Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween and Candy

Halloween has always been a super special time to indulge in treats that were limited or absent the rest of the year. All year long I blog about how nutrition impacts development. But, once a year everyone who wants to can indulge in some candy.

There are ways to make this candy centered holiday healthier for everyone. When my kids have candy, I make sure it is in the presence of some real food: a piece of fruit, some nuts, a few carrots, a hard boiled deviled egg, some cold cuts or a meal I have made myself from scratch are all great to have on Halloween. A rule of thumb is if it has a label on it, it's not healthy. If it has a label on it with more than five ingredients it DEFINITELY is not healthy. In fact, it isn't even food. It is chemicals marketed to look like food.

On Halloween, I focus on the presence of real food, rather than denying my kids candy. It is the presence of real food that will make a difference in how they react to the sugary snacks. Like alcohol, your body will be less afffected by the sugar on a full stomach. Having some candy in the context of a day filled with homemade healthy nutritious food is very different from having candy with processed, convenient food.

Everyone knows that sugar is bad for you--in order for your body to process sugar you have to use a hefty amount of magnesium and B vitamins. Because magnesium keeps you calm and B vitamins are necessary for the production of serotonin, you can see why kids can become unglued with too much sugar. One thing you can do is eat food that have the nutrients that the sugar depletes. Pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews and black and white beans are all foods high in magnesium. Some good food sources for vitamin B6 are bananas, potatoes, chicken, turkey , salmon and beef. Also, some kids are more sensitive than others--and sensitive kids really need nutritious meals when they are indulging in sugary snacks.

Happy Halloween from!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Cradle Cap: Treatment Options

I happened to have the good fortune of hearing a biochemist, Professor Tapan Audhya, from New York University Medical center, who specializes in research on essential fatty acids (EFA's) and child development a few weeks ago. After his lecture I picked his brain about EFA's and my daughter's cradle cap. Any of you who read my blog know that fish oil is one of my favorite supplements for everyone and everything (unless you are getting surgery.) I told him that my kids take a lot of fish oil and it has really helped them, but they have severe cradle cap. I hadn't even finished telling him my story and he said definitively "GLA. Evening primrose oil--six drops." After asking so many doctors about their cradle cap and getting so many pauses and suggestions, having someone give an absolute answer was hopeful.

My seven year old has had cradle cap on and off for seven years and although coconut oil worked temporarily, it kept returning. Although the cradle cap disappeared after a week on six drops of evening primrose oil with her fish oil, time will tell if she is cured. But, research from Sweden indicates that cradle cap may be caused by an insufficient supply of an essential fatty acid called Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA.) According to
"GLA is required for the formation and maintenance of healthy skin cells. The hypothesis is that the infants' have an immature enzyme system and are therefore unable to produce sufficient GLA on their own, thus giving rise to the symptoms."
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, it looks like you need a functioning Delta-6-Desaturase enzyme system to convert linoleic acid into GLA. Babies sometimes have an immature D6D systems and end up being deficient in GLA. But GLA and evening primrose oil should be used under the supervision of a healthcare provider because there have been reports of Omega 6 supplements inducing seizures (along with fluorescent lights and playing a Wii!) So consult a nutritionist or a holistic pediatrician (or your favorite biochemist!) before beginning supplementation for cradle cap. Also, Aubrey sells an evening primrose oil that can be used topically.

Honey Update: Raw versus Cooked

Perfect Health for Kids: Ten Ayurvedic Health Secrets Every Parent Must Know includes a description of a study which compared beekeepers use of raw honey and pasteurized honey. Beekeepers routinely
"spray bee hives with a solution of raw honey and water on beehives to keep the bees calm. A study was done comparing the use of raw versus pasteurized honey. When a solution of pasteurized honey was used, all of the bees exposed died within 20 minutes."
This study shows how pasteurization can profoundly alter a food, transforming it from a beneficial, nutritious, calming food to a poison.

A few weeks ago I had a post called "All About Honey" which included a recipe for coconut meringue recipe using honey. I would actually use agave nectar in the recipe and save the honey for uncooked food--like honey mustard dipping sauce or to sweeten lemonade because cooked honey does not have the enzymes and health benefits of raw honey.

