OK so when I make ‘curry’ I just make it with the flavors that I enjoy. I have actually never really followed a curry recipe so I am not even sure if this is considered a curry hahaha. But I find curry and stews so easy and simple to make. The prep is the only thing that takes some time, otherwise these types of meals are so perfect for busy nights. You can even prep the veggie ahead of time so it is less work. And the bonus is that it is a great recipe to use when you need to clean out your fridge. Perfect for scraps or veggies that need to be used up. Because let’s face it food waste is a serious issue now a days!
Guys don’t be afraid to cook without a recipe. Make a few or read a few recipes to get an idea of the flavors you like. Then try just cook adding in the spices you like. Take out the veggies or foods you need to use up, lay them on the counter and come up with a dish. I promise you will surprise yourself!
Also don’t be aftide to awap out veggies, spices, or grains from a recipe. Experiment! Some of my best recipes happened because I had to substitute for an ingredient I didn’t have. Actually the vast majority of my recipes happened while I was ‘winging it’ ! And I don’t think of myself as a chef or even someone with a good palate or knack for what spices taste good together. Cooking doesn’t have to be stressful! When you make a recipe your unsure of then make a small amount and dont have high expectation, that way your not setting yourself up for failure…. I never expect my kids to love a recipe that I am unsure of! As you get use to what works you’ll get better and better at winging it and start surprising yourself with some amazing recipes!
OK on to the recipe…
Oh wait one more thing, I recently got a mortar and pestle and it has been a game changer in the taste department. I bought seeds instead of the ground spices (like cumin, cardamon, and fennel…) and started grinding them myself. The flavor is so much better. It is way stronger and richer and I highly recommend this extra step. Plus it’s fun to grind up!
For the salad
–1 white onion
-5 garlic cloves
-1 cup lentils
-2 tsp curry seeds
-2 tsp fennel seeds
-10 cardamon pods
-2 tsp paprika
-2 tsp curry powder
-1/4 tsp of chili flakes
-1/2 inch of ginger
dash of salt and pepper
-5 brown mushrooms, minced
-1 large russet or white potato, diced
-3 medium carrots, diced
-2 stalks of celery, diced
-1 zucchini, diced
-1 broccoli crown, cut small
-1 cup of green beans, quartered
-2 tbs tomato paste
-1 can of coconut milk
-2 limes, juiced
In an instant pot or medium sauce pan add in the lentils, half the onion, 2 garlic cloves and 4 cups of water. Cook until lentils are soft but firm, about 15 minutes in the instant pot or 20-25 minutes in the pot.
While the lentils cook, chop up the other half of the onion. In a large pot heat up some olive oil or water and sautee the onions and garlic.
Meanwhile, add in all the spices, ginger and remaining garlic cloves to the mortar and pestle and grind into a paste. Once the onions and garlic are translucent, add in the spice paste and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add in the mushrooms and cook for and additional 2 minutes then add in the tomato paste, coconut milk, half the lime juice, potatoes, carrots, celery, and zucchini and cook for 10 minutes.
If lentils are finished cooking remove most of the liquid and discard the cooked onion and garlic.
To the curry, add in the broccoli, green peas, and the lentils and cook until broccoli is at desired texture, 2-5 minutes.
Add in the remaining lime juice and serve over steamed rice or buckwheat grouts.
Enjoy! And dont forget to tag me if you make this recipe (@at.my.table)! I love to see your creations.
I was at the farm the other day and they had so many beautiful asparagus and peas! With the inspiration of these veggies the recipe for this salad came together surprisingly easy as I found myself in the kitchen wondering what to make for dinner. With these hot days I have not been craving much in the way of a hot meals and I wanted something fresh. What I was craving was a nice taboloui salad but, as we are a gluten free household that was not possible. We have also been eating so much rice lately that I wanted to try a different grain.
Luckily, I had some buckwheat grouts in the pantry from when my son was rice free (glad those days are behind us). I even made sushi with buckwheat grouts before and they are surprisingly very delicious! Let me know if you would like that recipe in the comments below.
In addition buckwheat has some amazing health benefits:
-Naturally gluten free (a plus in our household)
-Stabilizes blood sugars due to its low glycemic index. Thus it is released slowly into the blood stream helping to keep blood sugars from spiking and keeping you feeling fuller longer.
-Provides highly digestible protein!. Buckwheat actually contains twelve amino acids and has the highest protein content per gram when compared to most other grains (besides quinoa).
-Rich in the phytonutrient rutin, an important antioxidant to the cardiovascular system. This along with it’s high fiber content helps fight high blood pressure and cholesterol.
-Great source of B vitamins, manganese, magnesium, zinc, iron and folate.
OK so I wont waste any more time on here, on to the recipe….
A fresh, light, summer salad perfect for hot nights.
A delicious fresh summer salad with farm fresh ingredients. Perfect fro hot summer nights or to bring for a picnic or BBQ
For the salad
1 cup of buckwheat grouts
2 cups of water
1 white onion, minched
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped
1/2 cup of fresh peas
roughly 2 cups of fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
15 baby tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup green olives, chopped
For the dressing
1/2 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup ACV
Juice from 1 lime
1 tbs mustard
1 tbs dried dill
2 tbs maple syrup
1 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
Dash of salt and pepper
In a medium sauce pan add the buckwheat and water with a dash of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Remove from heat, uncover and let it sit until cool enough to handle. Alternatively you can cook the grouts in an instant pot under the rice setting. Once cooked transfer to a bowl and refrigerate. ( For easy digestion you can soak the grouts overnight first)
While the grouts are cooking can prep the veggies.
In a medium pan add the onion and garlic and about 1/4 cup of water. Cook over medium heat until the onion are soft. Add in the fresh peas and asparagus along with some salt and pepper. You can also add extra spices here if you wish.
4.While the veggies cook whisk up the dressing. Add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix together.
