While some people raced out to buy vitamin c, zinc, and elderberry syrup when they heard that Covid19 had come to town, I started thinking about where we could find some of these nutrients in our food. Most people recognize vitamin C as being supportive of their immune system, and it's true. However, according to Chris Masterjohn MD, using high dose vitamin C supplements to ward off Covid19 may not be your best plan of action. Instead, like me, he recommends focusing on getting it through your food. Some of the most vitamin C rich foods around are herbs and spices. Did you think it was just oranges? The combination of turmeric, cilantro, and peppers in this sauce make it a vitamin C power house. Serve it up with some sweet potatoes or cauliflower rice and you've added a whole other level of vitamin C to your immune boosting dinner. Just incase you needed more reasons to add extra cilantro (coriander) to your diet, studies show that it may have anti-cancer properties as may aid in reducing migraine headaches.
I've adapted a Green Curry recipe from The Paleo Cookbook and made it crockpot friendly. Fredrik enjoyed watching me chop the onion, cilantro, and peppers and even helped dump the spices into the blender. This nutrient dense meal is easy peasy and delicious.
1 purple onion roughly chopped
1-3 jalapeños stemmed and seeded (more or less depending on your preferred spice level)
2 cups cilantro ( used the entire 2.5oz bag from Trader Joes, stems and leaves)
1/2 Tbs Turmeric
1/8tsp ground clove
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
1 can coconut milk or 2 cups sour cream/yogurt/kefir
Place 2.5-3 pounds of cubed chicken breasts or thighs in a crockpot. Pour sauce over the chicken and cook on low 6-8 hours or on high 4 hours. Serve over rice or with Naan and top with plain yogurt.
Keep it keto: serve over cauliflower rice or miracle rice
Pescatarian: Heat the sauce on the stove for 20-30 minutes to cook the onion. Then add shrimp or cubes of fish such as Mahi Mahi or Cod and gently simmer until cooked through about 5-10 minutes.
Make it vegetarian/vegan: Replace the chicken with 1-2 cubed potatoes, a can of chickpeas, and/or some fresh cauliflower. Paneer would also work, but similar to using fish I wouldn't cook it all day in a crock pot.
No Chicken left in the store: Replace with beef stew meat or cubed pork roast.
I used to feel so smug...my baby would eat anything I fed him. Loved his beet puree, would gobble up liver pate, and even let me add turmeric to his yogurt. His favorite food was bread and butter pickles. I thought the whole baby led weaning thing was going great! And then a switch flipped. Around Mother's day he started teething, the extreme drooling, up several times a night, DON'T put me down kind of teething. The only thing he would eat for several days were freeze dried strawberries and puffs. Around this time he also began refusing to let me feed him (so no more yogurt or purees). Thankfully he continues to let day care feed him, and he eats everything they offer. This is very common and I've heard it from several other parents. Sometimes peer pressure is a good thing. Overtime he has started eating more foods again, but still prefers anything dry and crunchy over wet/mushy.
I recently listened to Dishing Up Nutrition, a radio show I used to be a part of since they were interviewing Jill Castle an RD on who works primarily with kids and teens. I've since started listening to her podcast regularly and really enjoy MOST of what she says.
I refuse to label Fredrik as a picky eater, he's only just over a year old and food jags and selective eating are typical. We continue to offer him new foods without pressure, and most of the time meat and anything soft/squishy ends up on the floor. Yes this is frustrating; I hate wasted food. However, it's much less stressful than trying to force him to eat something. To keep me from falling into the trap of feeding him the same things all the time, I keep a list on the of the foods he typically will eat, and make sure to serve at least one with every meal/snack. I actually emailed and asked Jill when picky/selective eating truly becomes a concern. She calmed my fears when she replied that between ages 4-6 kids should be eating a wide variety of foods. I heard another RD mention that by about age 2, most kids should be eating 30 different foods from each food group (fruit, vegetable, grains, proteins). Now, I know many adults that don't even eat 30 different fruits or vegetables, so I think this is a bit of a stretch. There are eating milestones that babies and toddlers should be meeting such as simply being able to chew both soft and crunchy foods. For more info on that check out this website.
