Om Girl’s Pho (vegan, gluten-free)

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I love easy food, but you know what I love even more? Soup!  This Asian inspired Vegan soup is a take off of Vietnamese Pho.  (pronounced phugh, as I was rudely corrected once by the man taking my order.   I’ve been told by my husband a number of times that my pronunciation of anything but English is laughable, and he has since stopped trying to teach me his native tongue.)

The great part about this dish is the customization of it.  You put some cilantro, some lime wedges, some raw onion, maybe some basil and mung bean sprouts, in dish in the center of the table, and suddenly each person’s soup is different.

The broth took two tries, but I think I really hit the nail on the head the second time.  I had bought vegan chicken buillion and tried to make a soup base out of it.  Perhaps it has its uses, but I wasn’t a fan of the flavor and it was NOT at all what I was going for in this dish.  The second try though, if I were to grade myself, A+.

Om Girl’s Version of Pho

  • 1 package rice stick noodles (I used only half, and had WAY more then I could ever eat in one sitting)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable broth
  • 5 crimini mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 1/2 onion, sliced thin and divided
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1 bunch baby bok choy (optional, I used it in the first batch, and decided it wasn’t fitting, but hey, its your soup!)

Boil a pot of water, enough to submerge the noodles.  When it comes to a boil, turn off the heat, cover the noodles with the hot water and let them soften up, about 8 minutes.  In  a separate pan, healthy saute (see how to here)  the rest of the ingredients, covered, 2 minutes.  After 8 minutes, drain the noodles and run them under cold water so they don’t get mushy.

Base:

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp liquid amino acids (or substitute tamari)
  • 1 tsp garlic ginger paste (or you can use 1/2 tsp garlic, 1/2 tsp ginger, ground up in a food processor)

Bring the water to a boil and turn off the heat.  Add the rest of the ingredients, and stir to combine.

This makes enough for 1 bowl of soup.   Double for two servings, triple for three…ect…

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For the side:

A handful of cilantro, chopped up

2 scallions, diced

Mildly spicy green peppers, whichever you like to add.  I personally don’t like to add it, but its usually what you would see served at a vietnamese resturant

Whole basil leaves

Raw onions, diced

mung bean spouts

lime wedges

Putting it all together:

Take the noodles and put them in a bowl, take the cooked mushrooms and onions and put those on top of the noodles, and then pour the soup base over the top.  Each person can then add to it any extra raw ingredients that have been placed out on the table, all of them, or none at all (but I have to say the basil and cilantro added in are SO good).  Enjoy!

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Raw onions are excellent for cardiovascular health, however, most of the flavanoids are found in the outer layer.  So when you peel off the paper like layer, be careful not to take off that first onion layer with it.   On top of that, consuming raw onion 5-6 times per week is a powerful cancer prevention tool.  Just like garlic (they are in the same family) cutting an onion and letting it  sit for at least 5 minutes releases health promoting benefits that you might miss out on if you don’t chew properly.  (And most people don’t chew properly)

 

 

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Nutrition Through the Ages Part 4: Menopause and preventing Osteoperosis

Menopause is a major factor for women of a certain age, but this transitional time effects men as well, and is called ‘andropause”.  It is a time of hormone decline, bone loss, and an increased need for vitamin and mineral intake.

To prevent osteoporosis from happening during this time, we must protect our bodies during out youth.  A few factors influence bone loss later in life: genetics, lifestyle, and bone density pre-menoapause.  The  better your bone health, the more bone loss you can withstand when these changes occur.

Exercise is important for many many reasons.  Weight baring exercise in our younger years  strengthens our bones for the latter.  

Calcium:

The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) reported that North American diets are deficient in calcium because concentrated dietary source of calcium are limited and the daily recommended intake (DRI) is large. Add to this the fact that absorption of calcium decreases as we age.  “The average postmenopausal woman in the United States or Canada can reasonably be assumed to consume a diet that is approximately 500-mg less
than the recommended 1,200-mg/day80.” Calcium supplementation should be considered to make up the difference between dietary intake and the DRI of 1,200-mg/day. Calcium supplements should reasonably be considered at a minimum of 500-mg/day and not more than 1,200-mg/day. There seems to be no benefit in a total calcium intake of 1,500-mg/day and the upper tolerable limit is 2,500-mg/day.  Calcium carbonate supplement should be taken with food and calcium citrate on an empty stomach. Divided doses are better absorbed. While calcium citrate seems to be absorbed easier, even calcium carbonate has shown benefit for bone health in studies.

from Pintrest

from Pintrest

Milk:

I do not like milk, and while there are numerous campaigns from the dairy industry claiming it “does a body good,” there are also far more truthful (and  less publicized) studies showing that it in fact does the  body HARM.  Calcium absorption can only occur if there is lots of vitamin D as well.  Not only that, but calcium is not the only thing one needs for strong  bones.  Vitamin K, folic acid, potassium, magnesium, boron, phosphorus, zinc and fluoride, along with sufficient protein are all vital.