When the veggies are soft but still firm remove from heat and add to the buckwheat.
Add in the remaining ingredients and dressing and toss until well combined. If you have time you can refrigerate the grouts and the cooked veggies before you add in the raw veggies to ensure the parsley and cilantro do not wilt.
Enjoy as a side salad or as a simple fresh dinner. Great for picnics or BBQs
I think this is the number one question I get from just about everyone! How is it that I have time to make fresh healthy meals and mostly, how do I get my kids to eat it.
I have thought a lot about this because this is not something I think a lot about 😉 We eat what we eat and I don’t stress much about it. I think if you are relaxed about food your kids will follow suit. Actually my biggest stressor comes from my kids wanting what other kids are eating when we are out. Or from their crazy ice cream and chocolate obsession! But then I remember that they are 6 and 3 and that is pretty normal.
So how do I have time to cook such fresh healthy foods. Well, right at this moment I am on maternity leave with my third baby boy. However I cooked this way even when I was working full time. And really 3 kids is pretty equivalent to a full time job and then some! For me, meal plans have never worked very well. Mostly because we are a bit spontaneous regarding seeing friends or wanting to go out of the house for an outing. So what are my tips and tricks for making healthy meals and how do I get my kids to eat them… read on!
Tips for healthy food for busy parents:
Buy foods you like to eat. If no one eats swish chard don’t buy it. Food waste is a serious issue nowadays.
Now that you have food, my next tip is to LOOK INSIDE your fridge, yes thats right! Before i decide on dinner I always look inside my fridge and see what veggies need to be used up. Then I build a meal around that. This always helps with the dinner idea and reduced food waste. This also brings me to the next few steps to make easy dinners….
Have a few good recipes for protein. For us thats baked tofu (find recipe here), or roasted or spiced chickpeas, or cooked lentils. There are a few recipes I know well and cook often. This also helps with picky eaters because they know what to expect (more below).
Have a few carb recipes you love. For us that is steamed rice, oilless french fries (recipe here), rice noodles or just plain pasta.
Figure out what veggies your family love. This can be tricky for picky eaters but I have a few pointers below.
Build your meals around points 2-4!! Mix it up, that way it doesn’t get boring. This will also be good because as you get comfortable with your staple recipes you can experiment slowly with switching flavours or adding in a new ingredient.
Don’t try and complicate your life with elaborate meals. Like I said simple but flavourful is key. You don’t need to cook up 5 different veggies, or an elaborate curry or casserole, do you really have time for that. If you do great but if your coming home after a long day then some steamed broccoli, frozen peas and carrots over rice with a side of baked tofu topped with avocado is just perfect.
Start simple. Learn these staple recipes on the weekend or on weeknights where you don’t have other activities. Healthy fresh meals don’t have to be complicated. They also don’t have to be boring or flavourless. Have a few yummy pasta sauces in the pantry, even if that is store bought. When you have time make a few delicious sauces to add to a rice or noddle bowl. This works well for us because my husband, and my kids have different preferences for flavour. So I can make a spicy sauce for my husband, a sweeter sauce for my kids and a savoury one for me. I keep them in the fridge and then when we have rice or noodle bowls it is easy to drizzle on top.
Stick to number 6! Figure out what works for busy days. For me that is putting all I can in the oven or using my instant pot because I don’t have to watch the stove. You can get a full meal by throwing tofu (or chickpeas), fries, and beets in the oven and making rice in the instant pot. In the winter I love one pot curry or stews (check my instagram (here) for tons of recipes). You literally throw it all in the instant pot and it cooks itself. Here is the instant pot I use (here).
Tips for picky eaters, how to get your kids to eat veggies:
Ok so a bit of a disclaimer, we have always been big veggie eaters. Even after we had our first kiddo, despite eating loads of animal products and unhealthy packages or processed foods, we still consumed a lot of salad and cooked veggies. So our kids grew up watching us eat veggies and always had veggies on their plates. This will be the BEST thing in terms of getting your kids to eat and enjoy veggies. The term monkey see monkey do applies here even if they are not super interested right away. Jaden would not eat a salad until he was 3 years old despite us offering it to him at every dinner.
If however this is not your current situation that’s OK. Your not doomed and it is never to late to change or adapt your child’s diet. My son Avery is still the picker eater of the group. He can flat out refuse to eat something and will pick out a minuscule piece of onion from any dish.
Ok so here are tips that I found helpful:
Explain to them why eating veggies and fruit is healthy. They may not seem interested at first but most kids are curious. They like to know WHY we are making them yucky veggies and asking them to eat it. I tell my kids how spinach and broccoli helps to build bones and how beans build muscle. Sometimes this sparks conversations into the food-body connection. I love this because it gives me a chance to make an impression on the relationship my kids have and will have with food.
Take you kids grocery shopping! I love this one because you can give your child some control over what they eat. I always stick to the produce section when I bring my kids that way they only pick fruits and veggies. Avery always gets super excited about picking his own food. To maximize this I also let me kids help me cook dinners on some nights. Or I make tacos or bowls and as them which toppings they would like. The rule is you have to have a protein and 2 veggies. This always works well because when kids have a choice they feel empowered.
You don’t have to like it but you have to try it. This doesn’t always work but I try. I explain to them that sometimes we wont be eating for taste but for nourishment. Food wont always taste amazing. I try my best to make dishes my kids like but as their palate changes and develops this wont always align. So when they try it even if they just lick the veggie or food it is enough for me. The important thing is to get them to be confident and adventurous with food. It is also critical that you do not overly force them. I strongly believe in this because you will teach your child to trust their bodies and also respect their own boundaries. If you make a battle out of eating broccoli you not only show your child how much power they have over not eating food but you create a negative environment around food. You do not want to cause a connection between stress, anxiety, and food. This leads me to my next point…
I never force my kids to finish food. This connects to the above point. We need to trust that our children know what is best for their bodies. Some kids like to eat smaller meals more times throughout the day. My son Avery is like this. So save half their dinner for a later snack. OR better yet give them small portions so it is not a battle. HOWEVER, I am not referring to kids that eat 1 spoonful (see the next point for that), my kids know they have to eat enough so they are not asking for a snack 5 minutes later. It is important to let your child self regulate with food. The point is to create a healthy relationship with food and this starts at a young age. You dont need to waste food to make this point, be smart about portion size, leftovers and compost.