For now there are more packaged/processed foods in my pantry than I would like; but Fredrik is growing and I know someday he will eat chicken and cauliflower and fresh fruit at home, not just at day care.
For years we've been told that eating fatty fish or taking an Omega 3 fish oil supplement is good for us. It may help reduce cancer risk, heart disease, and memory loss. But how does this translate to kids? Here's little info/research on the use of Omega3 supplementation in kids.
Supports learning ability and behavior in kids.
May reduce ADHD behavior.
Reduces aggressive and antisocial behavior.
Fish oil or Omega 3 supplements come with 2 types of fat in them, EPA and DHA. Both have anti-inflammatory benefits; and this is why I recommend taking them together instead of just focusing on DHA for brain health. I've been giving Fredrik a supplement for several months now just to act as an "insurance policy." The recommended amount of DHA/day for kids 1-3 years old is 70mg. I take 1-2 of the Orthomolecular Springboard Omegas and pierce them with the tip of a knife and squeeze the oil into one of his bottles for an extra 90mg DHA and 50mg EPA. He hasn't been too keen on eating salmon, sardines, or oysters yet so I figure this, along with the DHA he gets from breast milk and formula, is hopefully setting his brain up for success. (Before he becomes a teen, has his own money, and rebels by eating fast food...)
I really like Orthomolecular products, but if you cannot find a medical professional near you who sells them, try Nordic Naturals instead. They are a well known brand sold in most health food stores, Whole Foods, and other retailers. Just like Orthomolecular their products supply fatty acids in the triglyceride form not the esther form which is much less absorbable. Ryan and I taste tested their kids chewable capsules compared to Orthomolecular and decided the Nordic Naturals was much tastier. Nordic Naturals also carries a gummy supplement that would work too. Good quality fish oil is more expensive; and it's worth it. Cheap fish oil, is often in the ester form and not well absorbed by the body. Also, that big-box store size container of fish oil is probably rancid leaving the fish oil more inflammatory than anti-inflammatory. Dr. Chris Kressor did a deep dive into fish consumption and fish oil (omega 3 supplementation). Since I try to keep my posts short, I'm defering to his page for more in depth information on these topics. Need even more research and digestible information? Head over to Gene Food's fish oil article.
Other food sources of pre-formed omega 3 fats include: egg yolks (1=50mg DHA), fatty fish like sardines, anchovies, trout, salmon, and herring, whole fat dairy, algae, and krill oil.
Sorry/not sorry....the ALA found in flax, chia, and walnuts is not readily converted into EPA/DHA in most people.
How many clients do you think have asked me to write them a meal plan? Not as many as you might think. Instead I teach them how to write their own weekly meal plan that fits their health goals and preferences. Some people want lots of variety and thrive on coming up with new recipes from cookbooks and pinterest. Other people just want to eat similar foods most days and do the bare minimum when it comes to cooking. Some families do well with theme nights for suppers, this is especially helpful for families with young kids or kids on the Autism Spectrum since it creates structure. It also helps take the thinking out of planning and grocery shopping. Maybe the "theme" is a type of meat or a type of cooking style. This allows for enough flexibility that taco night can be made with chicken, beef, or shrimp! Or chicken night could mean that it's grilled but it might also mean that it is roasted. Many families like to leave weekends open ended and use them as a time to eat up leftovers, eat out, or make a slightly more time intensive meal.
Monday - Burgers / Grill
Thursday- Stir Fry
Saturday - Leftovers
Meal planning helps us make a complete grocery list sometimes prevents me from buying things we don't need, or making more than one extra trip to the store during the week. Ultimately, it saves timed money. Despite buying a lot of the same things, we actually end up with a wide range of flavors thanks to different seasonings and dressings/sauces.