“Relying on milk to protect your bones could backfire in a very nasty way by thinning them even faster. A 1997 study of results from the ongoing Harvard Nurses’ Health Study showed that the women who had the highest intake of calcium from dairy products actually also had the highest risk of a fracture from thinning bones.1 Other studies have shown that the calcium from milk and other dairy products does not have a protective effect on your bones. 2–4 And a recent study of Chinese men and women, who rarely if ever consume milk or dairy products yet have very little osteoporosis, suggests that drinking tea is a good way to maintain bone health.5 Why? Among other things, tea is a good natural source of fluoride and flavonoids, both of which improve bone density.”  (taken from: http://www.biblelife.org/milk.htm)

It is very important to understand how milk is produced.  To keep the female cow producing milk, and enough of it to keep up with supply, as soon as they have a baby they are artificially inseminated so that they are in a constant state of lactation.  Then, to make sure the milk is enough, they inject them with Bovine Growth Hormone which engorges their udders,  in turn causing infection and putting puss into the milk supply.  To cure the infections they are injected with antibiotics, which also are now in the milk!    Here is a video covering this issue:

There are many other excellent places to get your calcium, such as leafy green vegetables (kale, swiss chard, spinach, broccoli), which all contain other other  vitamins, minerals and antioxidants making the calcium they provide more readily taken in by the body.

Calcium-Rich Herbs: 

  • Alfalfa
  • cayenne
  • chamomile
  • chicory
  • chives
  • cleavers
  • dandelion
  • dill
  • kelp
  • nettle
  • parsley
  • plantain
  • red raspberry
  • rose hip Rosa canina,
  • shepherd’s purse
  • watercress Nasturtium
  • yellow dock

All these herbs are high in calcium and can be included in the diet or used as teas. If they are seeds, such as alfalfa Medicago sativa, you can sprout them.

taken from my course e-text book (property of ACHS)

taken from my course e-text book (property of ACHS)

Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that, among many other things, increases calcium absorption from the digestive tract. Vitamin D deficiency is now recognized as being widespread and may be one of the primary factors in the
decrease calcium absorption seen with age.  Vitamin D can be manufactured in the  body but requires sunlight exposure, which may increase your risk for skin cancer.  The use of sunblock to prevent sun damage to the skin will prevent almost all vitamin D production.   Food sources of vitamin D are limited, but include: Shitake and button mushrooms, pine nuts and fatty fish (mackeral, cod, sockeye tuna).  Now a day most milks are fortified with vitamin D, even nut milks and soy milk.  However, 20 minutes a day, with arms, legs and the top of your head exposed to the sun is enough to get your RDA of  vitamin D.  If you live in a cold  climate, or a place with lots of rain (aka Washington), a supplementation is highly advised.

Okay, now on to the bulk of the subject here:

Menopause

Menopause is the natural cessation of menstruation and ovulation, usually between the ages of 40-55. It is sometimes called the “change of life.”   Ideally, it should be a time for celebration, but generally, it is a time of endurance and a need for a great sense of humor about life in general.  It is usually associated with distressing symptoms such as hot flashes, sweating, nervousness, depression, irritability, insomnia, headaches, and stomach upsets.  People who have sustained a diet full of organic whole foods have claimed to have gone through menopause almost system free.  (one of these people being my holistic nutrition professor)  Some naturopaths and doctors believe that menstruation is an opportunity for the body to eliminate toxins from the system.  Once that particular method of  elimination ceases, the body’s other eliminative channels can become overloaded, and symptoms of toxicity can start to appear.

The diet should be high in foods containing vitamin E, with an emphasis on raw and sprouted seeds and organically grown vegetables and fruit.   Avoid all processed foods and excessive quantities of tea, coffee, sugar, and salt,
which only rob the body of minerals and vitamins and accelerate the aging process.

Invest in a juice extractor or a high speed blender and drink a glass of fresh vegetable juice  every day. This can be a combination: Try carrot and beets with parsley and garlic.  An elimination fast can also be helpful.

Herbs and supplements:

There has been extensive research on the role herbs can play in hormone levels in the body. It was thought that herbs could help to supply the sapogenins or starting materials for the body to convert to steroid hormones, such as estrogen.  Saponins, such as the diosgenin in wild yam, have a similar ring structure to steroid hormones. Commercial hormone manufacturers often use these saponins as the starting material for the manufacture of hormones for pharmaceuticals. However, the human body may not have the enzymes necessary to convert these saponins to hormones. Therefore, you cannot say that phytoestrogens raise estrogen levels in the body.  These plant saponins are more likely to act as hormone balancers, by binding directly to hormone receptors and causing a mild response as compared to our own hormones.   The following herbs contain saponins: Black cohosh, dong quai, elder, ginseng, lady’s slipper, licorice, passion flower, sassafras, sarsaparilla, and wild yam.

Taken over several months, the following blend is helpful for balancing hormones.

  • ½-oz goldenseal dried root
  • ½-oz partridge berry dried berry
  • 1-oz motherwort dried herb
  • ½-oz black cohosh dried herb
  • ½-pt water

Mix all four herbs together. As needed, use ½-oz of the herb mixture and prepare a decoction. Simmer the herb in the water until approximately ¼-pint remains. Cool and strain. Take 2-4-T in water three times a day, between
meals. Keep your decoction in the refrigerator for not more than 72 hours.

