasn't at the time.

He is very sensitive to one food in particular (common wheat - but not all gluten based products), and definitely cannot tolerate certain additives in foods: the preservatives: BHT, BHA, and sodium benzoate; artificial reds and yellows; high fructose corn syrup. Our response was to remove wheat (and substitute with spelt) and remove ALL artificial food additives. There are just too many artificial additives out there, so to be safe, we removed them all.

The results have been profound. Our son no longer experiences the health and behavioral problems he did as a younger child and he is not on any medications.

There are plenty of studies out there demonstrating the connection between diet and behavior and I will post them as I find them. One such study was published in the Lancet (the British equivalent of the American Medical Association journal) in September 2007. Here is a link.

Please check out our website for more details on our story.