Since having Fredrik, our meal planning has changed several times over. Now that the weather is nice, we are trying to grill more, but also have to take into account the fact that he wants to eat too. While I'm all for serving him the same things we eat, not every food is appropriate for this.
ex: shoshito peppers, cabbage slaw, broccoli salad. Currently Fredrik has decided to boycott most meat and fish and eggs, must be a texture thing... I'm having get a bit creative with what I serve him. Anything mushy or crunch seems to be ok. Pickles, bananas, muffins, and teething crackers are favorites.
To stream line Ryan and I's lunches we have adopted the Mark Sisson 'Big Ass Salad'. I prep a giant bowl of salad stuff on Sunday, cook a couple packages of chicken thighs in the instant pot or now on the grill, and then divvy it all out for lunches Monday to Wednesday. I'm having a lot of fun creating homemade dressings or trying different Primal Kitchen flavors. Come Thursday we switch it up. Ryan usually ends up with a can of chicken mixed into a Trader Joes Indian Fare pouch and Fredrik and I eat various leftovers or make salmon/sardine/tuna salad. I know that Monday and Wednesdays need to be leftover nights since Ryan and I both work those days and get home too late to cook. A recent week of planning looked like this:
Weekly Salad - Asian (sesame dressing, bok choy, cilantro, sunflower seeds)
Sunday - bun-less burgers + 1000 island slaw (sweet potato for F)
Tuesday - sloppy joe meat (in freezer) + cauliflower rice (cauliflower patties for F)
Wednesday - Leftovers
Thursday - turkey sausage skillet meal
Friday - pork loin + broccoli salad (steam broccoli for F)
Hope this helps you dear reader, now go forth and meal plan! Then grocery shop...
How does your family do meal planning? What works best for you?
For supper the other night Ryan grilled up some yummy grass fed beef burgers. I thought it might be fun to turn them into "big macs" with 1000 island dressing aka 'special sauce'. Instead the dressing ended up going on a bag of T.J. cruciferous crunch salad mix along with some sliced cherry tomatoes. IT WAS FANTASTIC! The dressing is adapted from Primal Cravings Cookbook. If you don't feel like making your own check out these dressing brands that don't use canola or soybean oil.
Why no canola oil? A recent study showed that canola oil increases our risk for Alzheimer's dementia, and we have known for a while now that soybean one of the common 'vegetable oils' is really not good for any cell in our body. Stick with monounsaturated oils like olive oil or avocado oil. Small amounts of polyunsaturated oils such as unrefined sunflower oil or unrefined safflower oil are fine too. Also, I'm not a zealot, so if all you can find is mayo made with unrefined canola oil....just buy it. It's certainly a better choice than using a brand made with soybean oil.
Now, onto the salad!
1/3 cup Mayonnaise or sour cream if you are like my sister and hate mayo.
2 tsp horseradish
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs Ketchup
1/4-1/2 cup diced dill pickles or pickle relish
Salt/pepper to taste
1 bag cruciferous crunch salad or about 10oz of shredded cabbage/kale
1. Combine all ingredients except salad mix in a small bowl.
2. Toss dressing with salad mix/shredded cabbage.
3. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate.
Makes a great side dish, and then top with leftover meat/fish/shrimp....for lunch leftovers the next day
Ryan's mom likes to say that Fredrik is going to be a genius. That may or may not come true, but we do know that eating certain foods does appear to confer specific benefits to the brain. Max Lugavere, health & science journalist, wrote a book all about it, and aptly titled it "Genius Foods." I'm not going to do a lengthy review of the book, I'm just going to say that I really enjoyed it! Tons of well researched information, and presented in a way anyone can understand. Essentially it comes down to reducing inflammation, and providing the body with adequate vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. So what are the top brain foods according to Max; and how can you and your family eat more of these foods?
Check out some of these recipes for inspiration:
Cruciferous Vegetables (Broccoli)- Steamed with butter for infants, broccoli salad for adults (use Swerve instead of sugar in the dressing).
Dark Leafy Greens - Ryan and I's current favorite way to eat these are in salads. A bag of cruciferous crunch salad mix from Trader Joe's added to chopped romaine and spinach makes it easy to get in a nice combination of greens. If you prefer your greens cooked, a quick sauté is nice, but after living in Georgia, southern collard greens is a real treat for us.