Herbs and the Adrenal Glands: 
Women who suffer from particularly severe menopausal symptoms may have malfunctioning adrenal glands. The adrenals take over some of the functions of the ovaries and help to lessen the symptoms of menopause.
Parsley is a specific tonic for the adrenals. Try the following  teas:

Menopause Tea #1

  • ½-oz nettle  herb
  • ½-oz cleavers
  • ½-oz parsley
  • ½-oz orange  leaves and flowers
  • ½-oz red raspberry
  • ¼-oz hops
  • ¼-oz senna  leaves

Mix the herbs together and store in a glass container in a dark cool cupboard.  As needed, use 1-t of herb blend to prepare an infusion using 1-cup of boiling water. Steep for 10-15 minutes. Prepare as needed. Do not store. You can use up to 3-cups a day between meals.

Menopause Tea #2

  • ½-oz elder flowers
  • ½-oz black cohosh
  • ½-oz motherwort
  • ½-oz partridge berry

Mix the herbs together and store in a glass container in a dark cool cupboard.  As needed, use 1-t of herb blend to prepare an infusion using 1-cup of boiling water. Steep for 10-15 minutes. Prepare as needed. Do not store. You can use up to 3-cups a day between meals.

 

We all get old, and as a woman, I too will go through the “change”.  Just like pregnancy doesn’t begin with  conception and end with birth, menopause and bone loss doesn’t just begin with hormonal  changes and end when it ends.  We need to care for our body at all stages of our lives.  We need to eat good, whole, organic foods, skip the processed crap, white sugars, flours, and additives.  We can age gracefully and happy.  Age is something that should be looked at with respect, and more so to the people that are still thriving, exercising and eating right well into their 40’s, 50’s and beyond.  

 

Mexican Inspired Kidney Bean and Jicama Salad

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This Mexican inspired salad is sure to please your taste buds.  Bursting with flavor and textures, it has some amazing health benefits as well.

taken from livestrong.com

taken from livestrong.com

Jicama, is a fibrous root plant that is very high in vitamin C.  100 grams of jicama contains only 35 calories!  It’s usually eaten  cut in matchsticks and used for dips.  It has a nice crunch, like an apple, with a mildly sweet taste.  In mexico it is simply dressed in chili powder, lime and salt.

Chili powder is anti-inflamatory, relieves sinus pressure, boost your mood, and numerous studies have said that it not only speeds up your metabolism, but it also keeps you feeling fuller longer.  Its also full of vitamins and minerals.  Chili powder is even used in some cultures as a natural pain reliever for tooth aches!

Instead of typing out what cumin does, I found this nifty poster:

 

Cumin happens to be one of my favorite flavors, its so versatile!  Mix it with cinnamon and you have a middle eastern dish, mix it with coriander and you have Indian  mix it with chili and you have southwestern, mix it with cilantro, chili and lime, and you have Mexican!  And that brings me to  my recipe:

Mexican Inspired Kidney Bean and Jicama Salad:

  • 1 garlic clove crushed (let it sit for at least 5 minutes to release the allicin enzymes)
  • 2 green onions, minced
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced small
  • 1/2 cup jicama, peeled and diced small
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup of chopped lettuce
  • 1 avocado, chopped up small
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed under cold water
  • 4 tbsp cilantro (I really like the flavor of cilantro, but its a very strong taste, adjust this to suite your tastes)
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp chili pepper
  • 1 tbsp paprika (smoked paprika would be really good here too)
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt

Take all ingredients and mix it up. Eat.   It doesn’t get any simpler then that!  Chopping it all up is the hardest part. =)

Some organic corn would be a great addition to this salad and will add an extra color to make it a real looker, but make sure its organic!  Its the only way to guarantee its not GMO corn.

 

On a side note, its come to my attention that I’ve been abbreviating tablespoon incorrectly.  I’ll go back and fix it eventually, but for the record, where ever I’ve written tbls, I meant to say TBSP.  (Thanks mom)

 

Nutrition Through The Ages Part 3: Women who are pregnant or nursing

A very pregnant me...and my husband giving me a very strange look lol

A very pregnant me…and my husband giving me a very strange look lol

Nutrition during pregnancy begins before you even conceive.  Just getting pregnant can be very hard for some people if they live in a toxic environment lacking the proper nourishment.  Personally I didn’t get pregnant until I began to exercise regularly and juice (this was before I was more into blending).  Studies have even shown that nutrition for the father as well is vitally important.  Here is an article where you can read about how cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol consumption by the father can cause birth defects just as much as the mother doing the same thing.  I want to drive home the importance of removing toxins from the home if you are having problems conceiving   Things like Windex  bleach, and air fresheners may be standing in the way of you and a baby, just as much as your diet.   Google “home toxins and miscarages”  and you will find a number of papers written on the subject.  This article here, entitled, “10 Ways Your Home is Making You infertile,” goes more into depth about things around your house that may be causing infertility.

By now, things to avoid are pretty widely understood, but I’ll go through it here anyway:

  • Scientific studies have shown that cigarette smoking has a marked effect on the size of the baby, since it can cross the placental barrier.
  • Avoid all alcohol, which can also cross the placental barrier in unknown amounts and potentially cause fetal alcohol syndrome.
  • Avoid over-the-counter drugs without checking with your prenatal care  provider. For example, aspirin, in the early months of pregnancy, can result in malformation of the central nervous system in babies. For the expectant mother it can cause prolonged gestation, anemia, hemorrhage, and a complicated delivery.
  • If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter drugs, talk with your doctor or OB/GYN immediately to ensure that they are not contraindicated with pregnancy. Also, discuss with him or her any over the counter drugs or supplements you have been taking.
  • Coffee, tea, salt, and foods that contain preservatives and artificial coloring or insecticides should also be avoided, as they can cause side effects in both the mother and the baby and place an unnecessary burden on the eliminatory organs and digestive system of the mother.
  • Some other foods that should be avoided are tuna (due to high levels of

    mercury), raw meat and fish (due to potential for contamination), and

    cheeses with mold (such as Camembert).