Although the honey got all of us off sugar, it didn't agree with everyone in our family and my son's stomach got very bloated. Perhaps it was the cooked honey. But, others who have done the Specific Carbohydrate Diet have reported that honey did not agree with them and made them bloated. This would be one example where theory is one thing, but reality is different and honey, although it is a monosaccharide, might not agree with everyone.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Processed Food Versus Homemade Food

The job description for caring for young children should include food preparation as a component. Every cell of children's bodies is made from what they eat. Although food processors would like us to believe processed food is nutritious--it's not. They add "protein" and vitamins to make it look nutritious, but in reality, the added protein is often in the form of soy protein isolate or genetically modified dried milk powder, which don't have the health benefits of fresh, real protein. And the healthier, natural oils, which perish easily
are absent--replaced with oils won't ever go rancid. These oils aren't healthy for our bodies or our brain. What is found in homemade versions is healthier no matter what the label says, because the home cook doesn't have access to the 10,000 chemicals found today in
processed food.

So parents, caregivers and teachers should all rally together to rethink kids food and cutting an apple or peeling a carrot should be the norm instead of opening a bag with a label on it. We have been sold a convenient lifestyle by food processors and our kids are paying the price. Because of our over reliance on processed food their diets are devoid of important omega 3's necessary for brain development and their bodies are missing glutathione necessary for

What to do: See my post on snack trays and why fresh raw foods are critical for today's kids. Make cooking dinner a routine not the exception. If you serve some real food (raw fruits/vegetables or nuts) with every snack and meal you will gradually move away from an over reliance on processed packaged food.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rethinking Ear Infections & Treatment Options

Ear infections are often a symptom of an underlying problem that needs to be addressed if you want development to proceed normally. According to Kelly Dorfman, a nutritionist who specializes in children: "One ear infection is a fluke, two ear infections is a little bit disturbing but three ear infections is a pattern. And by the time a child has a third ear infection you want to be looking at strategies to prevent them." A study at Georgetown University Hospital found up to 90% of kids with chronic ear infections (more than 3 ear infections) have food allergies: mostly to dairy, soy, gluten, or eggs. My son had three ear infections between 12 months and 18 months which haven't returned since we removed dairy and soy from his diet.

In her interview that can be found on Development Delay Resources, Kelly Dorfman also says: "The problem with tubes is the problem that you have with drainage situation. If you have a river running through your backyard, you can put in a gutter but you still have water running through and you want to look at why that might be. So you can drain the gunk out of your ears, but the question is why there is gunk and what is causing the immune system to react to that. Just because you drain it out it doesn't mean the immune system is happy. It just means it has a big tube that it can pour the poisons out. It's still generating way too much immune system debris and that is the underlying problem that needs to be addressed." Kelly Dorfman, is a nutritionist who started Developmental Delay Resources. You can listen to this fascinating interview with Kelly Dorfman here.

related post:

Book: Healing Childhood Ear Infections

Birthday Cupcakes

My son had his 3rd birthday a few weeks ago and I made cupcakes to celebrate. When my kids first went gluten free I would put a skittle (or m&m for my daughter) in the middle of every cupcake or cookie when I would bring treats to a party. That way they could tell which ones were gluten free. It is amazing how a little skittle can transform an ordinary cupcake, making it fun and bright.

Alex got a small guitar with a backpack guitar case for his birthday. On the night of his birthday, after "playing" it, he put it in his case and zipped it up. Then he put the two straps on and wore it like a backpack announcing: "Mom, look, I am a musician." A moment later he asked: "Mom, what's a musician?" It doesn't get much better than that.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Recipe: How to Cook Artichokes

Artichokes are in season from March to May but they are one of the few green vegetables both my kids will eat so I have decided to serve them regularly. I made some homemade mayonnaise to go with the artichokes. The mayonnaise has a raw egg in it and it is rich and creamy-- like nothing my GF/CF/SF son has ever tasted. When something becomes a routine, it becomes easier to do because you don't have to think about doing it. So I encourage you to think about the healthy food that your kids like but that you don't serve often and try to make the effort to serve it on a weekly basis.

How to prepare artichokes:
1. Slice 3/4 inch off the tip of the artichoke with a large knife.
2. Cut the stem off the artichokes.
3. Trim the sharp ends of the artichoke with scissors or cut off on an angle with a sharp knife.
5. Rinse the artichoke in cold running water.
6. In a large pot, put a few inches or water with a clove of garlic, a slice of lemon, and a bay leaf. Insert a steam basket. Add the artichokes and cover.
7. Cook for 45 minutes checking every so often to make sure the water hasn't evaporated completely.
8. Serve with olive oil, melted butter or homemade mayonnaise if you are GF/CF/SF!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Homemade Mayonnaise (Gluten, Casein and Soy Free)

This is a recipe for homemade mayonnaise free of gluten, casein and soy. My kids are super healthy since we went gluten free. I can't remember the last time they were sick so I feel comfortable giving them a little raw egg here and there. These days I am more worried about the chemicals in food than raw food. Although I appreciate that store bought mayo can last a year in the fridge, I just have the sneaking suspicion that whatever is "preserving" that stuff just couldn't be anything close to "real" ("Real Mayonnaise" labeling, not withstanding.) According to Dr. Mercola "It's important to note that only sick chickens lay salmonella contaminated eggs. If you purchase high quality, cage-free, organically fed, chicken eggs, the risks are dramatically reduced." I might think differently if I ever get salmonella but right now I am too busy enjoying some homemade creamy mayo with artichokes!

2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard
Pinch of sugar
Pinch cayenne pepper
3 teaspoons lemon juice or rice wine vinegar
1-1/2 cups olive oil
4 teaspoons hot water


Beat yolks, salt, mustard, sugar, pepper in a small bowl with a whisk until very thick and pale yellow. (You can use a blender, but I had better luck doing it by hand!) Add about 1/4 cup oil, drop by drop, beating vigorously all the while. Beat in 1 teaspoon each lemon juice and hot water. Add another 1/4 cup oil, a few drops at a time, beating vigorously all the while. Beat in another teaspoon each lemon juice and water. Add 1/2 cup oil in a very fine steady stream, beating constantly, then mix in remaining lemon juice and water; slowly beat in remaining oil. Cover and refrigerate until needed. Do not keep longer than 1 week.

Epicurious has a cooked mayonnaise recipe if you are too chicken (ha,ha) to use the raw eggs :) or you could just play it super safe and use Helman's which is delicious, but has soy oil and calcium disodium edta (whatever that is!) which makes it off limits for my family.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Quote of the Day

"There is so much information out there and everyone is so different."
--Conor Yates, NYC personal chef for kids on special diets.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Question: Not Getting Better on the GFCF Diet

Q: I have SUCH a similar story with my 15 month old who lost the ability to speak, wave, blow kisses, etc. He has just started with a DAN! doctor and I'm hoping for good results. I put him on the GFCF diet one month ago and I haven't seen results. If anything, he's become worse. The one positive is that his bowels are SO much better than before (chronic diarrhea). I just wonder if I'm doing something wrong with the diet. Any thoughts on hidden sources of bad ingredients? Soy? Sugar? He still has soy ingredients and some sugar ingredients. Everything I buy for him is labeled gluten and casein free. Thanks in advance.

A: First, I would strongly recommend avoiding SOY as the gluten, dairy and soy molecules are all similar. When the immune system is down it will recognize the soy molecule as a gluten molecule and you might not see improvement.

Vitamins were also an important part of our son getting better, but the ALCAT allergy testing also really helped him. We used an integrated doctor in New York City for the ALCAT test, which revealed he was intolerant of: corn, almonds, avocado, broccoli, oranges, and black pepper. We never would have figured out these intolerances out using an elimination test. Once we removed these additional things from his diet we saw huge improvements. I am not sure if the ALCAT is similar to the IgG testing. I know the ALCAT looks at how the cells react to the foods. The IgG is also used by some DAN doctors and probably is also worth looking into if you can't find anyone to do the ALCAT test.

The vitamins we found helpful (in the order we used them) were: a good multivitamin, sublingual B12, B6, high EPA fish oil, PROBIOTICS, enzymes, nystatin and magnesium.) Some were prescribed by doctors, others I discovered myself looking up symptoms and vitamin deficiencies for my daughter and then ended up giving it to him, and some were recommended by parents. He started speaking after the B12 and gradually got better with each thing we added. A good multivitamin and GI Flora (100% GFCFSF!) probiotics which will restore the healthy gut flora are two things that might help your son. The GI Flora probiotics have been recommended by a DAN doctor/environmental allergist as well as a a DAN doctor/nutritionist. And they are light years better than most probiotics.

As far as the diet, there is hidden gluten in everything--even things labeled "gluten free." See my post "Rice Dream is Not Gluten Free." Removing the other allergens especially corn and soy can be a big help. Some people see more benefit from the Specific Carbohydrate Diet because sometimes the GFCF diet has too much processed stuff and some children cannot handle any processed grains. Sugar feeds the yeast and sometimes the yeast produces toxins (alcohol and formaldehyde.) So a yeast free diet is also worth looking at. My son was 18 months when we started the GFCF diet and we were 150% on the diet with him because of his severe regression and gut issues. He basically ate homemade, organic food for a year: rice cakes, chicken fried rice with a ton of leeks, onions and garlic (they are prebiotics,) fresh fruit, strawberry and raspberry fruit smoothies and FRESH squeezed juice (apple and carrot mostly), Westsoy RICE milk, tinkyada pasta, taco meat on rice, and homemade paleo muffins and waffles made with nuts and eggs and Enjoy Life Snickerdoodle cookies. A lot of the GFCF stuff had soy lecithin in it, which we avoided completely when the neurologist told us about the soy molecule.

Your son's bowels being improved on the gluten free casein free diet is great news and is an indication that it is something you should stick with. That definitely bodes well for the future. Once the gut heals then they can absorb nutrients and heal. His becoming worse is a little worrisome, but not uncommon. There could be yeast die off or he could be getting gfcf traces here and there or he is allergic to other things (including soy) which now that he is off wheat and dairy, he is consuming more often, or he could be deficient in vitamins. They do say sometimes it gets worse before it gets better--if that makes any sense!

Also, we started speech therapy all day every day with our son to keep him connected. The speech therapist trained us to do the speech therapy. I wouldn't let him escape into playing with doors and the vacuum and keys for hours on end. I engaged him constantly by basically mimicking the very animated CONNECTED speech therapist we had. It is a lot of work--I KNOW!

Feel free to email me at

Quote of the Day

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
--Albert Einstein

(I thought this quote sums up the problem with the double blind scientific study model. If you have ever participated in a double blind study, as I have, you will understand my feelings about how double blind studies, in their attempt to measure things, can often lose important data.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

all about: HONEY and A Coconut Meringue Recipe (gluten free, SCD, dairy free)

For the last year and half I have been all about healing my family's gut issues through better nutrition. And yesterday, I decided that we could all use a little break from sugar. Of course, the first thing that I did was bake some cookies with honey! I realize that, to many people, this may seem like switching seats on the titanic, but honey seems to be okay on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.

Like most fruits and vegetables, honey is monosaccharide and has one sugar molecule. Because of its simple molecular structure, the body doesn't need to break sugar down, and so it can immediately be used by the body. This means that honey will pass directly through the filter in the intestine and won't become waste for bad bacteria to eat. Unlike honey, sugar is a disaccharide and has two molecules. The body must use enzymes to break the sugar molecule apart in order for it to leave the gut and move through the lining of the intestine. Table sugar, brown sugar and milk are all disaccharides. Finally, polysaccharides are starches that contain many molecules that need to be split apart. Once again, the body must use enzymes to split these complex carbohydrates apart.

In people with normal gut flora, whatever isn't broken down will leave the body as waste, but in people with compromised gut flora, the undigested food becomes food for bad bacteria. Symptoms of yeast overgrowth are gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhea, hyperactivity, inattention, yeast infections, and irritability.

In the absence of healthy gut flora, people are unable to digest food and absorb nutrients properly. Interestingly, the beneficial bacteria actually synthesizes many crucial vitamins to keep our brains working in the absence of food. In addition, pathogenic bacteria in the gut can often end up consuming nutrients--especially iron. Supplementing iron often just feeds the pathogenic bacteria making them stronger. One solution is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which starves the unhealthy bacteria by removing the disaccharides and polysaccharides from the diet. Another option is to include probiotics. By increasing the healthy bacteria in the gut, you can crowd out the bad bacteria.

Here is my recipe for Meringues that seemed to make the whole no more sugar thing more do-able...

Coconut Nut Meringues

4 egg whites
1 cup raw organic honey
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (dessicatedor ground coconut works best)
1 cup ground raw nuts (we use cashews, but you can use almonds or pecans)

optional: pastry bag with 1/2 inch tip

Whip egg whites until they stand in stiff peaks. Slowly drizzle in warm honey while continuing to whip. When honey is incorporated, fold in coconut and ground nuts.

Drop or pipe with a pastry bag teaspoons or tablespoon size rounds onto baking sheets. Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour or until hardened. Turn off oven and let them harden.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Gluten Free Cashew Cookies Recipe

These cashew cookies are the first cookies that I have made in my new kitchen. They taste buttery and light--despite the fact that they are dairy free. If you don't have nut allergies then adding nuts to baked goods is a great way to add some nutrition to your kids diet.

1 cup Spectrum Naturals Organic Shortening (buy at Whole Foods or order online)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon organic gluten free vanilla extract
1.5 cups plus Brown Rice Flour Mix*
1.5 cups finely ground raw cashews (I grind these in the cuisinart)
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon xanthum gum
1/2 teaspoon salt

1.Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Beat shortening, sugar and brown sugar with electric mixer. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until fluffy.
3. Add flour, ground cashews, baking soda, xanthum gum and salt. Mix at medium speed until well blended.
4. Drop tablespoon of dough onto cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Bake in center of oven for 10 minutes until light golden brown.

*Brown Rice Flour Mix (1 cup Authentic Foods brown rice flour, 1/4 c. tapioca flour, 1/4 c. potato starch)

Friday, October 3, 2008


gluten free playdough recipe
Q: Hi. I read your blog and thank you for your good recipes. I have been searching for a good gluten free playdough recipe. Several I found seem to all have issues and don't turn out just so. Do you happen to have a good gluten free playdough recipe? His teachers are going to make enough for the entire classroom so that he does not come into contact with playdough that could make him ill.

A: Here is a link to a great site called A Year of Crockpotting. Crockpot Lady used to run preschool centers and this gluten free playdough recipe is a must have for any gluten free family with small kids. Let me know if you make it and if you have any tips to pass on.

GLUTEN FREE PLAYDOUGH from A Year of Crockpotting

RECOVERED: How ABA Therapy is Helping Some Kids with Autism

colorful autism ribbonYesterday I went to a movie called Recovered, which was a documentary about children recovering from autism through ABA therapy with an agency called CARD. ABA is Applied Behavioral Therapy and basically you create an individualized plan which involves 30-40 hours a week of one to one therapy services to teach the child to overcome their challenges using reinforcements. It was fascinating and inspiring to meet in person two 11th graders who have recovered. A well spoken girl shared the story of her recovery with poise and eloquence and a boy passionately played his guitar and sang a song from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was a moving evening and it is nice to know there are so many ways you can help your children get better from what many think is a lifelong diagnosis. Most interesting to me was hearing Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh speak about the work she does at CARD.

She also mentioned how so many kids today, who don't have autism, have autistic traits and how widespread these symptoms are and how worrisome this is for future generations of kids. I think this is the most important thing I took away from this event.

This issue is not just about the kids who have autism.

In my opinion, all our kids are being poisoned by something in the environment--some are just more sensitive than others. The chemicals in processed food, pesticides sprayed on fruits and vegetables, the air we breath which is filled with mercury, our drinking water with traces of pharmaceutical medication in it all create a body burden which affects the neurology and development of our children. And, the lack of fresh real food often makes it hard for the children to detoxify from their environment.

But it is nice to know that CARD has helped some children to get better from autism using ABA. And this movie is an important piece of evidence that some kids are getting better--and growing up to tell about their struggle to recover.