All posts in “Healthy Eating”

How to De-stress Dinner Time and Tame Wild Eaters

(This blog was featured in Elephant Journal!  Click here to see the published version!)

Getting a child to eat can feel like playing tug of war.  Kids go through waves of being good eaters who munch down everything on their plates to barely touching foods that at one point were there favorites.  For many parents this can bring up fears and concerns about kids getting the appropriate amount of nutrition for healthy development.

Over the years I have seen how this type of motivating fear can lead parents to some not so helpful solutions.  In order to dissolve these fears and shed some light on this issue we are going to take a closer look at two opposing solutions.

For our first example we will take a look at what I like to call, “The Drive by Spooning”, where mom follows the kids around spoon in hand, shoving food in their mouths at every chance they get.  This approach ties into the fear that kids will starve and not get the proper nutrition needed for healthy development or that they will wake up in the middle of night as hungry little monsters crying out for food.

I highly recommend staying away from using this tactic as it has many downfalls and here’s why…

Kids need to learn healthy eating habits at an early age.  They are looking to their parents to guide them in the development of these habits but when a spoon is always flying around kids are not learning any boundaries around HOW to eat.  Let’s take a second to dive deeper here, healthy eating habits are not just about eating your fruits and veggies but about what I refer to as, “The How’s of Healthy Eating.”  Which are as follows:

1.  Eat meals around the same time each day

2.  Sit down to eat

2.  Eat slowly

3.  Chew thoroughly

4. Listen to when your body is full

5. Minimize snacking

6. Only eat when hungry

All too often it seems that kids are never truly hungry because they are snacking all day long.  kids need to understand what it feels like to be hungry.  Aside from all of it’s negative connotations, feeling hungry is NOT a bad thing. Our digestive systems needs to rest in between meals in order to function properly. The unfortunate truth is that with our snack obsessed society kids generally eat because things taste good not because they are actually hungry.  If you find that your little one won’t sit and eat when it’s time to, take a closer look at how much they are snacking.

Healthy eating habits need to be established at an early age because they are a good predictor of how kids will eat when they are older, possibly warding off potential eating disorders. Eating habits also affect cognitive functioning and obesity rates.  So, the next time the urge to pull a “drive by spooning” comes up remind yourself of the How’s of Healthy Eating and why they are SO important.

The next approach we’ll look at is the Stop, Start Timed Approach.  Here’s how it works, a timer is set for an hour and a half, the child has been primed to understand that if they get up they cannot eat, eating is done at the table. There is no walking around with food.  The child can get up from the table but is always encouraged to come back, because if the timer goes off, dinner is over and the food goes away.  During meal time family members share events of the day and enjoy quality conversations. (For more info on how to engage your family in quality conversation click here)

Now, at first look this may feel a bit too rigid but I for one am a big supporter of this strategy and here’s why…

For many families mealtime equals stress, the wild streak comes out.  Kids won’t listen or sit down and only eat a few bites of food.   The Stop, Start Timed Approach is a mindful approach that takes the stress out of mealtime.  Children know what the boundaries  are because the parent has outlined the expectations beforehand.  The How’s of Healthy Eating are built into this process and over time it becomes routine.

With the Stop, Start Timed Approach your little one is the ultimate decision maker on whether or not they eat.  This approach helps foster independence and also teaches good decision making skills.  If they go to bed hungry because of a bad choice one evening, I can almost guarantee you will see them sitting and eating at the table the next.

Now if you’re reading this and thinking this approach is simply too cut and dry or feeling that parental guilt well up in the pit of your stomach then here’s a small caveat to the process.  If the timer goes off and your little one complains that they are hungry give them two options, a fruit or vegetable, but stick to the rule that dinner is over.  Take baby steps and do what feels comfortable for you but make sure to be consistent in your actions and before you know it your wild eaters will be tamed and your mealtime will be STRESS-FREE!

Have any helpful suggestions to add?  Leave your comment below!


First Steps to a Toxin Free Life – Interview with Mindful Momma Tali Thomason

Awhile back I wrote my piece on Fear and Mindful Parenting when I realized I was becoming very overwhelmed with all the scary ingredients in the world among other things. One of the steps I made to feel less afraid and more educated was to interact more in the Mindful Mammas and Poppas group on Facebook. After all, I knew I wasn’t the first parent to be experiencing this and could get help from some veterans.

The first thing, like any project, is to make a plan and start with basics. We’ve begun eliminating toxic products in our home and replacing them with safer products for us and Arbor. One of the key people who has helped me is Leanna Long. She is the owner of Harmonious Households and I was able to ask her a few questions that I feel could benefit others as well.

What was the defining moment when you knew you had to make a change to the products you were using and foods you were eating?

About 5 years ago, at 27 years old I was going through some major health problems.  I felt dizzy, like room spinning dizzy quite often, I had intense heartburn all the time, along with extreme bloating, belching and brain fog.  Nothing I ate made me feel good, I couldn’t sleep, I was depleted of all energy and felt anxious and irritable.  I went to the doctor and saw specialists many times over the course of 2 years. Where they did a number of tests to see if I had a possible parasite, ulcer, IBS, diverculitis, Crohn’s disease and list goes on.  All tests came back negative.  The only thing came out of these 2 terrible years was a long list of ailments I did not have, an addiction to Xanax and the necessity to take almost 3x the normal dosage of Zantac twice a day.

After I had exhausted all avenues in Western medicine I knew I could not go on living this way and that I had to take things into my own hands.  I started seeing a naturopath and an Ayurvedic doctor who started me on the healing process. I got of the meds and due to help from the doctors and my own research I discovered I have a gluten intolerance. It was great to finally have an answer but I knew I had to change more than just my diet. I did some in depth research and learned more about how the toxins in our food, environment and beauty products affect our health and quality of life. Today I am happily living a toxin-free lifestyle and have made it my mission to share my knowledge with friends, family and clients.

You’ve shared your passion with others in your business Harmonious Households. What is the first change you recommend to families when it comes to getting the toxins out of their cleaning supplies?

The biggest hurdle when switching to toxic-free natural cleaners is the mental attachment to what we like, what we know works and what is convenient. In today’s busy world it can be tough getting around to cleaning, so when we do make time for it we don’t want to deal with something that might make the job tougher.  A great first step is to create a natural cleaner that is similar to your toxic cleaner.  For example I always loved the smell of Pin-Sol.  I know terrible right?! The toxic fumes in that product are enough to give anyone a headache, and a whole list of health problems but I absolutely loved the smell.  So I re-created a non-toxic all natural version that smells very similar and does a great job at cleaning.

Here’s my solution:

2 cups water

1 cup apple cider vinegar

5 drops tea tree oil

5 drops eucalyptus oil

Tea tree oil one of the strongest natural antiseptics.  It is also germicidal, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.  Bonus! It kills mold and mildew and it gives you that clean scent!  Eucalyptus is a disinfectant, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial to name a few.  It is also known to support the respiratory system which is the exact opposite effect of what toxic cleaners do to your lungs.  Of course it smells great too!  Apple cider vinegar is a natural cleaning agent with many different uses.  It’s also an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-septic and anti-viral.  With also these “anti-bad stuff” properties you can feel safe knowing you are truly getting a deep clean.

How about the changes to the kitchen pantry? What are the first three ingredients we should eliminate from our diets?

This is a tough one because there are quite a few nasty ingredients food companies add to foods that are targeted specifically towards kids.  If I had to choose only three I’d go with:

  1. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) which is a neurotoxin that stimulates taste buds causing us to want to eat more and more. Ingesting this ingredient also comes with a host of side effect such as, headache, chest pain and heart palpitations. MSG can be found in popular kids’ foods like Cheetos or Pringle’s.

These last two encompass a lot of different ingredients. I might be cheating here but they are really important to know about because they effect behavior along with having many other nasty side effects.

  1. Artificial flavors/artificial sweeteners: (Aspartame, saccharin, sucralose) anything with the word artificial in it is not good for you or your kids. Side effects include, allergic and behavioral reactions, headache, dizziness, memory loss, carcinogen in animals.
  2. Preservatives, TBHQ- side effects: tinnitus, nausea, vomiting, worsens symptoms of ADHD, Sulfites- side effects: allergic reactions, especially for asthmatics. There are many more I’d like to add but for the sake of sticking to the question I’ll leave it at that. If your readers would like a full list, they can sign up for my newsletter and get a free Toxic Ingredient Grocery Guide at Harmonious Households.

When I’ve switched to all natural products for my home cleaning and personal hygiene they don’t always feel like they work as well. For example, my shampoo doesn’t lather like I expect. Even though I’ve been told that shampoos don’t need to lather to work it’s what I grew up with. Are these expected experiences linked to toxins?

Tali, I think it’s important to expect some differences when switching to non-toxic products. Like you said some things may not “feel” like they work as well but we have to remind ourselves that they do work just as well or even better when you think about it.  If you can shift your perspective from missing the way your shampoo lathered up, to loving the fact that you are putting clean, healthy products on/in your body and protecting your family from potential health hazards then you’ll quickly forget about all that lather.

Are there certain brands that are easier for people who are transitioning from the products they grew up with to the toxin free versions?

I always recommend making toxin-free cleaners at home as opposed to buying supposed “all natural” brands in the store because you know exactly what is in the product since you made it yourself.  Big companies can be sneaky by labeling their product as “all natural” when there are still some toxic ingredients in there like petrochemicals or things they replace the more well-known toxic ingredients with.

Beauty products can be a bit tougher to make at home and the attachment to these products can be harder to let go of.  Just as with replacing a cleaning product, decide what it is about a product.  It might be the smell or how it tingles your scalp.  Once you know what it is that you like try and replace it with a similar product that is toxin-free.  One brand I’d recommend is Dr. Bonner’s Organic Castile Soap. This line of products has so many different uses. I use the peppermint soap as a body wash, it tingles the body and even lathers up!

If you are looking for a great smelling natural deodorant I recommend LaVanilla deodorant.  Smells great and it’s very conditioning for the sensitive skin in the armpit.

I’ve often found that natural lotions can feel watery and leave my skin feeling dry.  After a lot of trial and error I’ve been very happy with Everyone Lotion.

If my readers want to hire you for a home and lifestyle makeover how can they reach you?

Thanks Tali.  They can reach me at, find me on Facebook, follow me on Google+  or they can go directly to the Services Tab to get more details on the Healthy Home Makeover service I provide where I help families jump-start their way to a toxic-free lifestyle.


Jump Aboard the Health Food Train

Feeding your little monsters can be extremely frustrating especially when you have picky eaters who only want to eat unhealthy carb-filled snacks and meals. You may often times find yourself wanting to implement a healthier diet but fighting that battle seems tougher than winning it.  As a whole our society has been brainwashed by the food industry into thinking that foods are healthy that are not.

Of course we would assume that products that display packaging saying “low-fat”, “no-sugar”, “all-natural”, are good for not only ourselves to be ingesting but great for kids.  Well truth is that hidden behind many of these labels are the most unhealthy ingredients of all.

Don’t get me wrong, I used to be a microwave queen, canned veggies, fast food type of girl.  Until I personally experienced the repercussions of eating this way. This nutritionally deficient, no doubt GMO filled diet left me feeling totally depleted of energy, dizzy, having constant, sleep/life disrupting indigestion for over two years.  During this time I spent a lot of time at my doctor’s office, in fact we became good friends.  He suggested that maybe I have an ulcer, then it was possibly a parasite or maybe even Crohns Disease.  The list of possible diagnoses went on and on and so did the tests, all to turn up negative.  I was given drugs that only masked my symptoms which I gained a tolerance to only to have to up my dosage.

After seeing specialists and depleting all possible causes of the symptoms (according to Western medicine that is), I was experiencing, I began to feel hopeless.  It was as if people thought my health problems were all in my head and that was something I just could not accept.  So, I decided to take things into my own hands and start my own research.  I began talking with Naturopathic and Ayurvedic doctors and this is when I started to learn about the negative effects of gluten.

Totally removing something from your diet is not easy, especially when it is a staple as bread products are in most American diets.  There is also an emotional and social attachment to it is as well. I knew what I needed to do but it is even harder to let go of all the attachments to gluten without something stating that you cannot eat it.  So after a little more research I discovered that there was a blood test to determine gluten intolerance.  I quickly made an appointment with my doctor friend and after a week I finally got a positive test result.

Funny, I doubt there will be any other time in my life where I actually hope to get a positive test result stating there is something wrong with me.  Needless to say after about 6 months of being gluten-free and re-balancing my system (by taking Betaine HCL because the drugs they had me on depleted my stomach acid) I was back to feeling like myself.

Now this is not to say that everyone who eats a gluten filled diet will end up with a gluten allergy.  In fact the research on what causes a gluten intolerance or allergy is limited but like Hippocrates said, “let thy food by thy medicine”.  There is great wisdom behind this… If we are filling ourselves and our children with nutritionally deficient food then we are not treating our bodies as we should be.

Nourishing your body from the inside out and modeling that for your children is a sure-fire way to improve health and overall well-being. Making an effort to move towards a less processed more veggie filled diet is a mindful decision that will instill healthy eating habits, ensure your children are getting proper nutrition and motivate your children to make healthy decisions as they grow up.

Here are my top 6 tips on getting your children to cut the carbs and up the greens:

1.  Don’t force veggies and fruit on your kids.  We all remember something our parents forced us to eat and most likely we still don’t like that food.  Let your children think it’s their idea by getting them involved with grocery shopping and cooking.

2.  Try to stick to a 5 ingredient limit for packaged foods.  Just think, “the more ingredients, the more processed the food”.

3.  Try to replace pretzels, bars and all those fun shaped kids crackers with a fruit or veggie of your kids’ choice at least once a day.

4.  Don’t assume you can trust what the label says.  Remember, “all-natural”, “low-fat” and “sugar-free” don’t necessarily mean Healthy.  Arm yourself with the knowledge to make informed decision on what you buy.  Here’s a great article on 11 Food Label Lies.

5.  We all know eating totally organic can be expensive.  Try sticking to the Dirty Dozen, Clean 15 rule to save some money.  This is a list of fruits and veggies that should be organic and ones that don’t have to be…check out the link above for more information.

6.  Check out these great documentaries on healthy eating:  Food Matters, Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, Hungry for a Change, Food Inc., Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.

HH Family Activity: Make it a movie night! Choose a documentary to watch with you kids and have a discussion afterwards.  Come up with ideas about how to improve your families nutrition and get everyone on board with the health food train!

HH Family Activity:  Make grocery shopping a hands on learning experience for your little’s.  Talk with them about them different fruits and veggies, let them hold them and pick out what they want to try.  Ask them if they want to help make a salad and I bet you will get a resounding “yes!”.


Happy Eating!