Avocado - While I happily eat avocados with just a dash of salt, Fredrik will not. He actually cries when I try to feed it to him plain. However, mashing it with frozen/thawed raspberries is favorite breakfast. Making chocolate avocado pudding will get you bonus points with your family.
Fatty Fish - Fredrik likes smoked salmon and canned oysters. For budget conscious families, make a salmon salad using wild caught canned salmon. We always buy the big can from Trader Joe's.
Nuts (almonds) - Try this yummy yummy almond banana coconut muffin.
Eggs - scrambled/egg bake/frittata/quiche/soufflé are a favorites around here.
Berries (blueberries) - Just eat them up plain, or top with whipped cream. Fredrik has recently discovered that freeze dried strawberries are a great snack. They are also part of this Strawberry Fluff.
Grass Fed Beef - Fredrik likes ground beef with a little marinara sauce, mild salsa, or creamy stroganoff sauce on it. Meatloaf is also easy for him eat. But a slow cooked roast, shredded or cut into chunks also works well as a meal all three of us enjoy.
Dark Chocolate (80%) - Make a chia pudding with cocoa powder and cocoa nibs. Personally I just grab a couple squares of the Montezuma dark 100% chocolate, and top it with whatever nut butter I have in the fridge. It's a brain boosting Reese's.
Olive Oil - After listening to Max and and his guest Nicholas in this podcast, I definitely believe in buying a better quality olive oil now. As Nicholas says, just POUR the oil onto your food. Or make a sauce like pesto or chimichurri to eat with your grass fed bee.
Coffee - Drink it black, or with cream, with collagen, or bulletproof with coconut and MCT oil. Just please please please find a replacement for fake creamers that are made with processed oils and high fructose syrup.
Yummy Yummy gluten and dairy free, no sugar added muffins! Seriously...these taste good. Fredrik is a fan of grabbing big chunks and shoving them into his mouth. Ryan likes to toast and top his with peanut butter, but that's how eats all flavors of muffins. I like mine with a big smear of butter on top.
1.5 cups almond flour or almond meal
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)
1 cup mashed banana (2 large) or mashed sweet potato
2 Tbs room temp butter or olive/avocado oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut. (or use raisins, chocolate chips, chopped pecans...)
1. Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Prep muffin pan with either paper or silicone liners. I still give my silicone liners a little spritz of oil, just to prevent ANY sticking. It's probably overkill.
2. Combine the almond flour, flax seed meal, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a medium bowl.
3. In a blender, or a large bowl beat together eggs, milk, butter, and vanilla.
4. Stir/blend the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Then fold in the coconut.
5. Divide between the 12 muffin cups. Bake 20-30 minutes, until browned. (Mine needed about 23 minutes) Allow to cool completely before storing in a air tight container on your counter for a few days, or several months in a freezer.
1 muffin: 185 kcal, 15g fat, 9g carb, 3g fiber, 5g protein
I'm fascinated with blood sugar. Partly because I worked in a diabetes clinic for a couple years. As I have learned more about diet and nutrition my passion for helping people regulate their blood sugar has only grown stronger. Personally I also know that it's very important for me to keep my blood sugar steady all day long so I experience less anxiety (or racing thoughts), better moods, good energy, and less hunger. Recently I've started to really dial things in and have started following a ketogenic diet. While I don't recommend everyone do this, I do believe that many people would benefit from it some of the time. Wondering if you would benefit from a low(er) carb or ketogenic diet? If you start checking yes to any of these signs/symptoms the answer is most likely yes: PCOS, endometriosis, PMS, infertility, overweight, anxiety, ADHD, depression, bi-polar, cataracts, macular degeneration, acne, insomnia, constant hunger and/or cravings, fatigue, brain fog, chronic infections or always sick, high LDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, unexplained swelling or edema, heartburn/acid reflux, family or personal history of: Alzheimers, Parkinson's, Lou Gehrigs(ALS), M.S., arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes/pre-diabetes.
