Tag Archives: health

My Kid Does Not Need Your Pity: Avoiding Junk Food Is Not A Deprivation, It’s A Gift

If I had a nickel for every time someone expressed pity for my child because she’s never been to McDonald’s I’d be a billionaire.

While I let my child eat treats at parties and school events to avoid having her feel left out, I do not keep them at home nor do I take her through drive-thrus. I buy and make healthy treats at home and we either order takeout or go to a restaurant as a family once a week, but fast food restaurants are off limits, and the other 6 days of the week we eat a healthy home-cooked meal. She does not feel deprived because our way of eating is normal to her.

She is only 5 so she is not even aware yet of the difference between her diet and most kids’ diets. When she is old enough to notice and asks to try some of those other foods she will also be old enough to notice a difference in the way her body feels when she eats them. I am confident that that difference, coupled with the education I will give her about nutrition will make her want to continue eating healthy. And I have no doubt that 20 years from now, when the knowledge of the harmful effects of processed junk food on kids and the impact it has on their lifelong health is more mainstream, she will thank me. She will not have to struggle in her 20’s or 30’s or any age to figure out why she feels so crappy and “unwell” all the time.

If you follow similar food rules in your family, don’t feel bad about not giving your kids junk food. Feel good about giving them lifelong good health. Because what they eat now will affect their disease risk in adulthood. Everything you feed your kids is either nourishing them or harming them, so choose real food, not processed artificial junk.

The long-term benefits of eating healthy far outweigh any short-term happiness that comes with eating chicken nuggets and doughnuts.


Don’t Ignore A Food Intolerance!

One of the biggest differences between food allergies and food intolerances is that allergies usually cause more severe symptoms that cannot be ignored while intolerances tend to cause milder symptoms.  Because these milder symptoms seem to not cause any significant harm, people can make the grave mistake of ignoring them.

If it’s not causing your throat to close up it can’t really hurt you right?


One of the biggest risks of untreated food intolerances is chronic inflammation.  If you are regularly consuming something that your body can’t digest properly, your immune system will create a state of chronic, low level inflammation.  Chronic inflammation has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune disorders, heart disease, behavioural problems in children, depression, and many more health problems.  Undiagnosed food intolerances are one of the causes of chronic inflammation.  Some causes are unavoidable (stress, pollution, etc) but a food intolerance is definitely something you can treat in order to reduce the amount of chronic inflammation you have in your body.  You just need willpower.

Ask yourself: is the regular enjoyment of a particular food worth a chronic, crippling disease in the long run? Is it worth aging faster than you need to? Is your child’s need to enjoy a particular food greater than her need for lifelong health?

Another major problem with undiagnosed food intolerances is insufficient absorption of nutrients.  If your digestive system can’t break a food down properly, then your body can’t absorb all of the nutrients from that food.  Malnutrition has an even longer list of health problems than chronic inflammation.  You could eat all the healthy food you want but if you’re not able to digest it then what’s the point?

Now for all of you paranoid hypochondriacs out there, there is no need to go and eliminate gluten, dairy, and eggs for no reason.  Make sure that you actually have a food intolerance before eliminating an entire food group from your diet.  Get tested if you can, keep a food journal along with a symptom journal, and/or try an elimination diet.  And don’t forget to consider any nutritional “holes” you may be creating in your diet by removing a certain food.  Make sure you are able to get any lost nutrients from other food sources or consider supplementation as a last resort.  Seek help from a nutritionist if you find it difficult to figure out what you should and should not eat.

Lastly, find other foods that you enjoy equally as much as the one you had to eliminate, because being miserable isn’t good for your health either!

 1. Blasko, I., Stampfer-Kountchev, M., Robatscher, P., Veerhuis, R., Eikelenboom, P. and Grubeck-Loebenstein, B. (2004), How chronic inflammation can affect the brain and support the development of Alzheimer’s disease in old age: the role of microglia and astrocytes. Aging Cell, 3: 169–176. doi: 10.1111/j.1474-9728.2004.00101.x
2.  Leonard, Brian E. Inflammation, Depression and Dementia: Are they Connected? Neurochemical Research, 2007, Volume 32, Number 10, Page 1749
3.  W. Herbert Haught MDMichael Mansour MDRobert Rothlein Takashi K. Kishimoto Elizabeth A. Mainolfi BSJames B. Hendricks Claudia Hendricks MSJawahar L. Mehta MD. Alterations in circulating intercellular adhesion molecule-1 and L-selectin: Further evidence for chronic inflammation in ischemic heart disease. American Heart Journal.,July 1996, Vol.132(1):1–8, doi:10.1016/S0002-8703(96)90383-X
4.  Shacter E , Weitzman SA.  Laboratory of Immunology, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-4555, USA. shacter@cber.fda.gov.  Oncology (Williston Park, N.Y.) [2002, 16(2):217-26, 229; discussion 230-2]