If your child wont eat more then a spoonful this could be very frustrating. Avery went thru this phase for a short time and the key for us was to not make a big deal out of it. As frustrating and aggravating as it was we tried to not give him power over dinner. What we did was save his dinner and offer only that for the rest of the night. Your child wont starve. The main point here is to not make a big deal out of it food. I never saved their dinner for breakfast or got super mad (althouh I did have to take a break in the bathroom or get my husband to take over). Another important point here is to make their portions small enough that they finish quick and get the message. Once they ate enough I would followed up with a healthy snack a bit later to make sure he was getting enough good food in. Again try not to make any of this a big deal, if you stay calm and cool your child will see that food is not a battle and move on. Trust your child and their cues.
If all else fails make a smoothie. Start off by making it with fruit they love. Frozen banana and some berries or even a plant based yogurt. Add it into their daily routine. For us that’s when my kids get home from school. I actually bring it to the bus stop so he walks home drinking it (also helps distract him if I add a weird flavour). Car rides also work well. Then slowly start adding in some veggies like spinach, kale, spirilina, dates, etc.. Start with a small amount and work to your child’s desired flavours. Jaden hates spinach in his smoothie but loves kale. This doesn’t need to happen overnight. Take your time.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, don’t worry so much about this! All my kids went thru a ‘picky’ phase. I tried my best to not get overly emotional or upset by this. I made dishes they liked (to a point, you are not going to cater to them all the time) and I served them smaller portions and made sure to give them healthy snacks during these fussy times. The main idea is to teach your child to trust themselves and have a healthy connection to food. It is not what they eat in a day but what they eat in a week that matters!
Follow me on instagram for easy simple meal recipe and ideas.
Hello! I am Patricia, a 35 year old mama of 3 spunky boys and a loving husband living in Toronto, Canada.
I am passionate about making and enjoying delicious easy recipes, eating intuitively, packing healthy food to go, gardening, and healing our bodies with whole plant based foods. I teach and educated our children on the power that fresh whole foods have over our bodies and the importance of trusting ourselves to eat intuitively.
However this was not always my passion. I began on this journey after my son became sick. He was suffering from eczema, multiple food allergies, stomach pain, slow sluggish digestion, and behavioural issues. We were lost as to how to help him and frustrated having to watch him live in pain and irritation. His abdomen was always swollen and he was alway close to threshold with his emotional state. With no clear answers we began on a journey of healing and recovery using whole plant based foods (read more on this here, and our eczema story here).
I initially began an instagram account as a way to gain inspiration and recipes for our new lifestyle. I was feeling very frustrated and overwhelmed with all the cooking and changes that we were making in our lives and needed some guidance and direction. Over the first year it evolved into something beautiful. A supportive community that has inspired and fuelled my love of simple, easy meals that heal and nourish our bodies. This first step opened my eyes on the power of healthy eating.
I hope to share what I have learned through these past few years on here. I want to share the recipes we make and the journey we are still walking to hopefully inspire and educate those seeking their journey to health.
My third pregnancy was actually my first vegan pregnancy. To this day when I look at Micah I am still blown away that I made this human entirely out of plants. Maybe because I have been told my entire life that you need animal products to be healthy and grow properly, or maybe it’s because I let the fears and anxieties of others influence my thought! Or maybe because I was insecure at the beginning as well. But when I look at my son I see a healthy, happy, chubby little man and seeing him today makes me realize how wrong I was about what health can be. I wanted to share my experience because I think it is important to communicate that it is very possible to have a healthy vegan pregnancy and postpartum!
I know that a vegan diet is not for everyone, heck I NEVER thought it was for me. Before I had Micah I was a full blown carnivorous paleo. I ate meat or some form of animal product with EVERY meal. We had eggs for breakfast, chicken for lunch and beef for dinner. I made my coffee with butter and we had cheese and yogurt all the time for it’s probiotics. I was what I thought to be ‘healthy’. I was not overweight or outwardly sick. But I did have thyroid issues, low energy, brain fog and I just never felt full of energy (but anyways that is for another post). What I wanted to discuss here is my experience having a vegan pregnancy. Was I healthy, was I deficient, did I have any problems and how healthy is my baby compared to my other 2 children?
Ok so my pregnancy! I transitioned into a plant based diet a few months before I became pregnant. So I was very nervous when I became pregnant because I was still so new to veganism. I wanted to make sure my baby was receiving all the nutrients he needed and that I was not depriving my body or my baby of anything (echo the protein and iron debate) . SO, shortly after I discovered I was pregnant I asked my doctor to do some blood work to check my iron, calcium, B12 and folate. I was not on any prenatals at this point so I was very nervous about the state of my nutrition. It is one thing to make a decision for yourself, but it is an entirely other thing to decide something for another, especially a growing child. My decisions when pregnant could affect him for life! So I was very happy to see that my blood results were all normal or in the high range of normal, except iron. However I must mention that iron has always been an issue for me. When I was paleo eating red meat every single day I was still low on iron. So I didn’t concern myself to much with that and started a vegan supplement plus b12 right away. I now know that my issues with iron is my poor absorption of iron and I am taking the steps to help correct this.
As my pregnancy continued I got my blood levels checked every few months to check my the main nutrients that are suggested by many to be deficient in a vegan diet. They always came back normal, except iron which was slightly on the low end of normal.