Hmmmm....so that's just about everyone.
Why are so many disease states related to blood sugar?
When we eat carbs/sugar our blood sugar goes up, and this triggers an insulin release by our pancreases. This is normal, when it happens 1-3x day, not all day, every day. Unfortunately most people continue to subscribe to the 4-6 small meals/day mentality or if they have not adopted a healthier eating style continue to drink sodas and eat candy (like gummi worms or fruit snacks) and other snack foods (chips, pretzels, trail mix) all day. This causes their body to continually have elevated blood sugars and insulin which over time is extremely inflammatory to EVERY cell in your body.
What do I mean by inflammation?
Think about a sprained ankle, the swelling and bruising are visible signs of inflammation, the pain is inflammation the can be felt. Inflammation also occurs in our blood vessels and until we experience chest pain, we don't feel it. Inflammation in the brain shows up as ADHD, anxiety, migraines, and down the road dementia. Inflammation of the skin may not always be felt, but it can be seen in the form of acne and rosacea or psoriasis and eczema. By lowering carbohydrate intake and allowing time between meals for blood sugar to actually come back down, people lower their inflammation, and reduce/eliminate their symptoms.
How many grams of carb do I need?
Most people probably only need 30-50g of carbohydrate per day.
Very active individuals and women who are breastfeeding may need 50-100g.
Very Very Very active people may need 100-200g.
And some people may eat only 30g most days, but increase and eat 100g 1-2x week or a couple times per month. Nutrition is highly individualized; what works for me, may not work for you.
Find out what your personal carb tolerance is by ordering yourself a glucometer and checking your blood sugar. If 1 hour after you eat, your blood sugar is >130 mg/dl, whatever you ate was too much carbohydrate/sugar for you. Or it was too much carb without enough protein and fat to help prevent a big sugar surge. If 2 hours after you eat, your blood sugar is still >100 mg/dl, whatever you ate was again too much carbohydrate/sugar. IE: Don't eat this food on the regular. I realize these numbers are different from what the ADA recommends, but their ranges are not tight enough to prevent/reverse blood sugar related inflammation and disease. Robb Wolf does a great job of explaining this in his book Wired To Eat as well as in his videos describing the 7 day carb tolerance test.
Now, go forth, eat real foods, decrease your blood sugar, and reduce your inflammation.
If you read my post on Foods 4 Focus, you know that iron and zinc are two important minerals for brain health, and many people/kids are deficient in them. But how to get them? Add anchovies! And I don't mean to your pizza. These briny, fatty, little fish are full of nutrients.
"A portion of five anchovy fillets (canned in oil and drained; about 20g) has 42 calories, 5.8g protein, 1.9g of fat, and no carbohydrates. Anchovies are an excellent source of calcium, iron, and zinc."
If you are scared of adding these tiny fish to your diet, but enjoy eating tuna, or salmon, or other canned fish try mashing them into a tuna salad; you'll never know they are there. Personally, I buy skipjack tuna since it is lower in mercury than albacore, or yellow fin. This 'recipe' could also be done with chicken or egg salad if you are not a fan of fish. The anchovies just add a little salty flavor.
1, 5oz can tuna, drained
1, 2oz can anchovies, drained
1 Tbs Mustard
1 Tbs lemon/lime juice or apple cider vinegar
1tsp dried dill
1/4 cup diced celery
2 small dill pickles diced
Ground Black pepper
1. Combine and mash all ingredients together in a medium bowl.
2. Serve on a bed of lettuce, wrap, sandwich, crackers, cucumber slices, whatever works for you and your family. Use fresh lemon/lime wedges or vinegar for extra moisture on your salad.
Want another delicious recipe using anchovies, try my crockpot Chicken Puttanesca.
For more info on anchovies, the difference between oil packed, and salt cured, check out Precision Nutrition's post.
I recently gave a short presentation with two of my co-workers discussing how food affect focus, mood, and cognition. There were some technical difficulties so parts of it cut in and out, but I've left you with the main bullet points and links to research from my portion.
