Category Archives: Food, Allergies & Organics

If You Can Grow Kids, You Can Grow Anything

"So, this is where garlic bread comes from?"

I spent this morning digging up garlic bulbs with my delighted 5-year-old daughter. She shouted every time she brought one out of the earth and into the scorching July sun. We stopped at 50 bulbs; both of us hot, dirty and reeking of garlic. It was fun for both of us, but also profound. She loves garlic bread, but never would have imagined this delicious treat could come from under the dirt!

Growing vegetables is more than a hobby for me. Oh sure, I’m geeky enough to take pictures of my garden and post them on Facebook. But farming is part of my past, present and future. I’m the granddaughter of farmers on both sides of my family and have always known where food comes from – both animal and vegetable. For me, growing food is an essential life skill for my children – and if my dreams come true someday – for all children. Just as I teach my girls the alphabet, I also show them how to plant seeds, water and mulch them, and most importantly, how to harvest and prepare the food. What they get from the process is part science lesson, part cooking lesson and part spiritual awakening. Children begin to see the cycle of life in gardening, but issues of life and death are a lot less scary when they are dealing with plants. Farming also raises the consciousness of children about their food supply. At the age of four, our daughter refused to eat pork when she found out it came from pigs, her favorite animal. This lasted for an entire year with our full support.

MOM DARE: Have you ever gardened for yourself or your children? If so, did you really include them or did you ask them to step aside to protect your plants? Perhaps you could try harder to let them do hands-on work. Don’t criticize when they blast your tomato plants with a hose instead of watering around the base. Or when they gleefully dig up more carrots than you can eat in a month. Share them with friends and applaud your child’s interest. I still cringe a little when my children bring me a handful of freshly picked flowers from my gardens, but someday I will miss this simple joy. Never had a garden? Now is the time to grow one thing with your children. Even apartment dwellers have abundant choices when it comes to growing vegetables and fruit. This isn’t a gardening blog, so I’ll let you do your own research on how to do this. At the very least, don’t just take your children to the farmer’s market, take them to an actual farm. Let them walk the rows, pick some berries and ask questions. Not only will this start a process of educating your children about life, ecosystems and healthy choices; but you will create joyful memories to carry with you for the rest of your lives.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

U.S. Babies and Children Allergic to Our Food Supply

I’ve just listened to a webcast on Parenting Unplugged Radio featuring Robyn O’Brien, author of The Unhealthy Truth: How our food is making us sick – and what we can do about it. It sheds new light on the prevalence of allergies in our children, specifically milk allergies, and the processed, artificial food supply we subject them to. Listen here:

If you’re struggling with discovering a food allergy, intolerance or unexplained behavior in your child (such as ADD or ADHD), please look at your food supply. How many labels do you have to read to get through your dinner? How much high fructose corn syrup, hydrolyzed soy protein, msg, hormone-laden milk or hydrogenated oils do you consume? If you’ve never thought about or checked labels, you are likely supplying your family with a toxic diet (even if you are simply breastfeeding your infant).

This is one of the most succinct and well-researched resources I’ve found on the subject of food allergies and gave me reason to pause and reflect on my own struggles with dairy intolerance in all three of my children. (Read previous post Is My Baby Allergic to Me? for common reactions.) I thought I knew it all on the subject of toxic food, but she educated me further. I’m anxious to read the book just to see what more I can learn. Check out her web site at for more information.

Oh, and here’s a funny aside if you’ve listened to the segment where Robyn describes weaning her children off of neon orange mac and cheese. I had my own experience with this when my oldest daughter was finally able to digest cow’s milk and became obsessed with the gooey orange junk. I began buying the natural mac and cheese, which is usually white or slightly yellow, and added pureed organic winter squash to beef up the orange color. She can’t taste it, gets a nice helping of beta carotene and none of the toxins associated with the red and yellow food dyes. I slowly switched to flax seed pasta and ACTUAL CHEESE (gasp!) instead of packaged powder, but continue to add squash. To this day, she has no idea and insists that I make the best mac and cheese in the world. Maybe it’s a baby step, but still one worth taking. Try it!


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Is My Baby Allergic to Me?

As crazy as it sounds, it may be true. Breastfeeding mothers may pass what they eat through the breast milk in a form that their baby can’t tolerate. True food allergies are rare, but many children are born with a food intolerance, especially to cow’s milk products. This includes milk-based formula, as well as breast milk from moms who consume dairy.

The terms allergy and intolerance are often used interchangeably. Technically, an allergy causes an immune-system response and an intolerance causes a gastrointestinal response. But as a mother who has been through it three times, I can tell you that my children had symptoms of both. So far, two of my three children have outgrown their allergy/intolerance of dairy.

Tracking down a food or environmental allergy in babies and children can be a frustrating task. The easiest way is to follow the elimination diet and keep a food diary. By eliminating foods that are common allergens, like cow’s milk, soy, nuts, shellfish and eggs, you can slowly introduce one food back in and wait to see if there is a reaction. Babies can also be sensitive to tomato products, citrus and other strongly acidic foods. A baby may continue to have a symptom like diarrhea for a few days after you have eliminated problem foods, simply because the intestinal tract was irritated, and will need a few days to heal.

Be sure to read labels on suspected foods. You may find common ingredients that will lead to the source of an allergy. For instance, casein and caramel food colors usually are made from dairy. Some children are sensitive to food dyes that are named with a color followed by a number.

Common reactions include:

Irregular stools – this can be hard to define in a newborn, because stools vary greatly. If you notice green, mucus or blood in the stool, suspect a problem.

Gas and cramping – most babies get gas, but some really seem to be in pain just before releasing gas.

Fussiness or colic – some babies are labeled as having colic, when they actually are experiencing gastrointestinal distress. Some babies get extremely distressed when you try to lay them down on their back. (This is also true if they have reflux.)

Rash, hives or eczema – many babies have sensitive skin, but if you notice dry, red patches of skin or hives in
addition to some of the other reactions, it could be caused by something they are eating.

Runny nose – this can also happen during teething, so watch for it if you notice other symptoms.

Hyperactivity, sleeplessness – less common in babies, but more common in older children. It can be caused by many different foods, including those that contain artificial dyes.

Vomiting – not to be confused with spitting up, which all babies do to some degree. Vomiting in babies is more projectile, and may really upset or scare the baby.

Wheezing/asthma – can be caused by both food and environmental allergies, such as cleansers, pets, pollen or mold. You could be contributing by using perfumes or scented hair products. Be sure to discuss with a doctor immediately if you suspect asthma.

Severe inability to gain weight – this one is serious, and should immediately be discussed with a doctor. A  small part of the population has an allergy to wheat products, which can cause serious health problems.

All children are unique, so discuss any symptoms and the results of your findings with a doctor. These are just some of the reactions I encountered (as a mother, not a doctor!) while tracking allergies in my three children. To keep an organized journal, I developed the Baby Love Carebook, which includes  allergy tracking worksheets. The complete Carebook is available on


Posted by on May 15, 2009 in Food, Allergies & Organics


Tags: , , , ,