Ok now for the bad news (sorry but it was not all roses and sunshine). This third pregnancy was a very hard one for me. This shocked me because I had easy, movie type pregnancies with my other two boys. No vomitting, no major nausea and I worked until a few days before they were both born. With Micah (this vegan pregnacy) that was not the case. At 10 weeks I had to start nausea medication just so I could make it to work. I stopped throwing up but I was so drowsy that I had to take a nap in my car, yes that’s right, in my car at lunch and then again when I got home so I could find the energy to make dinner. So that was short lived and I stopped the medication at 15 weeks. I eventually had to go on medical leave at 21 weeks because I felt so incredibly sick. At first I chalked it up to finally having a girl, so imagine my surprise when I found out it was another boy hahaha. Then I thought it was because my iron was so low. In fact my hemoglobin had also dropped a bit by this point. But this corrected itself when I switched to a stronger dose of iron (I used floravit, which is a vegan brand) but the sick feeling remained. It wasn’t until Micah was born that we realized why I may have been so sick (complications with his placenta). But throughout my entire pregnancy I was worried that my dietary choice could be the reason I was feeling so bad. I’ll be honest there were a few times when I was so sick and feeling so horrible that I questioned my decision to become vegan while pregnant. But then I thought logically! How could eating plants, beans, and fruit make my body deficient or sick! I tracked my macros- and micro-nutrients on cronometer and followed up with blood tests, and spoke to my midwife which all helped me relax a lot. Mostly because I saw that I was receiving all my baby needed. Being a researcher by training I spent many hours reading peer reviewed articles about veganism and it’s safety (Check this blog post for the resources ). HOWEVER, one thing I must mention is that just being ‘vegan’ does not mean you are eating well or even healthy. A bag of potato chips are vegan, and so are many processed foods! So I took the time and effort to make healthy choices and eat a WHOLE FOOD plant based diet!
Ok so how was my baby, was he healthy and is he growing? My son Micah was born on Christmas day after a short labor weighing in at 6 lbs 13 oz. He was my smallest baby (the other two were 7lb 13oz, and 7lb, 6oz) but healthy and just perfect. He is a very calm, patient, happy little 6 month old today (as I write this). And despite being my smallest (but still a very good birth weight) he is a CHUNK! Weighing in at almost 22 lbs at 6 months! I have no issues nursing him, and I have an amazing milk supply. I make sure to eat enough calories from whole plant-based foods and stay hydrated to allow my body to make enough milk! I think a huge part of successful breastfeeding has to do with hydration and caloric intake.
SO, was I healthy, yes I believe so. Was I deficient, absolutely not! And how healthy is my baby compared to my other 2 children? Well so far he is healthy and happy. The only difference…. he has NO gas or digestive issues!!! Both my other two boys had MAJOR stomach cramps, gas, bloating and reflux as babies! So I will just leave it here that I think the main reason for this is my very clean diet. I especially kept my diet free from many irritants during the first 3 months postpartum. I didn’t consume caffeine, chocolate, gluten, or heavy spices (and obviously eggs and dairy) and minimal to no alcohol.
Today I am so grateful and happy I trusted myself and did the research to make sure I was on a healthy track. If you are considering a vegan pregnancy, heck if you are just plain pregnant, regardless of your diet choice, make sure you are receiving all the nutrients you need from WHOLE foods. Download cronometer and track your food intake and ask for a few blood tests along the way to make sure you are hitting all your macros- and micro-nutrients (carbs, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals)! Don’t rely solely on your prenatals! If you are super sick, like I was, then try your best with soups, veggie stock, smoothies and fresh juices and supplement with high quality supplements where you need it.
If your interested in my birth story comment below!
These granola bars are super easy and have been a staple at our house. The best thing about them is that this recipe can be a base recipe for a variety of flavours. You can change up the type of seeds or add dried fruit or even a chocolate coating if you wish. They also dub as a granola ball recipe. Instead of cutting them into bars you can roll them into small balls and bake. Alternatively you can eat them raw as energy balls. Trust me this is a versatile one!
These bars are perfect as a healthy snack on the go or in a lunch box.
My boys love these in their school lunch box or as a healthy treat at home.
-2 medium bananas
-3 tbs sunflower seed butter (you can use any nut butter instead but they wont be school safe)
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-Dash of salt
-1/4 cup of sunflower seeds
-1/4 cup hemp seeds
-1/4 cup chia seeds
-2 cups of thick rolled oats
-1/2 cup of your fav chocolate chips
-(optional)1 tbs of your fav protein powder, we use the garden of life RAW oragnic brand.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a food processor or blender blend up the banana and butter until very smooth.
Add in the vanilla, salt, and seeds and pulse until well combined.
Add in the rolled oats and chololate and pulse again until a dough starts to form. You want the batter to still be slightly wet but hold together if you make a ball.
Turn out into you silicon or non stick baking sheet and press down to form a large rectangle (about 1/2 inch thick). Alternatively, you could roll the dough out into small balls (will make about 24 or 30 depending on size).
Cook for 15-20 minutes of until the oats turn a golden brown.
Once it has cooled a bit, take a sharp knife and cut into small rectangles to form into granola bars. You can make them as big or small as you like.
I have gotten this question so many times. We vegans already have an almost instinctual response for when we tell people we are vegan. There is always a protein or iron comment. How many times have we heard ” oh I can’t be vegan because we need more protein” or ” oh no I have low iron”!
The goal of this post is to present the very well researched studies that have lead me to the conclusion that a plant based diet is not only adequate but can be just as nutritionally complete as a healthy omnivores diet. Although many studies suggest that a plant-based diet can address many types of chronic diseases (I have included some of those studies below), that is not my goal here. I will not try and argue that a vegan diet is superior or a ‘cure-all’ diet.
The main thing I want to address here is the argument that is made about veganism being a deficient diet. Any diet can become a deficient one. There is no strong evidence to suggest that a healthy vegan diet is a deficient one, no more so then what can be said for a healthy omnivores diet (references below).