Invest In Your Health: Eat Real Food

One of the reasons why people choose processed food over real food is the cost.  Real food costs more, and if you’re comparing organic food the price difference is even greater.  I understand that it’s hard for a lot of families to afford fresh, wholesome food.  But it needs to be at the top of everyone’s priority list.  Your health and your family’s health should come first.  That may mean cutting costs in other departments (housing, clothing, entertainment, etc), but nothing is more important than your health.  The old saying goes “you are what you eat”, NOT “you are what you wear”, or “you are what you live in”, or “you are what you drive”…..

Good quality food made with real ingredients and nothing artificial is worth the investment; your return on that investment will be good health.  That, in my opinion, trumps everything else.  

The Effect Of Chronic Stress On Digestion

What happens when you feel stressed out about something? Your sympathetic nervous system, aka the “flight or fight” response, is activated.  That means your heart rate goes up, your breathing gets heavier, adrenaline starts pumping through your bloodstream and your body diverts resources away from your digestive system while sending more resources to your brain, heart and muscles.  

Because if you’re under attack, immediate survival trumps digestion.  You need to be able to think clearly, act quickly, and either run or fight. 

But you are likely to never actually be threatened by a predator.  Because humans no longer live among wild animals. Unfortunately, your nervous system didn’t get the memo.  It still functions the same way it did back when humans were rubbing sticks together to create fire.  

We rarely face physical threats in our daily lives (at least not in first-world countries).  Nowadays we deal with more mental and emotional “threats”.  But to our nervous system, they’re both the same.  

While increased adrenaline may help us run away from an attacker, it doesn’t do much to help us with more likely stress-inducing scenarios.  Like being stuck in traffic.  Or writing a test.  Or trying to meet the next deadline at work.  Or tolerating the 10th meltdown of the day from your toddler.  You cannot run away from these “threats” nor can you punch them in the face. 

 The flight or fight response was meant to enhance our performance to deal with short term physical threats, not prolonged emotional stressors.  This is why chronic stress makes us burn out.  When your digestive system is getting short-changed constantly due to stress, it cannot do its job properly.  It cannot extract and absorb the all the nutrients your body needs to function optimally.

Which eventually leads to much bigger health problems.   You could eat the healthiest diet in the world, but if you’re too stressed out to digest it properly, it won’t keep you healthy. 

Prolonged stress can cause gastrointestinal discomfort as well as increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut syndrome)1.  So not only does chronic stress make it difficult for you to get all the nutrients from your food, it also causes your gut to absorb unwanted molecules that it would normally block from entering your bloodstream. 

So what can you do to help your digestion when you’re feeling stressed?  

1. Breathe.  Make a conscious effort to breathe slowly to calm your nerves and activate your parasympathetic nervous system which counteracts your sympathetic nervous system.  It helps you calm down and sends blood back to your digestive system so that it can function efficiently.  Do some breathing exercises just before eating, as well as afterwards. 

2.  Practice “mindful eating”.  Focus on chewing your food thoroughly, and take time to relax after eating.  Your body needs time to digest the food you just ate.  If you regularly eat on the go, scarf down your food, and take little to no time to relax after meals, then you are not getting the most out of your food.  This is definitely challenging in today’s society where 30 min lunch breaks are the norm.  But it can be done if you carefully plan out your day.  If you don’t have time to sit and relax after you eat, try to schedule the least stressful tasks on your to-do list for just after mealtimes.   Consume your biggest meal of the day when you have plenty of time to not only eat but also have some down time afterwards to allow for optimum digestion. If you are hungry and have no choice but to eat on the go, eat a small snack to tide you over and save full meals for when you have more time.  

2.  Don’t eat when you’re angry.  And don’t eat with people who tick you off.  Anger triggers your sympathetic nervous system the same way fear does.  Either eat by yourself or eat with people who make you happy. 

