Moms are always asking me what they should feed their children. After I talk with them about all the REAL foods kids need to be eating daily - fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains and organic animal products - inevitably I start getting questions about crackers, cookies, cereals, breads, pancakes, muffins, granola and all the other grain products kids love. The easy answer is for me to suggest to switch to whole grains. Stop eating enriched flour products. At least there are some more nutrients in whole grain products, right? Unfortunately the answer is not so simple.
The bottom line is that our digestive systems are not designed to digest grains well. The proteins in grains, especially gluten, are very difficult to digest. In Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon writes, "A diet high in unfermented whole grains, particularly high-gluten grains like wheat, puts an enormous strain on the whole digestive mechanism. When this mechanism breaks down with age or overuse, the results take the form of allergies, celiac disease, mental illness, chronic indigestion and yeast overgrowth."
Our children are eating lots of unfermented grains every day. Grains have become a staple in their diet. The USDA food pyramid (now plate) recommends children eat between 3 and 8 ounces of grains daily (with at least 1/2 coming from whole grains?!?) depending on their age and weight. For example, 1 large bagel = 4 ounces. Many children eat that amount of grains in just one meal or snack, let alone in a day.
Traditionally people included grains like spelt, kamut and quinoa in their diets in limited amounts and the grains were always prepared for proper digestion through the process of soaking or fermentation. The current trend of children eating enriched flour products and/or whole grain fake foods is contributing to poor health.
3 Ways to Improve Your Child's Health
1. Stop serving your child products with Enriched Flour listed on the label. This is a red flag for a fake food product and will not contribute to your child's health.
2. Replace packaged snacks made from grains (even whole grains) with REAL food snacks of sliced fruit & vegetables. Make dips like hummus, honey-mustard, guacamole and homemade ranch (see REAL Pantry) and pide them into small reusable containers so they are ready to go when your child is hungry.
3. If you are going to use oatmeal, rice, quinoa or other grain in a recipe, plan to soak the grains overnight in warm water and a few tablespoons of whey, yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. This process greatly increases the nutritional value of the grains, and most importantly it decreases the phytic acid that blocks the absorption of life-giving minerals.
Any one of these three steps will move you in the direction of improving your child's health now and for a lifetime and incorporating all three will greatly increase your child's foundation for health and happiness.