A comment I hear a lot is that if a vegan diet was adequate then we shouldn’t need to supplement. Now while I agree that the ideal diet should require no supplementation, we live in a modern world, we work, we eat out, we don’t own farm land or get enough sunlight. That is why cereal is fortified, dairy is fortified (preventing many deficiencies in the standard diet) and why supplementation is sometimes needed regardless of whether you are vegan, pescovegatarian, lactovovegatiarian or a meat-eater (references below, just to many to add here). As an example breast fed infants need vitamin D, that does not mean breast milk is inadequate and we should all switch to formula.
During my ongoing research this past year (I find nutrition very interesting and read about it often) I have come across some articles that talk about certain risks associated with plant-based diets. The risks are always in deficiencies if the proper steps are not taken to ensure a complete diet ( but this is also concluded in non-vegatarian diets as well). Just like omnivores, vegans must take care to make sure they get enough of the vitamins and minerals they are at risk for (mostly B12, a simple pill or spray you take once a week). My research is not one sided and I actually started reading up on veganism almost as an anti-vegan, if you can believe that. After watching plant pure nation I had many questions because I did not feel like the researchers in the documentary, and of the China study, explored all aspects of a plant based diet and asked enough questions about why they see benefits. I was a very strong meat-aterian, following the paleo diet never the less, so I set out to prove that veganism was not ideal and that we are in fact meant to eat meat… But as a good scientist I accepted that my research lead me to conclude that my ideas about veganism were essentially wrong and based on fear not on actual data.
What I have learned in my graduate studies and by getting a PhD is that research is not simple. You can not read 1 paper or even 10 and make strong arguments for something. It takes many scientists to publish many unbiased papers so one can review the overall literature to get an idea. This is why I make sure to read many papers and look at many different sources. Recently, plant based diets have received a lot of attention so it will be interesting to see all the studies that will come thru in the next 10 years. For now, did my research lead me to believe that we are not meant to consume animal protein…NO! Did my research lead me to believe that only vegan diets are healthy…A BIG FAT NO!!! But it did lead me to conclude that a vegan diet is healthy and in some cases preferred based on the circumstances of that individual. For me it eradicated my lingering GI issues, bloating, skin problems, and extremely low iron levels (I only supplement with B12 once a week).
A great place to start to understand vegan diets and how it may influence overal health and longevity is to look at the section on the Adventist Health Studies, some of the largest longest set of studies conducted. Countless studies over almost 100 years (see section below)
*NOTE: My definition of vegan is a plant based diet that includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and grains. I am not referring to a raw diet or a low-fat-high-carb (LFHC) diet or any other extreme forms of veganism that restrict how you can consume your plant based food.
Three great papers:
A great review summarizing the findings from the Adventists studies. They specifically look at the vegan population and the effects of this diet on health. Additional more comprehensive studies are below in the Adventists health study section
The seventh day Adventists participated in some of the biggest health studies conducted which are longitudinal and have over tens of thousands of participants. Not to quote Wikipedia but it’s a quick review to the study. Importantly they have a wide range of diets (omnivores, pesco- vegetarian, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, and vegan) with some studies looking at over 90,000 subjects (link).
Here are some more (pubmed ‘Adventists health study, so many studies)
Ströhle, Alexander, et al. “Diet-dependent net endogenous acid load of vegan diets in relation to food groups and bone health-related nutrients: results from the German Vegan Study.” Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism2-4 (2011): 117-126.
Hu, Frank B. “Plant-based foods and prevention of cardiovascular disease: an overview.” The American journal of clinical nutrition3 (2003): 544S-551S.
Ferdowsian, Hope R., and Neal D. Barnard. “Effects of plant-based diets on plasma lipids.” The American journal of cardiology7 (2009): 947-956.
Hafström, I., et al. “A vegan diet free of gluten improves the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis: the effects on arthritis correlate with a reduction in antibodies to food antigens.” Rheumatology10 (2001): 1175-1179.
Barnard, Neal D., et al. “A low-fat vegan diet improves glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in a randomized clinical trial in individuals with type 2 diabetes.” Diabetes care8 (2006): 1777-1783.
Kaartinen, K., et al. “Vegan diet alleviates fibromyalgia symptoms.” Scandinavian journal of rheumatology5 (2000): 308-313.
The opinions expressed in this article are my own. I am not a licensed health care provider so please check with your doctor or dermatologist before following any suggestions posted on this site.
After discovering my son was suffering from some pretty bad eczema I did a lot of research as to not only how to care for eczema but also why he was experiencing such skin issues at such a young age. My son was 3 when we got diagnosed but we noticed his ‘rash’ when he was only 6 months old (see our story for more details).
Below I summarize some of the research and give some suggestions as to what worked for us with Jaden. We spoke with 5 different dermatologist, 2 allergists and many doctors in addition to the countless hours I spent reading and researching eczema. All of this resulted in the same basic conclusions. I am in no way suggesting that this will cure your eczema but this is what has helped us manage and significantly reduce my sons flare ups. The take home message is that his body was overburdened and having a hard time eliminating toxins.
Before I get into it, here is an overall take home and game plan for what worked for us, for those of you lazies that don’t want to read the entire blog 😉
OUTLINE of what I found:
1. Clean up skin care products
-use natural soaps and lotions like dr. bronners and coconut oil
2. LOTS of water and hydrating fruits and veggies
3. Replenish a good Omega 6/3 ratio and increase healthy, but not overal fats
-no processed oils, stick to healthy naturally occurring fats in seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables.
4. Identify any food intolerances or allergies and clean up diet
-Stick to a whole food diet and eliminate processed foods
-Remove top allergens for at least a few months
-Ask for an IgE and IgA blood test
5. Look into the health of your gut flora and introduce fermented food or probiotics.
-Pay attention to how you respond.
