Monday, June 20, 2016

Getting Real...

It has taken me a couple months to finish this post. I want to inform without sounding like I think I have all the answers. I have put off posting this out of fear. I was worried about what my readers would think if I got too real. So please just know that I'm writing this particular post for one reason. To share my experience. I've had lots of different mamas ask me tons of different questions, so I'm going to try to answer a lot of them in this one blog post.  I'm not writing this to say that my ways are better than yours or that you should do what I'm doing.  I am not claiming that my way is the only way or that I know more than anyone else. I truly hope no one sees this post in that way. I'm writing to answer questions and to share. The way I eat and the way I feed my son works for us. I look at food as medicine, but I also really enjoy eating. So does Rio. I'm not an expert in the field of nutrition. I have no formal background or education on the topic. I'm simply telling you about how I feed myself and my baby.  I do think that as a society, in general, we eat poorly. I want others to know that eating healthy can be really easy. And super beneficial to your health, attitude, and well being. At least it has been for me and Rio.
Follow Rio and I on Snapchat @preggerspantry for more recipe ideas. 

Rio is 21 months old. He hasn't been sick. No ear infections, no coughs, no antibiotics.  He has never had any skin irritations or diaper rash. He takes a 1.5 hour nap everyday and sleeps 11-12 hours at night. He's been on over 10 flights and has traveled out of the country. He goes to at least 3 classes or playdates a week where he is around lots of other babies and toddlers. We play at the park and library often and I rarely wipe down the grocery cart or wash his hands after he's played outside or with other kids. I don't give him the flu shot. He is on an alternative vaccination schedule, but has received most of his immunizations. I also haven't been sick since in years (since before my pregnancy with Rio). I taught elementary school for years (hello, germs!) and I didn't receive any vaccinations during pregnancy.  I had gave birth to Rio vaginally and naturally (without medication). I feel lucky and grateful everyday for our health. However, I believe that the foods I feed myself and Rio, along with extended breastfeeding, have made a huge impact on our immune systems and overall wellness. 

I've heard so many parents say that their kids won't eat healthy foods or vegetables. Why is this is such a prominent issue? I have a few ideas. (Again, these are merely my opinions, please don't be mad at me if you disagree.) It's pretty safe to say that we as a society, in general, don't eat enough healthy foods. People go days and weeks without eating vegetables or "real" food. By real food, I mean just that. Unprocessed foods, not from a box or fast food restaurant. Unhealthy food is cheap and accessible. It's everywhere. Kids are given so many choices in and out of their homes. It must be extremely difficult to get them to eat healthy once they've gone to the darkside (haha, ok I know that's dramatic, but you get my point.)  I remember in college when I lived on bagels, pizza and beer. I was lethargic, heavier than I've ever been and my skin was horrible. It's no coincidence. All of those foods are filled with sugar. Sugar is the culprit-it's addictive and it's everywhere-even hiding  in tons of "healthy" foods in our grocery stores. Just like any other addictive substance, sugar feeds a part of the brain that makes you want more. If kids are given sugar, it will take time for their tastebuds to develop a taste for healthy foods. Kids will eat what you eat as a family and what you train them to's never too late to make a change. I also read somewhere that it can take up to 30 times eating something to develop a taste for it. This is especially true with healthy foods that a person is not used to eating.  When you get the hang of eating healthy, it's pretty easy.  Rio sees that I eat the same foods he is eating-it's so important to model good habits!! Almond butter and fruit begin to taste like candy if you don't eat processed sugar for awhile (I'm serious!). And the processed stuff really starts to taste like garbage and makes you not feel well if your body isn't used to it. Before you know it, you don't crave that stuff anymore. You start to crave real food.  I also think (again, my opinion) that babies are given processed foods at too young an age. Why do doctors tell us to start with cereal? Why is cow's milk recommended immediately after breastfeeding? Why do we think it's ok to introduce them to sugar laden cake at 12 months when most babies have never even touched sugar up to that point?  I don't know the answers to these questions, but my mind is blown that these things are the norm. None of these cultural norms felt right to me, so I didn't give Rio cereal, won't give him cow's milk, and didn't give him a traditional cake on his first birthday. I did make him an amazing smash cake with bananas, blueberries, oat flour, and coconut milk that he LOVED! You can find the recipe here
Rio's diet mainly consists of fresh vegetables, fruit, beans, and healthy fats like avocado, eggs and nuts. He eats salmon if it's wild caught. He also eats ghee and grass fed butter sometimes, but no other animal products or dairy. Rio eats a mostly gluten free diet, with the exception of healthy whole  grain bread for avocado toast. I started giving him this bread occasionally, but not until recently because I've read that babies bellies can't really digest grains really well until they are older. 