So what can a pregnant woman eat, or better yet, what should they eat?  Every woman who ever got pregnant knows cravings, I for one craved peanut butter. I would sneak downstairs in the middle of the night and eat it from the jar off a spoon.  What I didn’t know then, that I’ve since learned from school:

Cravings may be experienced throughout the whole pregnancy from time to time. These may be the body telling you what it needs, or may be old habits reappearing.  Do not satisfy cravings immediately. Instead, examine them. Look at what nutrients are in the craved foods and adjust the diet accordingly. Do not totally ignore your cravings. Often instincts and cravings are the body’s way of telling you what it needs. Listen to your body and intuition carefully.  Just try to substitute healthier alternatives where possible. For example, if you are craving something sweet, have some fresh pineapple instead of chocolate.

Protein:

The protein requirements during pregnancy are 60-80-gm/day.  Try to eat approximately three to four servings of complete protein daily. (Quinoa, beans and rice, lentils and peas, tofu)  Protein is important for the growth of the baby. It can help ease morning sickness. It is also needed to provide for the 20% increase in blood volume. The best protein sources are eggs, fish, meat, beans, nuts, seeds, sprouts, cheese, and milk.  When choosing fish, avoid the larger species (such as tuna, swordfish, and shark), which can contain high levels of heavy metals, including mercury. Also, avoid farmed salmon, which can contain high levels of antibiotics. Choose wild Alaskan salmon instead.

If you are vegetarian, make sure your diet is varied and includes grains, beans, and vegetables.  Two excellent books for supplying vegetarian babies with all their protein requirements is The Vegetarian Baby by Sharon Yntema, Thorsons Publishers, and Feeding Baby Naturally From Pregnancy On by Catherine J. Frompovich, DSc., ND.

**I’m editing this post to add that EVERYTHING has protein in it, and if you eat a plant based diet it is very hard to be protein deficient.   Eating a diet with a lot of vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts and grains, you will be fine.

“If your diet is varied and contains good protein sources such as soy products, beans, and grains, and you are gaining weight, you can relax and not worry about getting enough protein. Many women simply get the extra protein they need by eating more of the foods they usually eat. As an example, you can add 25 grams of protein to your usual diet by adding 1-1/2 cups of lentils or tofu, 3-1/2 cups of soy milk, or 2 large bagels.”  (From http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/veganpregnancy.php)

If you are a vegetarian, however, PLEASE make sure you are getting enough vitamin B12.  Supplement with nutritional yeast.  “The regular use of vitamin B12 supplements or fortified foods is recommended for all pregnant vegans. Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the developing fetus. Fortified foods include some breakfast cereals, some soy milks, and Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula nutritional yeast.” (also from http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/veganpregnancy.php)

Fats:

A certain amount of fat in the diet is important and will protect against dry skin, stretch marks, and constipation.  We heal from within, and no amount of lotion on your stomach is going to make those stretch marks go away if you are not nourishing your insides with enough healthy fats.  If you are worried about too much weight gain, rest assured, healthy fats do not make you fat!  Good sources of healthy fats are fresh seeds, nuts, avocados, olive oil, cold pressed vegetable oil, and lecithin.

Carbohydrates:

The pregnant woman needs a certain amount of carbohydrates. A diet of whole foods, grains, nuts, and seeds is already high in natural carbohydrates. Avoid refined carbohydrates such as white flour and sugar, which affect blood sugar levels and lead to lower energy levels.

Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation:

Always look to food sources for vitamin and minerals, rather than relying on supplements. Stomach acids are reduced during pregnancy and absorption of supplements may be reduced.  The OB/GYN, licensed naturopath, or midwife should provide information on prenatal supplements.

Now to get on with dealing with issues that arise for every woman.  From morning sickness to lactation, its something every pregnant women has to deal with.

Dealing with Morning Sickness: 

Dehydration can quickly occur if morning sickness is so severe that fluids cannot be retained. This is very dangerous for mother and baby: Refer to the OB/GYN or midwife.
If morning sickness is a problem, the following may assist:

  •  Ensure adequate zinc and vitamin B6 intake.
  •  Eat smaller meals more frequently: Even every two hours may be necessary.
  •  Eat something before rising in the morning.
  •  Avoid refined sugar and excessively fatty foods.
  •  Focus on organic fruits and vegetables.
  •  Apple cider vinegar in water. (I drink this all the time, I sweeten mine with stevia)
  •  Teas of basil, calendula, caraway , cloves , peach leaf tea, or spearmint.   Use 1-tsp of the herb in 1-cup of boiling water to prepare the tea. Use up to three times daily.
  •  Juice a ¼-inch thick slice of fresh ginger, half a handful of fresh mint, one kiwifruit, and one-quarter of a fresh pineapple together and drink up to two times a day.
my husband looking over our newly delivered bundle of joy, june 19 2010

my husband looking over our newly delivered bundle of joy, june 19 2010

Preparing for delivery:

Red raspberry leaf tea if taken regularly throughout the last four weeks of pregnancy will help in a speedy delivery.   The leaves contain a substance called fragine that has a toning, relaxing effect on the whole pelvic area in preparation for the enormous expansion that takes place during the birth.  The tea can be taken four weeks before the birth and will give elasticity to the pelvic and vaginal area, toning and strengthening the whole area for an easier birth.
Prepare red raspberry as a tea using 1-t to 1-cup of boiling water, steep for 10-20 minutes, strain, and drink 1-cup night and morning.

I drink red raspberry tea all the time (even though I’m not pregnant), its quite tasty!   It can even aid in getting pregnant.  It is not to be drank in the early stages of pregnancy however.

Weight Gain During Pregnancy:

Too little weight gain during pregnancy can be as harmful as too much. With such an emphasis on “thin is beautiful,” many pregnant women strive to stay too thin. The amount of weight gained will of course vary according to body structure. Generally, it should be within 25-45-lb.   The extra weight is distributed to:

  • The fetus, placenta, and intrauterine fluid
  •  Uterus, breast tissue, fluids, blood
  •  Maternal fat

Try and balance weight gain to:

  •  8-15-lb during the first 20 weeks; and then
  •  1-lb per week for the duration of the pregnancy.

No weight gain at all may be due to a highly restrictive diet or prolonged morning sickness. This can be detrimental to both the mother and the baby.  Babies who suffer from such things as milk allergies, ear infection, tonsillitis, and buckteeth can be born to mothers with poor nutrition.

Exercise During Pregnancy:

Check with your prenatal care provider, but generally in a healthy pregnancy, exercise is vital. It will keep the mother supple, toned, and fit in preparation for the work of birth. Avoid violent exercise, such as jogging or aerobics. Yoga, walking, swimming, and cycling are all good.

Heartburn and indigestion:

Baking soda and common antacids should not be taken: They contain sodium and will increase fluid retention.  The B vitamins, enzyme supplements, and regular use of slippery elm will help to reduce heartburn and indigestion.  Chamomile tea aids digestion, and its calming effects will help you relax.

My new born son.  I was breastfeeding till he was 6 months old...I miss my post-pregnancy breasts! LOL

My new born son. I was breastfeeding till he was 6 months old…I miss my post-pregnancy breasts! LOL

Breastfeeding:

As I stated in the first part of this series, human milk is the perfect food for infants. Breast-feed if at all possible: Breast  milk is the ideal food for babies and contains maternal antibodies that help the baby to develop a resistance to infections during the early months of life.

Herbal teas can help with milk production, there are many pre-made on the market, I drank mothers milk tea, but drinking fennel tea made with barley water is quite effective, along with the following herbs:

  •  Alfalfa
  •  Anise seeds
  •  Borage Borago
  •  Buckwheat Fagopyrum
  •  Cleavers
  •  Nettle
  •  Red raspberry
  •  Vervain

All these herbs can be used as teas and where possible included in the daily diet.  Anise essential oil is effective for increasing the supply of milk. Take 1-2-drops on the tongue or on honey twice a day. Do not increase this dosage.

Milk Volume

The volume of milk produced varies over the duration of lactation from the first few weeks to 6 months and beyond but is remarkably predictable except during extreme malnutrition or severe dehydration. The volume of milk will diminish only after the maternal urine output has been significantly compromised (10% dehydration).   This means a nursing mother must drink ample amounts of fluid.  Malnutrition, however, is complex, and single nutrient deficiencies are rare. Malnutrition does seem to have an effect on the total volume of milk produced.  It was reported that the volume of milk was slightly diminished during malnutrition, but the duration of lactation was not affected. Milk was produced at the expense of maternal tissue. Meaning that if there is not enough nutrients, the milk won’t be affected, but the mother’s health will.

The Bad fats:

The fat that you eat appear in your milk, so if you eat margarine rather then butter have high levels of Trans Fatty acids  will be in your milk.  It is so important to remember that what you eat effects your baby and things like hydrogenated oils are bad for both of you.

Water:

From a practical standpoint, mothers have an increased thirst, which usually maintains a need for added fluid intake. When fluids are restricted, mothers will experience a decrease in urine output, not in milk. Sharply decreasing fluids to prevent engorgement in the mother who is not lactating is ineffectual, however, and only adds another inconvenience and discomfort.

If you take anything away from this, I hope that you understand that nutrition is important not only during, but before and after pregnancy.  Listen to your body, know what the cravings are telling you, and understand that if you breastfeed (which by now I’ve driven home is the  best way to feed your newborn) that EVERYTHING you eat…or do not eat…effects your milk.  And, of course, avoid all processed foods, sugars, white flours, additives, and artificial sweeteners…

 

 

Nutrition Through the Ages Part 2: Adolescents

Before our children begin school it is so important to teach them good nutrition because once they are out of our sight, it is up to them to make good food choices.  School lunches are filled with processed meats and breads, and while some are moving to a more healthier array, many are still stuck in the dark ages.  Children are also influenced by their friends, but remember, their family is their biggest influence they have in their life.  They might get a job, or have an allowance that will allow them the freedom to buy McDonalds or whatever else they might desire.  Of course  we have no control over what they do, they are their own people, but as a parent we have an obligation to teach them right from wrong, whether it be in the classroom or the cafeteria.  As a parent we need to understand, however, that if we say a child can’t have something it makes them want that something even more.  So keeping some chocolate covered nuts around, dried fruit, and making sweet fruit smoothies teaches them that they CAN have treats every now and then.

Dieting is not healthy for young adults, even though there is pressure from peers, and from school to look a certain way.  Girls may feel pressure from peers to be thin and to limit what they eat, while boys, and to a lesser extent, girls, may diet to “make weight” for a particular sport.   It is important for teens to stick to a healthy diet and get lots of physical activity. A healthy diet consists of   fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, lean proteins (my preference is plant based proteins), low-fat dairy products (imo its better to avoid all dairy but if you disagree then low-fat is the way to go, almond milk, rice milk, soy milk and hemp milk are all viable other options to explore), beans, lentils and healthy fats from olive oil, avocado, nuts and fish. It is also important for teens to stay hydrated and drink water throughout the day

Calorie needs vary from teen to teen, depending on gender, activity level and genetics. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, most active female teens need approximately 2,400 calories per day, and most active male teens need approximately 2,800 calories per day. Encourage them to eat snacks between meals and to try not to go over 4 hours without eating. This will help keep their energy up and help them to stay focused in school.

Supplementation may be necessary during growth spurts, look for ones that are  natural and balanced.  Be wary of supplements that taste like candy as they can instill bad habits in the young.

Nutrition Through the Ages Part 1: Infants to 2 years

During our lifetime, our nutritional needs change.   Of course one things stays constant, there is no need for processed foods, which contain GMO’s, white flours, and sugars, additives and artificial sweetners.  One thing that we need to keep in mind is that baby formula’s and baby cereal contain GMO’s, and currently there is a bill in the works to prevent this, but as of right now, it is not in effect.  Baby cereals as well are what I classify as processed food.  There is no reason, nutritonally speaking, to give your child cereal over a whole food.  Infant vitamins are a wonderful way to supplement any nutritional deficit.

This is going to be a 6 part post, starting with Birth, and ending with older adults.  I will cover menopause and breastfeeding as well.

10 days after my son was born

10 days after my son was born with his Tita

Birth to Three Months:

Breast-feed if at all possible: Breast milk is the ideal food for babies and contains maternal antibodies that help the baby to develop a resistance to infections during the early months of life.
Supplements are important but if the mother has a nutritious diet and supplement regime, the baby will require nothing extra during this time.  You can also use boiled, cool water and diluted, fresh apple juice (not tinned) if
the child can tolerate it.  If colic is a problem, try drinking dill water, fennel water, and chamomile tea.  These are all excellent remedies for colic and the active constituents will pass  through to the baby in the milk. To make use of dill or fennel seed tea, use 1-T to 1-cup of water, let the seeds steep for 10-20 minutes, and then strain carefully.
If the mother cannot breast-feed, use a balanced formula. Do not use cow’s milk, which can cause gastrointestinal bleeding in infants, increase chances of a  milk protein allergy, cause kidney issues and affect fluid balance, and does not provide necessary nutrients, such as iron, vitamin C and E, and essential fatty acids. Goat’s milk is preferable to cow’s milk, as babies are less likely to develop an allergy to goat’s milk and it is easier to digest.  However, it still has nutritional deficiencies and needs to be supplemented with vitamins A, D, C, iron, and folic acid. (Speak to your pediatrician, as supplements must be used cautiously with infants.)

baby josh1

Five to Six Months:

At this age, the child needs extra vitamin C, A, D, iron, and B12 (particularly if the mother is vegetarian). Introduce organic cereal, then mashed vegetables one at a time. Ripe mashed avocado is excellent. If cooking, do so lightly so as not to destroy nutrients. Concentrate on whole, unprocessed fresh, organic foods. Avoid feeding the child tinned or processed baby foods, or foods that are sweet and sugary. Even organic jarred baby foods have chemicals used to seal the lids. If you can manage it, prepare your own baby food from organic fruits, vegetables, and cereals. It is often preferable to introduce a range of vegetables before moving to sweet fruits, as biologically we all prefer sweets so you may find baby prefers applesauce to beans. An excellent book for all parents is Super Baby Foods by Ruth Yaron.
Vitamin supplements may be sprinkled or mashed into foods, particularly if the mother is no longer breastfeeding.  Daily B12 requirements are small, but vital. Use supplements designed for infants to ensure accurate dosage.
0-6 months 0.4*
7-12 months 0.5*
1-3 years 0.9
4-8 years 1.2
Note: This table presents either Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) or
Adequate Intakes (AIs) followed by an asterisk (*)47.

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Eight Months:

By this stage, the child can move on to mashed root vegetables, ground seeds, millet, and fruit. Try ground sunflower, pumpkin, sesame seeds, and almonds.  These can be ground or prepared as nut or seed milk drinks. Soak the seeds in water overnight and liquefy the following morning. You may need to strain the liquid for a young baby, but older babies can drink it as is. Add banana, cinnamon, or dates for added flavor and nourishment. Note that raw honey should not be used as some raw honey can be contaminated with botulism.  Suitable grains include brown rice, millet, oatmeal, barley, or buckwheat, steamed or prepared in a casserole, then pureed or mashed thoroughly.  Vegetables such as carrots, pumpkins, yams, celery, potatoes, and all green vegetables can be steamed and mashed.

baby4

Twelve to Fifteen Months:

At this stage, heavier starches and more protein foods can be added, try freerange eggs, seeds, tofu, sprouts, nuts, and grains. Avoid wheat and cow’s milk if the child develops mucus and coughs.

baby6

Two Years and Up:

By two years old, a child can eat a full range of whole foods with the rest of the family (except choking hazards). Introduce supplements if you have not already done so, such as kelp granules, brewer’s yeast, and lecithin granules. Avoid processed food, sweets, ice cream, and candy as much as possible.

**All of these facts were taken directly out of my school e-book from ACHS, however, as you can see from my pictures, I have first hand experience in raising a child and I would not do anything differently then what my school has taught me.  I breastfed my son until he was 6 months old.  Looking back, I wish I had breastfed longer.  My next child will be fed using the information I have gained during my schooling.   Nutrition during these developing years is so important, and if I had to pick a time in life to eat organic whole foods, this is the stage I deem it to be most important.

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The Fastest Lunch You Ever Made – healthy sauteed vegetabels over ramen noodles

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Here is a fast and easy lunch using healthy sauteed vegetables. (see a how to video and instructions here)  I just put up a video showing how to healthy saute some onions and garlic, I had made one for these vegetables since I did them all in one pan at  the same time, but I had put some good info in the first video I had made that I forgot to talk about in my second attempt, so the first one went up instead.

Noodle Salad:

  • 1 package ramen style noodles, I used Green Noodles, just a heads up, they are vegan but they are NOT gluten free.  Cook according package instructions.
  • 4 tbls vegetable broth
  • 1 carrot, cut into little pieces
  • half a red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 an onion, diced
  • 1 baby bok choy, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, diced small or crushed
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced

Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup amino acids
  • 1 tsp agave (or honey)
  • 1/2  tsp sesame oil

Mix it all up in a bowl and let it sit while you cook the vegetables.

Heat the broth up in the pan with a lid on, when it starts to steam, add the carrots, onion, pepper, and baby bok choy to the pan,  cover it back up and cook for another 2 minutes.  After the 2 minutes are up, uncover it, and add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.  Toss the noodles with the sauce and the raw cucumber.  Enjoy!  Lunch doesn’t get any easier then this, huh?

A note on bell peppers, they are in the nightshade family which means that some people have adverse reactions when eating them.  However, you know your body better then anyone else.  I don’t have any issues eating things in the nightshade family, eggplants, bell peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and cayenne pepper.  Red bell peppers have the most antioxidants, as opposed to green, yellow, and orange, which are just less mature versions of the red pepper.  Healthy sauteing red peppers is the best way to cook them because high heat and over cooking kills off most of the delicate phytonutrients.  It is over abundant in vitamin C, vitamin A, b6, folate, vitamin E, and fiber.

Banana bakedcakes (aka pancakes) Vegan, gluten free

Ahh, the weekend, the time when we have enough leisure time to actually make breakfast.  This morning, as promised on my FB and Twitter page, I bring to you my vegan, gluten free banana pancakes, cooked two ways and smothered with my berry sauce!

My baked pancakes, half eaten!

My bakedcakes, (oven version) half eaten!

I made them two ways, because frankly, I’m lazy and I hate standing over a pan cooking for any length of time.  Plus, the pan version needs oil of some sort, and you guys know how I feel about cooking in oil.  I do occasionally use coconut oil, and this was one of those times.  Coconut oil is anti-microbial and has a host of health benefits, while allowing you to heat it up to high temps without it becoming a carcinogen, but it still raises LDL levels (bad cholesterol) so it should be used sparingly and not often.  On top of all that, the pan version kept falling apart when I flipped it… they stayed together just fine in the oven, and tasted the same.  My son ate the 3 I made in the pan and I ate the the ones from the oven.  The ones from the oven were in fact so good, that you could just eat them the way they are without any sauce, they kind of look like little bread cookies.  I call my oven baked version aptly bakedcakes!

Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tbls agave

Put all the ingredients in a sauce pan and cover it up over medium heat, letting it come to a boil and reduce the berries.  They will start to disintegrate.  After about 10 minutes you can uncover it and let is thicken to the desired consistency.  I let it go another 5 minutes.  Serve over your favorite waffle or pancakes, and keep it in an airtight jar up to 2 weeks.  (Honestly, I don’t even have any left to store after breakfast this morning, my son was licking it off the plate)

Pan version of my pancakes

Pan version of my pancakes

Bakedcakes:

  • 2 mushed bananas
  • 1 tbls chia seeds soaked in 1/3 cup water for 5 minutes
  • 1 cup almond meal flour
  • 1 dash stevia
  • 1/2 tbls baking soda
  • drop of vanilla extract (I didn’t measure, but i’d  say it was 1/2 tsp)
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/3 cup water

Pre Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  I used my trusty food processor to mix all the ingredients together, but i’m sure you could do it by hand using a fork or a whisk.  I didn’t soak the flax seed in the water this time, I just let it soak up the excess liquid in the batter mix.  So while the oven was preheating, the batter was sitting out for a  few minutes getting itself “together” as it may be lol.  I put some extra flour on a cookie sheet and layed out my pancake batter in little circles, just like I was making cookies.  I let them cook for 15 minutes, flipping once at the last 5 minutes and then they were done!

Oven version of my pancakes

Oven version of my pancakes

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My son enjoying his healthy breakfast!

Cultivating Happiness: a personal quest

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Happiness, for some people it is like an elusive dream, and for others it just seems to come naturally.   Yet for all people, it is not a permanent emotion.  Like all emotional states, it comes in waves.  You may be very happy one minute, and then get reminded of something from your past and just like that, its gone.  Or perhaps you had a great day but then your child colors on your walls, or you spouse forgets to take the trash out, or your teacher gave you a bad grade, or maybe its just because you didn’t like the way you looked in the mirror.  It happens to all of us, and it can happen at any time.

It happened to me just today, which is the reason why I’m writing this article.  Everyone has something in their past that isn’t pleasant, and today that something called me on my phone.  We grow, we change, we leave our past and the people who didn’t grow with us behind.  Since beginning my journey to health and happiness, (and it has been one rocky perilous road!)  I have grown in leaps and bounds.  The last thing I want to do is move backwards.  The phone call caught me off guard, I had deleted this person’s number from my phone (which perhaps was a mistake, if I had known who was calling I wouldn’t have picked it up) And now here they were, talking about things that I didn’t want to talk about, making me think about things I didn’t want to think about.  My good day was suddenly turned upside down.    I, who had believed I was immune to stress at this point in my life, was put to the test.  Would I be able to pull through this unscathed?  But more importantly, would I be able to practice what I preach?

Stress and unhappiness go hand in hand, and I shamelessly admit that at that moment I was stressed.  All the signs were there, my pulse was racing, I was flushed.   I was at a loss for words and all I could think of was, “Hang up, oh my god, just hang up.”  Yet on the  conversation went, and when I did finally hang up, I was visibly shaken.

The first thing that I thought to do was take a walk.  So I put on my shoes and left my house and headed into the one place that makes me happy, the woods by my house.  The next thing I thought of was to talk deep calming breaths, so that is just what I did.   And of course, I knew I had to meditate.  Meditation lowers blood pressure  clears the mind and can bring answers that we didn’t know we had within us.  It worked, I knew what I had to do.

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My neighbors were all outside so I went to join them.  We talked, we laughed, I even mentioned to them about the harrowing phone call.  Just getting it off my chest felt so much better.  Slowly, all my stress was gone.  I was happy again.  I had passed the test.

Perhaps one of my biggest strengths in my refusal to give in to stress, my refusal to be unhappy   But then again, I’ve been taught how to cope with negative emotions.

If we are alive, we are going to go through different states of being.  You can’t always be happy.  So knowing that we can’t avoid depression, anxiety,  and STRESS in general, it becomes a matter of  how we deal with those situations  that truly makes the difference.  We must retrain our brains to think positively, to “not sweat the small stuff” as the saying goes.  But first, we must be content with what we have, and realize that even if its not a lot to go on, its enough.

I realize now, hours later, that I was stressed not because this person was  calling my phone, but  because my brain was sucked suddenly into the past.    I had forgotten to live in the present moment.  I was creating my own stress!  Regardless of the situation, the very nature of the word “situation” means it is outside of us.  We control our reaction.  We have to remember that the emotion of stress is just your fight or flight nature, and unless its  a matter of life or death, its truly trivial.  I’m reminded of the book (that I haven’t read by the way) Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (and its all small stuff) by Richard Carlson

Happiness must be cultivated.   It must be nourished and we must learn what to do when unhappy situations arise.  The suggestions I make, to go for a walk, take deep calming breaths, meditate, they are not new suggestions.  I didn’t just make them up.  Lots of people have been saying the same thing for a  very long time.  I am proof, however, that they work.  Yoga, spending time with people that make us smile, removing the people that bring with them negativity, eating a nutrient dense diet, and making sure we have time for ourselves, are all ways to  cultivate our happiness and in turn reduce stress.

Everyday brings new challenges, but they are just that, challenges to be overcome and conquered.  The only way to fail is if you stop trying.  We need to learn how to deal with our daily stress, how to deal with our big once-in-a-while giant stress, and remember that in the end, we don’t even have to stress.  Most of all, however, we need to  learn to create our happiness.   I wish everyone could take these lessons to heart.  I wish everyone could see the happiness already there.  Its always there, its just a matter or retraining your brain to see it.  Yes, its possible, you just have to try, and it is so vitally important to our health.

**Editing to add a comment from my sometimes guest writer Hans de Rycke, who I agree with on so many issues:

There are many thing that we can do that will benefit us. For instance,

  • a healthy diet
  • drinking plenty of clean water
  • avoid chlorinated water as it is poisonous
  • positive thinking
  • enough sleep and relaxation
  • physical exercise
  • connecting with nature
  • Listening to music or making music
  • intellectual stimulation

Remaining interested in life, creativity that nurtures the soul, and, last but by no means least, time alone!
It is only when we spend time alone that we can communicate with our Higher Power, get in touch with with our thoughts and feelings and ground ourselves.
Prayer and meditation or quiet time is necessary to achieve a healthy energy system.Everything we do is infused with the energy with which we do it.

Thanks Hans!!