Ok so now onto the research.. this is just a small summary of some of what I read. I am by no means an expert on eczema, just a mama armed with some research skills and motivated to help heal her son.
1. Skin irritants: So the first thing we did was to stop using anything irritating on the skin. We cut out any strong soap and lotion including laundry detergent. SUGGESTION: We began using Aveeno eczema body wash and coconut oil as lotion (it is the cleanest lotion you can use). We eventually moved on to more natural forms of soaps like Dr. Bronners and Truely organic. But to start we wanted to use the doctor recommended soap to see how my son’s skin would respond. We looked for products that had minimal ingredients. Olive oil soap or anything along those lines are good.
2. Hydration: For many eczema sufferers hydrating the skin can cause big flare ups. For my son this was not the case so we tried to keep his skin moist. However what I truly mean by hydrating the skin is to DRINK lots of water to keep your skin hydrated from the inside and help your body flush out any toxins. SUGGESTION:The best way to hydrate the skin is to ..you guessed it, drink lots and lots of water. Because my son’s skin did well with hydration we also applied coconut oil 3 times a day to his entire body. In addition we made him eat 1 spoon full of coconut oil a day. In hindsight I would have skipped this step as coconut oil is also a very processed form of fat. What we do now is make sure he gets healthy omegas thru a good vegan supplement, a smoothie made with spirlina, more nuts and seeds (soaked) and seaweed like dulse as often as we can (more on that below).
3. Eczema and fat intake: There has been a lot of research about the link between fat and dermatitis (eczema). Many researchers concluded that children who are on the traditional western diet are not getting the beneficial fats needed to maintain good gut and skin health. They suggest cutting out all processed foods including processed oils (no margarine or vegetable oil). Researchers show that many eczema suffers have a essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiency (particularly in omega 6) or a breakdown in their ability to metabolize it (a good review here).They suggest getting more beneficial fats, (like chia, hemp, avocado…) into the diet to help alleviate symptoms and correct the deficiency. This is what we found helpful with Jaden. SUGGESTION: Stick to a whole food diet and substitute processed oils such as vegetable oil and margarine with either olive oil or coconut oil. We had our son eating 1 tsp of coconut oil for the first few months then switch to relying on unprocessed plants alone for these healthy fats. These healthy unprocessed fats now came from eating chai seeds, hemp seeds, seeds in general, nuts, and avocado, dulse, spirilina and more. (the researchers also suggest fish but that’s a personal choice). Chia and hemp seed go really well in your morning oatmeal!
4. Eczema, food allergies and GI health: Researchers have also found that people with eczema may have a more ‘permeable’ gut. Eczema sufferers have been shown to have a intestinal mucosal defect ( they have an increase in their absorption of large molecules, but not small ones). According to these researchers, this finding (increased absorption of larger molecules) is consistent with the view that allergens (large molecules) are absorbed through the gut in increased amounts in this disease. This does not mean you will have true food allergies BUT it does suggest that these larger molecules can be absorbed and can cause an immune response. This results in flaring eczema along with a host of other inflammatory symptoms. If in addition to eczema you also see hay fever (seasonal allergies) and mild respiratory issues this is even more important (see THIS post on how we discovered allergies and gut damage). This was the case for my son. SUGGESTION: Because we were coming off a mostly western diet,we started by removing all the top allergens from his diet, such as DAIRY, EGGS and nuts (peanuts). In addition, we asked for a skin prick allergy test (IgE test) from our allergist and removed the foods that came up. We also found the blood test for IgA to be helpful (IgA plays a role in allergic responses and was a sign that my son’s body was having inflammatory reactions). We had this done because we were also testing for celiac disease.We stayed on this eliminated diet for over a year to give his body a chance to heal. The gut heals very slowly so we had to be very patient! My son ended up not having true allergies because after that year we successfully reintroduced all the foods on his NO list except gluten (we suspect celiac). However, we still limit these things to reduce the likelihood that they could be absorbed if he still has a permeable intestinal wall. During that year we made sure to keep his diet as simple as possible and relied on a whole (mostly) plant based diet with lots of healthy fats. This is the diet we still eat today and we we are all thriving. Remember, to see big results you sometimes need big change. I wish this was not true and this step was easy but it wasn’t. It as one of the hardest years of my life. But also one of the most rewarding.
5. Eczema and gut flora: The link between gut flora and eczema is very extensive, if you are interested in this you can check out the full articles I referenced below.
This research suggests that many suffers of eczema have a reduction in their flora when compared to normal unaffected individuals. Thus, establishing a good colony of beneficial gut microbes is a very important step in healing the gut. However, this can be a very daunting and a challenging step for many people. I was very overwhelmed with this concept. Did my son have to much of the bad gut bacteria or not enough good bacteria, is he suffering from SIBO or parasites…. the list is long and very confusing because each have their own treatment that are sometimes very opposite. We tried fermented foods and at one point I was brewing my own kombucha and kefir water.But ultimately what worked for us was to just stick to a whole food diet. My son did end up having an amoeba so we had to take some extra steps to treat it but we still limited the introduction of probiotics and fermented foods for a year. He now eats sauerkraut a few times a week with no ill effects. SUGGESTIONS:Get tested for parasites or bacteria overgrowth to see if there is another problem you need to address as well. Introduce fermented foods into your diet first to see how you respond. Pay attention to your symptoms and be aware that if you do have yeast or an amoeba or parasite it is very painful when they begin to die. Work with a naturalpath or a doctor to make sure you are on the correct treatment course.
This was an eye opener for us! We were witnessing what a traditional western diet was doing to our son and it opened our eyes as to what true health and healthy eating meant. We were totally convinced that we were eating ‘healthy’. Taking the time to heal our son’s intestinal track and replenishing good gut flora (thru a whole food diet) was the biggest step we took towards improving his symptoms. We moved towards eating a whole food plant based diet, eating and cooking in a simple yet flavourful and nutritious way (check out my recipe section here for more).
