I know MOST of you out there are far ahead of me in understanding all things food & nutrition, so please don't laugh at me as you read through this. You know what? It's probably best that those of YOU (you know who you are because you were already snickering as you read the title of this...) just skip over this post entirely because I'm about to give just a few, very BASIC things that I've learned in this crazy journey of helping my child get well again that I'm sure you already know. :)
But I'm just HOPING that there's one or two of you out there somewhere who, like me, don't know a whole lot about health & nutrition, and while you're conscious about wanting you or your kids to eat healthy, you may be interested to hear about a few extra ways you can make that happen.
So take these with a grain of salt & consider the source. :) I know health & nutrition is a step-by-step lifelong process, not an immediate lifestyle change. (though my daughter's gut issues resulting in complete hair loss of scalp, eyelashes & eyebrows forced us to make more changes quickly to help boost her immune system.) Obviously, we've had to be very vigilant & a bit extreme right now until we can get things under control. But who knows? Maybe you'll end up finding one or two things you're interested in trying yourself!
- Eat simply. By that I mean-- ditch the processed/canned/sauces/pre-packaged/lots-of-ingredients stuff & instead, try eating meals more like this: 1) a fresh meat or fish that you have grilled or baked, 2) one or two fresh veggies (yes, you cut them up yourself.) either raw or stir-fry in a skillet with olive oil, 3) brown rice or sweet potato, & 4) a fresh fruit. Skip the bread. Just try it. You might find that you feel BETTER afterwards.
- Eat things that work FOR you. Don't simply eat things that aren't that bad. Though you can find something nutritional in things like corn or potatoes or pasta, they are more of a "filler" food that seem to fill you up, but they're not packed with nutrition. Eating nutritiously DENSE foods as much as possible like fruits, veggies, salads, nuts, good eggs, & fish will work more FOR you than simply being acceptable.
- Sugar is health's enemy. Seriously. I know sugar is amazing & we crave it soooo much, but we need to be aware of what it really does to us: Let's say you're eating this amazing diet with lots of fresh veggies & fruits that are really boosting your immune system, and then you indulge in that little dessert. Guess what-- it just negated ALL the good stuff that you gave your body earlier. Hear me out-- I'm not saying drop out all sugar permanently (I sure can't!), but consider thinking twice about eating or offering sugary sweets too often. Try to fill that sweet tooth with natural sugars found in fresh fruits.
- Have you seen all of the commercials lately for probiotics? (it's the "good stuff" found in yogurt-- the good bacteria that your intestines need) For kids, you can start with a basic probiotic called "Culturelle for Kids"-- they sell it at Walgreen's & it comes in packets that you can mix into water or juice. In general, though, probiotics that require refrigeration & have more than one type of "strand" of bacteria are generally better for you.
- ROTATION, ROTATION, ROTATION. (Especially when it comes to gut issues.) Try not eating the same foods for 3 or 4 days & rotate out different foods. It's CRUCIAL for our daughter right now in order to not build up new food intolerances. If you have food sensitivities, this is critical.
- Get on a multi-vitamin. For kids, don't go for the vitamins that are loaded with sugar. A good basic brand for kids that I've found is Animal Parade.
- All salmon is not created equal. (among other foods...) I thought that when we were eating fish as a family, we were packing in great nutrition. And certainly eating fish is better than not eating fish. But the BEST fish to look for (either fresh or frozen) is "wild caught" (most of the fish we consume is "farm raised")
- Raw veggies are better than cooked. Steamed veggies are better than boiled. If you want to REALLY pack in the nutrition for you & your family, try getting a juicer. We are SO excited-- we just got this one and it's awesome! You just put fruits & veggies into the top & out of it comes a delicious drink! Think about it: it's already broken down (easy to digest), it's better than any fruit juices you'd buy (you know what's in it & there's nothing "added"), & when else would YOU or your kid eat an entire piece of celery, or spinach leaves, or carrots, etc?? I will definitely have to blog more about this, but for Caroline's first "juice," I put in a mango, a piece of celery, & some alfalfa sprouts (wierd, I know, but it's just what I happened to have on hand), & was delicious! Seriously. You couldn't taste the veggies. She drank it all UP.
- Another quick tip if you have gut issues especially-- try a digestive enzyme with the first bite of your meals. (if you're lactose intolerant- make sure your enzyme has lactase in it, etc.) It will help break up your food & ease the work of your gut.
- We all need more omegas! The standard American diet has all of us deprived of 'em. You can get 'em by including things like olive oil, flaxseed oil, or taking a fish oil supplement. (a great one we found for kids is this one, which you might be able to find at your local health food store in a smaller amount. It tastes good & kids like it.) Another way to sneak it into your diet is to ground up some flax seeds in your coffee grinder, & sprinkle the powder onto whatever you're eating.
- Eat LOCAL produce and ORGANIC whenever possible. I know to some of you it seems like a ridiculous "fad" thing. It did to me before all of this. Why would I spend THAT much money on food when I can get it so much cheaper??, I used to think. (here's where I make a shameless plug for the movie "Food Inc."-- it was soooo eye opening to me.) There just isn't enough space here to write the reasons, so just trust me. :)
- Like to eat tuna? Well, next time you're buying it out of a can, take a look at the ingredients & look for the can without the extra added "stuff" like soybeans & preservatives. It's there, you just might have to look a little harder: a can of just TUNA and WATER. But you might have to pay a touch more. (does that make any sense why we have to pay more for less?? oh that's right, because it won't be "fresh" as long?? hmmm....)
Update: Several of you have asked about how Caroline's doing. The antibiotic was excellent in clearing out the bacterial infection in her salivary gland-- the swelling went away over the next day or so. And thankfully it doesn't seem to be TOO bad on her gastro system... some more skin/eczema issues (but what's new...ugh.) and a few less-than-stellar diapers, (compared to the PERFECT ones we've been having consistently! yay!!) but overall, we're happy that it helped her cheek & we feel like we did the right thing. Unfortunately, tomorrow morning this girl has yet ANOTHER bloodwork appointment to check for all of her mineral levels. (since things turned around SO fast with the zinc, our doctor thinks we need to get a reading of all of her mineral levels to see what else might not be absorbing into her system...) Thank you for your continued prayers for us. Promise more pictures soon!