1. Artificial foods = lower IQ. More specifically artificial colorings and preservatives. Those toaster strudels and carnation instant breakfast drinks I loved as a teen; complete neurotoxins. Everything they served in the ala-cart line in my high school cafeteria, complete junk and brain poison. No wonder so many kids are being diagnosed with ADHD and other learning disabilities, our brains are fried from all the chemicals we feed them starting at breakfast.
2. You need adequate protein to make neurotransmitters for your brain. When we don’t eat enough protein, our DNA doesn’t have enough amino acids to sufficiently carry out this process. "If our cells are going to talk to one another, they need protein. If you don’t eat adequate protein at every meal, you can end up being anxious, depressed, hungry, and tired."
-Dr David Herber.
I would add irritable, irrational, unfocussed, and scatter to that list. The best, most absorbable, and bioavailable source of protein, and therefore amino acids is....meat, dairy, and eggs.
Sorry vegans, this is just how biology works.
"Meat is the single best source of protein. Fulfilling your protein requirements (60 – 90 grams or more for adults) with non-meat foods requires enormous planning and effort, more than most people can manage. You have to eat three cups of beans with 100 grams of carbs to equal the same amount of protein in 6 ounces of animal protein (that contain zero carbs).
Animal protein is our only source of vitamin B12, which is essential for life itself. It contains enzymes that we need to access nutrients, essential amino acids, and cancer-fighting antioxidants like vitamin A, which cannot be obtained directly from vegetables. Vegans often become deficient in B12, iron, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin D and more. Yes, plant foods contain many of these nutrients, but they are more bioavailable in meat."
-Dr. Mark Hyman, What the Heck Should I Eat
But you know who else also becomes deficient in these nutrients? Most kids. They start their day with bagels, toast, donuts, or nothing; and when they eat the school lunch most of what they get is CARBS! with very little protein. Dinner often doesn't look that great these days either. As families race from one activity to the next, I see a lot of fast food, pasta, and PB&J sandwiches on the menu.
3. Lack of Zinc, Iron, B12 can all lead to ADHD symptoms
B12 – Cobalamin, aka Vitamin B12 is a helper vitamin. It helps B9 produce red blood cells, and it helps iron produce hemoglobin for transporting oxygen in the blood.
If you are a Vegan, and even some vegetarians, and many picky kids who eat very little meat need to supplement. Typical doses are: 10 micrograms a day or 2000+ micrograms per week.
Zinc - Studies show it may help with hyperactivity and impulsiveness. But not as effective for inattentiveness. I recommend 20mg/Day for kids and up to 50+mg for adults as supplements.
Iron - Iron is also necessary for making dopamine. One small study1 showed ferritin levels (a measure of iron stores) to be low in 84 percent of children with ADHD compared to 18 percent of the control group. Low iron levels correlate with cognitive deficits and severe ADHD.
However, do not supplement unless you/your child has been diagnosed with a deficiency.
Want to get these nutrients from food? Then grab yourself some OYSTERS and LIVER! Or maybe just some beef and salmon. I love adding smoked oysters to a salad or eating them on a plantain chip/cracker. Braunschweiger is seriously one of my favorite foods. My grandma used to make us sandwiches on wonder bread with miracle whip and mustard. Not what I would recommend, but she didn't know what we know now. These days I simply slice and eat, top it with Hain Safflower Mayo, or even fry it in a little olive oil and eat for breakfast with eggs and greens.
4. Fish oil
Significant evidence across multiple studies show that...
How much to supplement with?
For younger kids up to about age 8, 1,000-1,500 milligrams of EPA and DHA.
(If a product has 750 mg. of EPA and 500 mg of DHA, the total would be 1,250 mg.)
For older children, 2,000-2,500 milligrams.
However, I'm in the camp that when it comes to fish oil, more is often better. You'll want to talk with your health care professional to help you decide on the right dose.
I'm a dietitian with a passion for good nutrition, bold flavors, playing in the dirt, and being with my family.