Now I want to be clear that my son still has very mild occasional flare up, winter is always a trigger for him. But his flare ups are manageable, he is not irritated or annoyed and they are isolated to a few spots on the back of his hands because of hand washing. He is no longer covered in rashes, no longer itchy and irritated and miserable. I am so grateful for this eye opening experience and the changes it sparked in our lifestyle! I actually just began reading medical medium and he is putting out a book specifically about eczema in October so stay tuned for that update. Currently, we added in celery juice first thing every morning and cucumber juice every night to see if that helps the gut flora and hydrochloric acid balance in my son’s body even more.
A year after we began this journey of healing this is what my son’s leg current looks like! This was worth every effort we made!
This is our son’s journey from discovering gut damage to healing it!
First let me start by saying that I am not a medical doctor or a certified medial professional. This story is my own experience and the suggestions are just that, a suggestion of what worked for us. Please check with your doctor before taking any advice stated here.
My son Jaden was born a healthy chubby, smiley baby boy. He was our first child and we were totally clueless as to what to expect. The first 12 weeks of his life were ‘normal’ by our standards. He slept like a newborn, ate like a newborn and well… acted like a newborn. But as weeks passed and all my friends children began sleeping well and fussing less, I started to feel insecure about our little guy. His sleeping pattern went from normal, to bad, to just terrible. At 9 months he was still waking every 2 hours and when he woke he didn’t just fall back asleep after nursing or being soothed. He screamed… for hours! Being a first time mom I just figured I had a bad sleeper. It wasn’t until after having my second child that I realized how abnormal his behaviour was. Now after our third child I realize that we were crazy to not have seen this as abnormal. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying all bad sleepers have health issues but for us it was the first of many signs he began to display.
Our biggest sign was what started as a simple harmless looking’ rash’ on his bum that we
assumed to be a diaper rash. This rash was mild, but persisted despite our best efforts.
So my son kept growing and the rash, sleeplessness and irritability grew along with him. So fast forward to after my second son was born and Jaden was 3 years old. We decided to take a trip to Brazil so that my family could meet our second son, Avery. This trip ended up being a very big turning point in our family’s health and wellbeing. At this point Jaden’s behaviour was out of control. He would go from being the very best, calmest and well spoken little boy to a total ‘monster’ (for lack of a better word). We dismissed this behaviour for a long time as normal toddler temper tantrums, the terrible twos, then threes, but when compared to other children they were next level. Now I know what your thinking, don’t compare right, but how could we not when each outburst lasted hours with full on rage, self hitting and the loss of any forms of reason? Talking to him was out of the question and nothing we did could calm him down, even if we gave in to whatever crazy demands he had. Most of the time we had to let it ride out and he would eventually pass out from all the effort. One of the symptoms we missed at this time was that my son would get super flush and extremely hot right before these tantrums, in fact when my son was a baby he would usual get so hot at night that he would wake up dripping sweat (more on this later).
Looking back on this I can honestly say that this was a very hard, dark time in our lives. It put a strain on our relationship as a family and it had us all on edge and walking on egg shells around my son. I figured it was just a matter of time before he would be labelled as on the spectrum or as having a behavioural disorder. I blamed myself, I thought I was ‘breaking’ my son. Surely this was my fault, I wasn’t tough enough, I wasn’t strong enough. My parenting style was much to gentle, we are to attached, me and my husband weren’t united enough, I did not sleep train, I let him nurse on command, you name it I thought it as a reason behind my son’s behaviour. At my weakest moment and at the hight of my sleep exhaustion we even caved to sleep training. We tried all kinds of methods and at my lowest moment I let my son cry for 3 hours one night. But ultimately, that had no effect on my son and he continued, even at 3, to wake constantly during the night. OK so back to our Brazil trip…
One day while we were on the beach my mom saw my son’s ‘diaper rash’ and almost freaked out.
She demanded that this rash was not normal and needed to be looked at by a doctor. She literally spent the entire trip telling me this. So when we got back to Canada, I made an appointment with his paediatrician. And that is when the LONG FRUSTRATING journey to heal my son began…..
The eye opener:
Until that moment I had never addressed my son’s rash, irritability, flush skin, and sleeplessness as a connected group of symptoms for an underlying problem. We had seen many health care practitioners over his 3 years of life to address his symptoms individually, but never as a whole. For his sleep and irritability we tried homeopathic medicine, osteopathy, sleep training and even spiritual cleansing… but nothing helped. It was my mother’s comments to look at my son’s skin that sparked this transition for us. Again when we addressed my son’s skin issue individually we got nowhere. The doctors and 5 different dermatologists confirmed he just had eczema. But this was so frustrating because that just didn’t seem like the full picture to me. Our luck was that my son was very vocal and began telling us that he felt like his skin was on fire and that he was so so itchy and hot all the time. This set off a light switch in my head because I thought, if he is itchy wouldn’t that make him irritable! As a researcher I began looking into these symptoms as a whole.
Yes you read that right my son was pooping white stools, which I now know is a sign of gut damage, an overburdened liver, and malabsorption. That to me was the symptoms that made the most difference in my research. I read about leaky gut and how the skin, gut and brain connections are very strong.
Discovering gut damage
Armed with all this information and knowledge I was excited to share this with his doctor and for an allergy test to be performed on my son. Let’s just say she was not keen to do this. I literally had to demand the referral and refused to leave without one. But boy am I glad I did because our IgE skin prick test revealed he was allergic to all 20…yes 20 of the things he tested him for. The biggest to me being gluten! I never expected that. The allergist looked at me, handed me a sheet of paper with basic instructions and said “good luck, come back in 2 years”. Let’s just say I left that appointment in tears and totally lost as to what the hell I was suppose to feed my son!!! In my opinion the health care we received at this point in our recovery was disappointing! How can they send a mother away from an appointment like that with NO SUPPORT!! NADA!! No referral to a dietician, no further testing to see what was going on… nothing!