3.  Listen to relaxing music while you eat.  This has been proven to activate your parasympathetic nervous system1.


1. LABBÉ, E; et al. Coping with Stress: The Effectiveness of Different Types of Music. Applied Psychophysiology. Biofeedback. 32, 3/4, 163-168, Dec. 2007. ISSN: 10900586.

2. LI, X; et al. Combat-training increases intestinal permeability, immune activation and gastrointestinal symptoms in soldiers. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 37, 8, 799-809, Apr. 15, 2013. ISSN: 02692813.

Give your kids a good start: feed them healthy food now and it will pay off later

I am a textbook parent. I read all the parenting books I can get my hands on and follow all of the rules. I made homemade baby food from scratch and refused to give my child ANYTHING with added sugar or salt during her first year of life (not even a small lick of icing or ice cream). I refused to let any processed food touch her lips until she was well over a year old, and even now at 2 years old it is still a rare occurrence. To some, this may sound extreme. But to me, it just makes sense.

Prenatal and early childhood nutrition can have long-term effects that do not manifest until later in life. Exposure to toxic chemicals early in life can cause epigenetic changes in developing babies and children which may lead to diseases in adulthood5. Food additives as well as chemicals in food packaging that leach into the food may be toxic and so they should be avoided, especially by children3. This is probably why some adults who eat healthy and exercise still end up with some sort of non-inherited disease despite their best efforts. They may be healthy eaters now, but who knows what their parents fed them as children.

I practically lived off of Pizza Pockets and Pepsi during my teenage years. I hope I have good genes 😳.

It is not just the infancy and early childhood years that are crucial for long term health. The teenage years are also an important period of growth and maturation. A diet high in animal protein and low in vegetable protein and isoflavones is correlated with early puberty, which has been linked to metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and breast cancer as well as other hormone-related cancers1. This is just another reason why feeding your kids McDonald’s regularly is bad for them. Today’s “fast food” diet is high in meat and low in vegetables which is a recipe for disease.

If you give your kids “junk” calories that means there is less room for nutritious calories. That unhealthy cookie you let your kid have as a snack every day (and most kids don’t stop at just one) could be replaced by a serving of fresh fruit. Children who consume more antioxidant-rich foods and whose mothers had an antioxidant-rich diet during pregnancy are less likely to have allergies later in life6. Since babies and children are growing, their brains, bodies and immune systems are still developing which is why they need all the nutrition they can get.

Children’s food preferences are determined by both genetics and familiarity2. So even though kids already have predetermined preferences for certain tastes and textures, they can also learn to prefer healthy foods simply by trying them frequently and watching the people around them eat the same foods as well7. These learned preferences carry on into adulthood; if you teach your kids to eat healthy at a young age they are more likely to continue eating healthy later on in life7.

I see other parents give their babies and young children junk food on a regular basis and it makes me cringe. Some of those kids have chronic rashes, allergies, and/or constant stomach upsets, probably due to their diets.
Unfortunately, those are just minor symptoms compared to the long-term damage that a bad diet early in life can lead to.

Some parents are simply unaware or uneducated about the implications of junk food on their kids. Some are perfectly aware but feel bad when their kids ask for the same food that they are eating and give in (which is exactly why parents should model healthy eating themselves). When kids ask to eat the same “junk food” as their peers it makes it that much harder to say no. Others simply don’t want to put in the extra effort required to prepare healthy food for their children as it is much easier to just open a wrapper or box when their kids are hungry.

Feeding kids healthy food is not easy. It takes more time and effort to prepare, not to mention the extra time actually feeding it to them if they are fussy eaters. But no one said being a parent was easy. And the reward of seeing your kids grow up to be happy and healthy adults is worth it.



1. Cheng, Guo; Buyken, Anette E; Shi, Lijie; Karaolis-Danckert, Nadina; Kroke, Anja; Wudy, Stefan A; Degen, Gisela H; Remer, Thomas. Beyond overweight: nutrition as an important lifestyle factor influencing timing of puberty. Nutrition Reviews. Mar2012, Vol. 70 Issue 3, p133-152. 21p. 1 Diagram, 3 Charts, 3 Graphs. DOI: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00461

2. COOKE, L. The importance of exposure for healthy eating in childhood: a review. Journal of Human Nutrition & Dietetics. 20, 4, 294-301, Aug. 2007. ISSN: 09523871.

3. El-Wahab, Hanan Mohamed Fathy Abd; Moram, Gehan Salah El-Deen. Toxic effects of some synthetic food colorants and/or flavor additives on male rats. Toxicology & Industrial Health. Mar2013, Vol. 29 Issue 2, p224-232. 9p. 6 Charts. DOI: 10.1177/0748233711433935.

4. Hörnell, Agneta; Lagström, Hanna; Lande, Britt; Thorsdottir, Inga. Breastfeeding, introduction of other foods and effects on health: a systematic literature review for the 5th Nordic Nutrition Recommendations. Food & Nutrition Research. 2013, Vol. 57, p1-27. 27p. DOI: 10.3402/fnr.v57i0.20823

5. Lahiri, D. K.; Maloney, B.; Zawia, N. H. The LEARn model: an epigenetic explanation for idiopathic neurobiological diseases. Molecular Psychiatry. Nov2009, Vol. 14 Issue 11, p992-1003. 12p. 3 Diagrams, 1 Chart, 2 Graphs. DOI: 10.1038/mp.2009.82.

6. Patelarou, Evridiki; Giourgouli, Gianna; Lykeridou, Aikaterini; Vrioni, Evagelia; Fotos, Nikolaos; Siamaga, Eleni; Vivilaki, Victoria; Brokalaki, Hero. Association between biomarker-quantified antioxidant status during pregnancy and infancy and allergic disease during early childhood: A systematic review. Nutrition Reviews. Nov2011, Vol. 69 Issue 11, p627-641. 15p. 2 Diagrams, 3 Charts. DOI: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00445.

7. Venter, C.; Harris, G. The development of childhood dietary preferences and their implications for later adult health. Nutrition Bulletin. Dec2009, Vol. 34 Issue 4, p391-394. 4p. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-3010.2009.01784

Why we drink green juice

I drink green juice every morning and so does my toddler. I do not drink green juice to replace the vegetables I eat, I treat it as a supplement to my daily diet. I would never eat as many vegetables as I juice in a day, much less all in one early morning serving, therefore I’m getting a lot of vitamins and minerals that I would not otherwise get in my diet. I would definitely not be able to get my toddler to eat vegetables for breakfast, but she happily drinks her green (or sometimes red) juice every morning before her usual meal.


Some argue that without the pulp, I’m losing all the fibre so it’s not as beneficial as eating vegetables. I get plenty of fibre from the whole fruits and vegetables that I eat later in the day as well as from my afternoon smoothie. Aside from fibre, most of the nutrients are in the juice: and to reiterate, the nutrients that I get from my morning green juice are extra nutrients that I would not otherwise consume.

As far as the concern about a blood sugar spike after drinking juice, that is more of a problem with sugary fruit juices. Vegetable juices do not have a high enough fructose content to have the same effect.

Drinking vegetable juice has been proven to be an effective method of getting a variety of vegetables in your diet4. The plethora of benefits from eating (or drinking) more vegetables include reduced blood pressure4 and delayed onset of Alzheimer’s disease2. For children, a higher vegetable intake lowers their risk of obesity5. Vegetables are high in vitamin A, which is crucial for brain development in growing babies and children 3.

I never used to eat a lot of vegetables (oddly enough for a vegetarian), until I became pregnant. I wanted my child to get all the benefits of a nutritious diet from the get go, so I forced myself to eat them. Over time I became accustomed to eating them regularly and actually began to enjoy the taste. When my daughter started eating solids I upped the ante even more and slowly cut out processed food. I wanted my daughter to eat healthy and stay away from junk food so I decided to lead by example. However, I was still concerned that neither my daughter or myself were getting enough vegetables, so when she was about 18 months old I started juicing a variety of vegetables.

Children’s diets are strongly correlated with their parent’s diets, and mothers who eat healthy are more likely to have children who become healthy eaters 1. Infants and toddlers who are fed healthy food are more likely to become healthy eaters in adulthood as well as have better overall health later in life5.

It doesn’t matter how you get your vegetables, as long as you and your children are getting enough. So whether you prefer to eat them, drink them, or both, just make sure your family is getting a good amount and variety of vegetables.


1. Hart, C. N.; Raynor, H. A.; Jelalian, E.; Drotar, D. Hart, C. N.; Raynor, H. A.; Jelalian, E.; Drotar, D. Child: Care, Health & Development. May2010, Vol. 36 Issue 3, p396-403. 8p. 4 Charts. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2214.2010.01072

2. Lahiri, Debomoy K. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2006, Vol. 10 Issue 4, p359-361. 3p.

3. Rosales, Francisco J.; Zeisel, Steven H. Nutritional Neuroscience. Jun2008, Vol. 11 Issue 3, p135-143. 9p. 2 Charts. DOI: 10.1179/147683008X301522

4. Shenoy, Sonia F.; Kazaks, Alexandra G.; Holt, Roberta R.; Hsin Ju Chen; Winters, Barbara L.; Chor San Khoo; Poston, Walker S. C.; Haddock, C. Keith; Reeves, Rebecca S.; Foreyt, John P.; Gershwin, M. Eric; Keen, Carl L. Nutrition Journal. 2010, Vol. 9, p38-48. 11p. DOI: 10.1186/1475-2891-9-38

5. Venter, C.; Harris, G. Nutrition Bulletin. Dec2009, Vol. 34 Issue 4, p391-394. 4p. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-3010.2009.01784.

Need vs. Want: 5 things we could live without

Many of the harmful chemicals that we expose ourselves to on a regular basis can easily be avoided. We don’t need a lot of products that contain hazardous synthetic chemicals, we just think we do. The following is a list of some avoidable, yet common products that contain chemicals which are hazardous to our health.

1. Artificial food coloring. Food dyes have been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in numerous studies and although they are not the only cause of ADHD, they definitely have a negative impact on most children with the disorder (Stevens et al. 2011) Food coloring has also been speculated to be linked to cancer but there is no solid evidence to support this theory yet. So why do people keep buying food with added colors? You don’t need your cheddar cheese products to be yellow or your juice to be bright red. There’s nothing wrong with eating pale food. It’s providing your body with nourishment, not being entered into a beauty contest.

2. Cosmetics. Now even if you are entering a beauty pageant, you still don’t need conventional beauty products. Many of them contain carcinogenic and endocrine-disrupting chemicals (David Suzuki Foundation, 2010). Going makeup-free would be the safest bet, but I’d be a hypocrite if I advocated that. Luckily, there are plenty of safer, more natural alternatives out there these days for us beauty-obsessed, media-brainwashed gals.

3. Fragrance. Chemicals used in fragrances have been found to worsen both allergy and asthma symptoms, and could even possibly cause asthma in kids (David Suzuki Foundation, 2010). For these reasons, hospitals as well as an increasing number of schools are becoming “scent free zones”. So how else can people ensure that they smell good? Take a shower. Wear clean clothing. Use deodorant. It’s simple, really.

4. Dryer Sheets/Fabric softener. They make your clothes smell good and keep static at bay. They also potentially cause cancer (CBS NEWS, 2011). Use dryer balls instead.

5. Antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers. What is the difference between regular soap and antibacterial soap? A chemical called triclosan. Does this chemical make a difference? According to this study, NO! Not only does it not make a difference in the amount of bacteria left on your hands but it also creates antibiotic-resistant strains. And it may be an endocrine disruptor (David Suzuki Foundation, 2010). Yet it’s still on the market. Way to go Health Canada and FDA…


1. Aiello, A. E., Larson, E. L., Levy S.B. (2007). Consumer Antibacterial Soaps: Effective Or Just Risky?. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 45, 137-47.
DOI: 10.1086/519255

2. David Suzuki Foundation. (2010).
THE “DIRTY DOZEN” INGREDIENTS INVESTIGATED IN THE DAVID SUZUKI FOUNDATION SURVEY OF CHEMICALS IN COSMETICS. Retrieved from http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/downloads/Dirty-dozen-backgrounder.pdf

3. Jaslow, R. (2011, August 26). Scented laundry products release carcinogens, study finds. CBS NEWS. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/scented-laundry-products-release-carcinogens-study-finds/

4. Stevens LJ, Kuczek T, Burgess JR, Hurt E, Arnold LE. (April 2011). Dietary sensitivities and ADHD symptoms: thirty-five years of research. Clinical Pediatrics (Philadelphia), volume 50, issue 4, pages 279-293.
doi: 10.1177/0009922810384728.