My mom, my happy boy Rio, my dog Mayzie and me. 
If babies are given vegetables from the beginning, on a daily basis, included in every meal,  isn't that what they will develop a taste for? I don't know for sure, but in my case the answer to that question is YES. The human body is resilient and amazing and will adapt to what it is fed. It can also adapt to the sugar/high fat/unhealthy foods that make us sick. Let's not do that to our sweet, perfect babies. I don't want my baby to be overweight and feel sick and have pain.  I don't want to be that way either and that is why I have chosen to eat the way I do; a diet high in vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and proteins. I learned years ago that when I refrain from eating certain foods (dairy, sugar, gluten) I feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. I have more energy. Do I have cheat days? No, because I don't have to. Do I have cheat moments? I guess you could call it that, but I don't look at it as cheating because I don't feel badly about it. I make good choices even when it's not the best type of food. For example, I eat pizza occasionally (I love veggie pizza!) and I eat chocolate on the daily (dark chocolate only-milk chocolate doesn't taste good to me). I drink wine sometimes (red is good for the heart!).  It used to be harder to eat healthy all the time, but my body has become accustomed to healthy foods and it has stopped craving certain things. I eat dessert if my body craves it. But things like processed gummy candies or Oreo cookies? Never. I used to love Oreos as a kid and I had one a couple years ago and it just tasted so fake and gross to me. I couldn't even finish it. Rio is 21 months and hasn't had a cheat day either. Or a cheat moment. He enjoys snacking on macadamia nuts, raw bell peppers cucumbers, and fresh fruit. No need for sugar or processed food. He drinks a green smoothie every day with homemade almond milk and carrot juice. He's taller than most babies his age. He is in only in the 30th percentile for weight compared to all other babies his age,  but I think that's because a lot of toddlers are overweight because of the foods they eat.  Rio is progressing at or above babies his age in motor, social and language development. He enjoys eating and I've never had to bribe him to eat healthy foods. He loves them. They're all he knows. I know Rio won't always eat this clean. I know someday I won't be able to control what he eats, so I'm trying to develop healthy habits and tastes while I can. 
My little family.

So what's the trick to getting kids to eat healthy? There isn't one. I think it's just about exposing them to the right things from the beginning. I exclusively breastfed for 7 months. Around 7 months I introduced Rio to mashed avocado, then sweet potato. I started a modified version of baby led weaning and gave him chunks of steamed broccoli, squash, carrots, and beets to gnaw on. Whatever veggies we were eating, Rio tried. For the first two months, he only ate avocado and vegetables. At that point, with the veggies I began to give him fruit, coconut, and proteins like beans, lentils and salmon. Around 10 months he started eating nut milks, nut butters, and eggs and healthy fats like coconut, avocado, grapeseed, and olive oil. At 11-12 months we moved to grains like gluten free oats and quinoa, and basmati rice and seeds like hemp, flax and chia seeds.  Rio loves food and is never afraid to try what is put in front of him. He likes things I hated as a kid; lima beans, asparagus, onions, etc. I try to share recipes that aren't overwhelming  and have minimal ingredients. Clean, simple and healthy but also tasty.

A few tips to make eating healthy easier:

*Make green smoothies. This is such an easy way to add leafy greens to your diet and they are delicious! I am going to a whole post about green smoothies soon! In the meantime check my Instagram page for some fun recipes.
* I make my own nut milk and nut butter weekly. It's easy to make and healthier than buying. There are some recipes on Instagram for these as well.
*Meal plan. I always go to the grocery store on Sundays and have a rough plan for what I'm making for that week. I truly feel that having a plan makes everything so much easier. 
*Keep it simple. Make the majority of what you eat fresh vegetables and fruits, healthy proteins and fats, and healthy grains. Eat real food as close to it's natural form as possible. 

I would love your feedback on this post. Is this helpful? Unrealistic? Does sharing this help or give you ideas? What did you do similarly or differently with your babies?

PS-Rio is going to be a big brother! Baby #2 due December 2016!