Once again my strength as a neuroscientist and stubbornness were the only reason we came out of this. I knew that this was not normal and that something else was goining on. No one can be allergic to lettuce, right! So I asked to be seen by a paediatric GI. Which again was met with hesitation. I eventually did get a referral but with a 13 month wait time because, even though my son was pooing blood at this point, he was not considered high priority! So while we waited I knew I could do more for him. So I began to clean up his diet.
But I was not seeing such drastic results and I was once again left discouraged. Until… enter my mom, for the second time.
With our Brazilian background we understand parasites and amoebas all to well, so my mom suggested doing a fecal test on my son just to be sure. This was the hardest test to get my doctor to perform, despite all the symptoms my son was experiencing. But my persistence paid off and we discovered that my son had a very nasty case of dientamoeba fragilis (if anyone is interested in how we successfully treated this let me know in the comments), yuck right! My doctor prescribed a 10 day antibiotic treatment for the entire family just to be sure (even though our tests were negative). After a unsuccessful round of antibiotics we were referred to a very highly recommended and well known paediatric contagious diseases expert. She informed me that the only drugs that would kill this specific amoeba are very strong, causes neurological issues and is banned in Canada. We would have to live with this infection… Wait what?! Ya you read that right those were her words. But that was not good enough for me. So back to the literature I went reading countless articles on dientamoeba. Unfortunately, there is not much research on this type of ameoba but the few that does exist reported that we were using the right antibiotic (finally one thing going our way), but also that dientamoeba was very fragile and usually coexisted with pinworms, using their eggs to infect the host. Despite my son having NO symptoms of pinworms we tested him anyways and guess what, he had pinworms! So we did a pinworm treatment followed by another round of antibiotics and I can happily report he is amoeba, and pinworm free, YAY right, well not so fast…
The (slow) road to recover
So now that the infection was gone I was left with a child with even more GI damage due to the rounds of heavy antibiotics. His symptoms and behavioural outburst were still super bad despite us being on an elimination diet. All the research I did at this point told me that the gut takes a LONG time to heal, so we had to be patient. I was not yet vegan but I tried very hard to clean up my sons diet. Gluten, dairy, rice, fish, citrus, nightshades, and any form of sugar or food from a box was OUT! Easy right, ya no, it was the hardest dietary and cooking time of my life. My husband and I were working full time, I was finishing up my PhD, we just had my second son and I had to make everything my son ate from scratch. I made a lot of disgusting food back then and spent was to long on recipes and overthinking meals.
But slowly I learned what recipes were quick to make, what to batch make and what was easy to digest and promoted
gut healing by being anti-inflammatory. Unfortunately, I had not yet heard of medical medium. I think that would have speed up my sons recovery if we had! It was a difficult stage but as the week passed his skin cleared, then his tummy pains stopped, his stool became the typical brown color and his nose stopped bleeding. But the biggest transformation, the most rewarding outcome was that we got my son back. The bubbly, calm, well-spoken and just pleasant little man was back in our lives. Sure, he still has the normal tantrums 6 year old have, he doesn’t listen all the time and throws typical fits but that’s the thing, they are typical, normal child behaviour. He no longer feels itchy and irritated and I see a happy healthy life in his future.
Two years after we discovered all his allergies we can happily report that my son can eat everything that was on his NO list except gluten. The power we have to heal our bodies is amazing. Don’t underestimate yourself but also don’t settle against your instincts. I think learning to listen and respect your body takes time, patience and practise. If you get that right you are well on your way to heath and happiness. My son will likely never be able to eat gluten but we have come a long long way from where we started and to me that is a success story.
The most important things I’ve learned:
1.BE PATIENT: the gut can take up to a year to heal depending on the damage. For us it was about 2 years for a FULL recovery.
2 EAT SIMPLY: You dont have to go to such lengths (like I did) to make everything from scratch and go above and beyond with what you make. The key is to just eat simply, to make sure you are eating WHOLE foods! Be weary of ‘gluten-free’ items at the store. If it isn’t naturally gluten-free it will have a LOT of junk (which are gut irritants) . This junk will not help your gut heal. Give the body time before introducing these items or better yet skip this stuff!
3. EAT WHOLE FOODS: This point is an extension of the one above. In order to eat simply and allow your body to heal itself the biggest thing I can recommend is to eat a WHOLE FOOD diet, ideally plant-based. What this means is that if it comes in a package skip it. This is the easiest most effective way to eliminate any food that will irritate or cause further damage to your gut. If you are not going plant-based then at least minimize gluten, dairy (I would cut this one for sure) and meat!
4. BE TRANSPARENT: Be open and honest with your child. My son was 3 when we discovered his allergies so he knew very well what pizza, cake and candy bars were. So we were very open and honest as to why we were cutting them out. We also at one point let him eat regular pizza and told him to pay attention to how he felt. He realized quickly why we were cutting it out. Let your child feel the emotions of having a diet change. It sucked for my son! But we taught him to to listen to his body and respect what his body was trying to tell him. After 2 years my son is very aware of his body, he respects it and he listens to it, most of the time anyways. Which I think is amazing, the silver lining of this entire process!
5. DONT DWELL: DO not dwell or make allergies a big deal. The worst thing you can do is to let your child see that you feel bad for them. They will pick up on your emotional cues.
6. Read medium by Anthony Williams. I wish someone had introduced him to me way back in those early days. It would have supported the journey we were on and armed me with some more useful tools to help him heal.
We never fully understood this quote until my son got sick enough for us to notice, and we had some pretty big blinders on. This blog is a place of confession… a place where we can share our frustration, our disappointments, but mostly our success and transformation as we reconnect with food and the health it can bring us. With a little patience, a lot of research and even more love these recipes have healed our son and brought health to our family.
” The food you eat can be the safest, most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison”