4 Easy Ways to Sneak in More Vegetables

Pop quiz: How many vegetables do you eat in a day? If you’re well below the two to three cups that doctors recommend, well, you’re in a very crowded club. A 2017 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nine out of 10 American adults are missing the mark, when it comes to eating their veggies.

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That’s an especially hard stat to swallow when you consider that “vegetables are the most nutrition-packed food group,” said Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, a registered dietician in Chicago and nutrition consultant for the Chicago Cubs. “They have fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemical plant compounds that can protect us against all kinds of diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.”

Does eating salad feels like a chore? Chomping on carrot sticks feel like a snore? Instead, try adding vegetables to dishes you already eat regularly, suggests Wendy Bazilian, PH, RD, a San Diego-based nutritionist and author of The Superfood Rx Diet“This approach is kind of like playing a game: finding new ways to put together a dish so you can have a delicious meal — and well-lived life.” And as you eat more vegetables in familiar dishes, you may grow to love their tastes and textures — and eat them even more, she says.

Be a Sneak! Think your fave foods can’t be veggified? Try these 4 tips:

1. You crave: fried rice. Reach for: cauliflower.

Any trip through the grocery store will confirm that, when it comes to subbing in veggies, cauliflower is king. The versatile veg is easy to mash, roast and — yes — even rice. After washing and drying the head of cauliflower, simply chop it up either by hand or pulse in a food processor until it resembles rice, says Blatner. Every serving of this cruciferous vegetable packs almost half of your daily value of Vitamin C, as well as a healthy dose of fiber and protein.

Recipe inspiration: Fried cauliflower rice with carrots, cashews and corn or rainbow cauliflower rice bowl recipe

2. You crave: burgers. Reach for: mushrooms.

You’ve seen mushroom burgers on plenty of menus, but did you know that you could put diced mushrooms directly into the meat patty? “Even the heartiest meat lovers rarely notice the difference,” says Bazilian, because the mushrooms add both moisture and umami. For most recipes, you can swap about one-third of the meat for diced mushrooms without having to make any major changes, Bazilian says. And that sneak will lower the burger’s saturated fat and calories, while upping its fiber.

Recipe inspiration: Beef and mushroom burgers

3. You crave: pasta. Reach for: zucchini.

Zoodles are all the rage these days — with reason, says Blatner. Spiralized zucchini has a spaghetti-like quality that’s versatile enough for most pasta dishes. Yet it’s less calorically dense than traditional pasta and won’t give you the usual blood sugar spike, says Bazilian. It also boasts a good amount of potassium, which can help control blood pressure and may lessen your risk of stroke. You can find zoodles in the freezer aisle at the grocery store or, to make the shape at home,  use a mandolin or spiral vegetable slicer to cut the squash into ribbon-like strips.

Recipe inspiration: Asian sesame zucchini noodles or zoodles and turkey meatballs

4. You crave: mac and cheese. Reach for: butternut squash.

This comfort dish usually gets its richness from a double whammy of cheese and butter. But subbing in some pureed butternut squash can add a similar silky creaminess — with far fewer calories and less saturated fat, says Blatner. Butternut squash is also high in fiber and potassium, and it lends a subtle sweetness to the dish. “It’s really phenomenal,” she says. Subbing in some pasta made from chickpea, lentils, or black beans can add some fiber and protein.

Our latest program, The Ultimate Portion Fix, has over 300 pages of recipes to incorporate your favorite foods and healthy alternatives the entire family will enjoy.  Send us a message if you are ready to change your nutrition!

Surprising ways you’re sabotaging your digestion without realizing it

And proven ways to fix that heartburn, belching, stomach ache and bloat. 

There are many factors involved in indigestion, says clinical nutritionist Marta Anhelush, however these are the most common.

Indigestion cause #1: Low stomach acid

‘Our stomach acid is absolutely vital to aid proper digestion, especially when it comes to protein rich foods such as meat or fish, which some people find hard to digest,’ says Anhelush.

‘Unfortunately, the popular view is that we often have high levels of stomach acid, leading to indigestion, where in most cases it is actually the opposite.

‘Drinking too much with your meals is also quite common and makes things worse by diluting all the digestive juices’.

What to do instead: There are some foods that actually stimulate stomach acids, thus aiding digestion.

‘Bitter foods such as rocket, watercress, chicory, turmeric or artichoke, dandelion and burdock in supplements, can stimulate the production of digestive juices, including bile to help you digest and absorb fats,’ says Anhelush.

If you have the small problem of not being able to stomach bitter foods, one study suggests the solution is to, well, eat more bitter foods and your tastes might change. Research in August this year from The American Chemical Society asked participants to eat bitter foods three times a day for a week and rate their bitterness and astringency. Over the course of week, their bitterness and astringency ratings for the same foods reduced, and they rated them as more palatable.

Photo: iStock

Indigestion cause #2: Eating too fast

Our modern, busy lifestyles mean that we often have little time to cook a meal from scratch, let alone sit at a table and eat it in peace, without any distractions, explains Anhelush.

Instead, we often eat on our way to work, in front of our computers or televisions.

This sends the wrong messages to your brain, so rather than producing digestive juices, enzymes or bile and stimulating contractions of the digestive tract, your body is producing stress hormones and increasing brain activity to process the information coming from your surroundings.

‘As a result, we end up not only with indigestion, but also other symptoms such as bloating, distension or flatulence’.

What to do instead: Stop eating in front of the telly or your work computer, obviously. But also practice calmer eating.

‘Before you start your meal, take a couple of deep breaths, then really think about what’s on your plate; what does it look like; what does it smell like – involve all the senses,’ says Anhelush.

‘That will send messages to your brain that the food is on its way, which will kick start your digestion, while helping you feel more satiated sooner’.

Picture: iStock

Indigestion cause #3: Too much sugar and refined carbs

Eating too many sugary and refined carbohydrate rich foods such as sweets, pasta, potatoes and processed foods feeds the unfavourable bacteria in our stomachs.

‘These bacteria ferment the food in the small intestines producing a lot of gas. The gas creates a lot of pressure in the intestine and this leads to stomach contents refluxing into the oesophagus causing irritation to the oesophageal lining, burning and pain,’ says Anhelush.

What to do instead: Even if your diet isn’t particularly high in sugar, you may benefit from taking probiotics if you have indigestion.

‘If you suffer from any digestive discomfort like indigestion, it is very likely that you may have an imbalance in your gut bacteria,’ says Anhelush. ‘In order to improve digestion in the long term, taking a high strength probiotic can re-balance the gut.

‘Beneficial bacteria help you to digest and absorb nutrients, while also supporting bowel movements and immunity.’

Research from Japan published in November last year found that giving patients with indigestion probiotic-rich yoghurt could help alleviate indigestion.

If you’re opting for a supplement, ‘Look out for a product from a reputable brand that use human-strain, acid resistant bacteria that have been thoroughly researched,’ says Anhelush.

‘Good strains include Lactobacillus acidophilus, bifodobacterium bifidum or Bifidobacterium lactis. The dose matters too, so make sure you get a product with at least 10 billion of bacteria’.

Image: iStock

Indigestion cause #4: Eating too late

‘All of our organs have a daily pattern, including the digestive tract, which tends to be more active during the day,’ says Anhelush.

‘At night, our body needs to recuperate, repair damaged tissue; our brain needs to process all the information and emotions from the day before, which means there is no time for digestion.

‘If we eat late and go to bed soon after, that food is likely to be sitting in the stomach and not being digested well, causing indigestion’.

A study published in The Journal of Gastroenterology found that those who had their dinner three hours or less before bed were more likely to suffer with acid reflux than those who left fours hours or more between their last meal and going to bed.

What to do instead: You can always try eating earlier, but that’s not always practical if you work late and is nearly impossible during the party season when dinners out might dominate your week.

Instead, try a tea that could help digestion. ‘Good combinations for digestion include fennel, cardamom, chamomile, ginger, burdock or peppermint. Make sure you get a good quality and organic tea. If you have digestive symptoms, I would recommend to brew two teabags to get a more therapeutic effect.’

Picture: iStock.

Indigestion cause #5: Snacking between meals

Digestion is a really long and demanding process which means it can take even up to 8 hours for your whole meal to move from the stomach to the large intestines, depending on the type and quantity of the food.

What to do instead: ‘I would highly recommend leaving a longer gap between your meals, generally aiming for three main meals without snacking,’ says Anhelush. ‘That will give the body enough time to properly digest and absorb nutrients.

‘If you feel that the pain is worse on an empty stomach and improves after eating, it may be a sign of something more serious like ulcers and should be checked with your doctor.’

Image: iStock

Indigestion cause #6: Talking while you eat – but only sometimes

‘If you are eating lunch at your desk, in a busy office, and talking about tasks, deadlines and other things that may stress you out, it will make your indigestion worse,’ asserts Anhelush.

‘On the other hand, if you are eating at a table, with your friends or family, feeling relaxed and eating slowly whilst having a nice conversation, it is a completely different scenario.

‘Eating is, and has always been a social activity, so as long as we are eating mindfully and enjoying our food, I would encourage having company’.

Image: iStock

Indigestion cause #7: Not chewing properly

You’ve probably heard this a thousand times before, but don’t worry we’re not going to tell you to chew everything 50 times.

What to do instead: ‘It takes far less time to chew a banana than a piece of steak,’ says Anhelush. ‘Rather than counting how many times you should chew it, try to always chew it until it’s completely mushy; imagine baby food consistency’.

Image: iStock

Indigestion cause #8: The food

Like, hmmm Christmas dinner for example?

‘Generally rich foods that are high in protein, carbohydrates and sugars are more likely to cause indigestion,’ says Anhelush. ‘Christmas dinner is a perfect example of overindulgence in plenty of rich foods – processed meats, chocolates, dairy and gluten heavy foods are often culprits of digestive symptoms.’

Other foods that can cause or indigestion for some people include tea and coffee, hot spices, chocolate, tomatoes and citrus fruits can also aggravate symptoms.

What to do instead: ‘It may be worth doing a challenge by excluding tea, coffee, spicy food, tomatoes and citrus foods from your diet for a few days and then re-introducing one at a time to see if any of them worsen your symptoms,’ suggests Anhelush.

‘Digestive enzymes taken with meals can work really quickly, speeding up digestion and reducing uncomfortable symptoms,’ says Anhelush. ‘Look out for a good quality supplement that contains a range of enzymes that help digest proteins fats and carbohydrates including bromelain, lipase and amylase.’

‘Also herbs such as peppermint, liquorice and ginger are very soothing and can have a calming effect if your indigestion manifests as an irritated tummy.

‘Having reflux can also irritate the delicate tissue if your oesophagus so using a soothing and healing herbs in a liquid or a powder that can be mixed into a drink, can be really beneficial,’ says Anhelush.

‘The best herbs to include are slippery elm, licorice, marshmallow and aloe vera. They help to coat the digestive tract, providing a protective layer, hence reducing irritation’.

Image: iStock

Indigestion cause #9: Your drinking habits

Alcohol that is high in sugars such as cocktails and flavoured wines, may aggravate or cause indigestion, Anhelush asserts.

‘Yeast and gluten-based alcohols such as beer and cider as well as alcohol high in sulphites such as red wine can also be strenuous on the digestive system and our detoxification pathways’.

What to do instead: No one is suggesting you give up alcohol for New Year’s (don’t worry), but you can drink more smartly at this time.

‘Keep hydrated if you do drink alcohol and arm yourself with a nutrient dense meal beforehand full of dark green leafy vegetables and high-quality protein such as organic chicken or wild fish,’ Anhelush advises.

You could also trying gently detoxing your body throughout the Christmas period. ‘This can reduce your chances of weight gain and feeling generally fatigued and run down,’ Anhelush suggests.

‘Green vegetables and fruits really are your friend at this time as they are packed full of nutrients and support the detoxification process of rich food and alcohol from your body.

Smoothies made with kale, spinach, broccoli, and apples can be a great way to ensure your body is getting the nutrients it needs.

‘As it is winter time, you can also put green vegetables into a soup for lunch or dinner, adding in herbs such as coriander, which is highly detoxifying and full of plant chemicals’.

It’s also worth noting that studies have found indigestion and heartburn medications may have an adverse effect on blood alcohol levels when taken with alcohol, so talk to your doctor if you’re on them.

When You Use Food to Cope Emotionally

Understanding Food Addiction

By Elizabeth Hartney, PhD  | Reviewed by Steven Gans, MD

Food. Think about what it feels like when you aren’t able to eat. You start to crave food, and become more physically and emotionally uncomfortable the longer the cravings go on for until eating becomes the most important thing for you to do. This is the constant experience of people struggling with food addiction, even if they have plenty to eat.

Food is essential to survival, and unlike other addictive behaviors, it is normal to eat repeatedly every day and to look forward to eating for pleasure. But several characteristics separate normal or occasional binge eating from a food addiction.

Firstly, food addiction is maladaptive, so although people overeat to feel better, it often ends up making them feel worse and gives them more to feel bad about. Food addiction can threaten health, causing obesity, malnutrition, and other problems.

Secondly, the overeating that people with food addiction do is persistent, so a person addicted to food eats too much food (and often the wrong kinds of food) too much of the time. We all overeat from time to time, but people with food addiction often overeat every day, and they eat, not because they are hungry, but as their main way of coping with stress. Then if they are unable to overeat, they experience anxiety or other painful emotions.

The Controversy

As a behavioral addiction, the concept of food addiction is controversial.

The field is divided between those who think that overeating can be a type of addiction, and those who think that true addictions are limited to psychoactive substances which produces symptoms such as physical tolerance and withdrawal. Although this has been demonstrated in research with sugar and fat (the two most common obesity-causing constituents of food), and other studies show that food produces opiates in the body, many think that this does not necessarily constitute an addiction.

However, the growing epidemic of obesity over the past 20 years has raised public health concern. Over a third of US adults and approximately 17% of children are obese. Childhood obesity has been recognized as a major health concern. This concern, along with effective treatments for addictions, which are being successfully applied to more and more problematic behaviors, is contributing to a movement towards understanding over-eating, and the consequences of obesity and related health problems, in terms of addiction.

Food addiction shares many features with diagnoses now included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), namely, Binge Eating Disorder, which is categorized with the Feeding and Eating Disorders. Excessive eating is also a characteristic of another eating disorder outlined in the DSM, known as Bulimia Nervosa. Some controversy remains over whether eating disorders are actually addictions, but many experts believe that they are.

How It’s Like Other Addictions

There are several similarities between food addiction and drug addiction, including effects on mood, external cues to eat or use drugs, expectancies, restraint, ambivalence, and attribution.

Neurotransmitters and the brain’s reward system have been implicated in food and other addictions. In animal studies, for example, dopamine has been found to play an important role in overall reward systems, and binging on sugar has been shown to influence dopamine activity.

Food, drugs and other addictive substances and behaviors are all associated with pleasure, hedonism, and social, cultural or sub-cultural desirability. When advertising or the people around us tell us that a food, drug, or activity will feel good, it sets up a self-fulfilling prophecy. We are more likely to seek it out, and we are more likely to experience pleasure when we indulge.

Underlying Problems May Cause Food Addiction

Similarities between food addiction and other addictions suggest a universal process underlying food and other addictions. Some experts go further, theorizing that overlaps, similarities, and co-occurrences of mental health problems, including addictions, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and eating disorders, and the phenomenon of a new addiction or mental health problem developing when an old addiction is treated, indicate that they are expressions of related underlying pathologies. It has been argued that viewing these conditions separately hinders the development of a comprehensive view of addictions.

More evidence is needed to support these proposed ideas, and at present, professionals differ in the extent to which they see these problems as related.

  • American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — Fifth Edition. APA, 2013.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overweight and Obesity Data and Statistics. 22 Aug 2016.
  • Le Magnen, J. “A Role For Opiates In Food Reward and Food Addiction.” In P. T. Capaldi (Ed.) Taste, Experience, and Feeding (pp. 241-252). 1990.
  • Power, C. “Food and Sex Addiction: Helping the Clinician Recognize and Treat the Interaction.” Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity 12: 219-234, 2005.
  • Rogers, P. and Smit, H. “Food Craving and Food Addiction: A Critical Review of the Evidence From a Biopsychosocial Perspective.” Pharmocology Biochemistry and Behavior 66: 3-14. 2000.

Why Childhood Food Allergies Are on the Rise (& What to Do)

I have some natural remedies that I keep on hand for seasonal allergies, but food allergies are in a different camp altogether. While seasonal allergies are annoying, food allergies can be downright deadly. And more and more families are being affected by them.

What Is a Food Allergy?

Food allergies occur when the body produces a specific immune response to a certain food. This immune response can be as mild as inflammation or as serious as anaphylactic shock.

Common food allergies include milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. Milk, egg, and peanut make up 80 percent of food allergies.

Types of Food Allergies

Food allergies may be IgE, IgG, or non-IgE-mediated (checked with a blood test). When an allergy is IgE-mediated, IgE antibodies are released. These antibodies stimulate proinflammatory cytokines which cause the allergic reaction many consider to be “true” food allergies. This reaction can be life-threatening. This is why many children are prescribed an auto-injector (epiPen) that they carry around in case of food allergy reactions.

A more controversial theory is that IgG may also play a part in food allergies. An IgG-mediated reaction causes a delayed sensitivity to foods, according to some research including this 2007 study.

Other research, however, shows that the presence of IgG may actually signal a greater tolerance of a food later in life. One study published in the journal Pediatric Allergy and Immunologyfound an association between high levels of IgG4 antibodies to foods during infancy and tolerance to the same foods later in life.

Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance or Sensitivity

Food intolerances and sensitivities don’t involve the immune system. They usually only cause digestive issues, like in the case of lactose (dairy) intolerance. Food intolerances are usually caused by things like:

  • enzymatic deficiencies
  • nutrient malabsorption
  • sensitivity to certain proteins or components of food such as gluten, FODMAPS (a kind of carbohydrate), or histamine

It can be difficult to tell if a food intolerance is also an allergy though. You may not notice mild inflammation or eczema (or recognize the connection). It’s difficult to know if a reaction is an intolerance or a non-IgE mediated food allergy. This is one reason that many people use the terms “allergy” and “intolerance” interchangeably.

You can have an allergy skin test performed to check for an immune response, but keep in mind that they aren’t always accurate. Many families don’t bother with a skin prick test for this reason and treat their symptoms as if they could be either an allergy or an intolerance.

What Causes Food Allergies?

If you ask around, most people would agree that food allergies are increasing in prevalence. Most of us don’t have a grandparent with any food allergies, but many of us have children with them.

Dr. Katie Marks-Cogan, a board-certified allergist (and mom) explained:

We’re seeing a rise and it’s actually quite drastic. Currently, it’s estimated that about 8% to 10% of children in the United States have a food allergy. So if you break that down, that’s about 1 in 13 children. And if you think about school-aged children, that’s two children per classroom.

She also mentions that the rate of peanut allergy has almost tripled over the last few decades. Cow’s milk and egg are other common offenders and are the hardest to avoid since they are in so many foods.

Food Allergy Theories

Because of this increase in food allergies, you might be wondering what we’re doing differently now that we weren’t doing in the past. Some of the following theories address that question (and some don’t). Here are some of the most common theories on food allergies:

  • Food Allergen Avoidance – The advice we’ve been getting for a long time is to avoid giving babies the most highly allergenic foods early in life, and delaying past age one or two. Now there is evidence that avoidance was a major part of the problem.
  • Dual-Allergen Exposure Hypothesis – One theory that has been gaining traction lately is that exposure to food allergens through the skin may be partly to blame for food allergies. This 2012 study found that this may be true while early oral exposure can reduce the risk.
  • Nutrient Deficiency – There have been studies suggesting that food allergies may be a reaction to nutrient deficiency such as vitamin D and omega-3s (more on this below).
  • The Hygiene Hypothesis – Much research in the past several years has found that being too clean can have a negative effect on the body. The theory states that not being exposed to pathogens early can weaken or skew the immune system so food allergies are more likely. This is one reason I don’t use antibacterial products around the house (even though 6 kids = plenty of dirt and bacteria coming in the house).
  • Probiotics – Piggybacking on the hygiene theory, another theory is that lack of healthy gut bacteria plays a part too. For example, a 2009 study performed on infants found that decreased levels of certain probiotics in the first two months of life made infants at higher risk for food allergies later.

It’s frustrating, but at the end of the day, none of these theories fully explains food allergies or why they are on the rise. We just don’t know why food allergies develop. This is one reason that treating and preventing them is so complex.

However, new research has given us a clue on how to prevent food allergies by changing the way we introduce new foods to babies.

Science-Based Ways to Reduce the Risk of Food Allergies

The old wisdom was to avoid giving babies the most highly allergenic foods until after their first birthday. It’s what I did for my babies, based on the going advice at the time.

But brace yourself… new research shows that the opposite is true! In fact:

The earlier a child is exposed to allergenic foods, the lower the risk of getting food allergies. 

Here’s a rundown of the breakthrough research behind the change:

  • The LEAP study – This UK-based study was the first randomized trial to study preventing food allergies in a large group of high-risk infants. Results reported in 2015 found that peanut allergies were 81% less likely if the child ate peanut protein between 4 and 11 months of age.
  • The EAT study – Another study found that introducing allergens such as peanut, egg, and milk between 3 and 6 months reduced allergies later by 67%. However, study participants could only achieve 50% compliance with protocol, indicating that early and sustained introduction was difficult to achieve at such a young age. The study also stressed that the recommendation was still to exclusively breastfeed during the first six months of life.
  • The PETIT study – In this study, 4- to 5-month-old infants with eczema who were given egg protein were 79% less likely to develop egg allergies later.

It’s exciting to have some hard data uncovering the causes of food allergies and what to do about it, but how parents can act on these (rather complex) findings is less clear.

A Holistic Approach to Preventing Food Allergies

This new information doesn’t give us all the answers but it is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to reducing the trend of rising food allergies in kids.

What the studies do tell us with some confidence is that in most cases there is no apparent benefit to delaying in the introduction of allergenic foods, and in fact they should be given to babies:

  1. Early (as early as 4-11 months)
  2. Frequently (at least 3x a week)
  3. Consistently (for several months)

When Is “Early”?

As guidelines and practice catch up with the research, guidelines differ about the right age to introduce these foods.

Let me be clear: I don’t recommend feeding infants solid or pureed food before 6 months of age (and the World Health Organization agrees) for a few reasons.

  • Babies don’t lose the tongue thrust reflex until 4-6 months of age. This reflex means if food enters their mouth they automatically push it out with their tongue. This is a protective mechanism.
  • Babies who can’t sit up on their own should not have solid food in their mouths (even purees — it’s a choking hazard). Many babies can’t sit up on their own until at least 6 months of age.
  • Solid foods displace breastmilk. Meaning baby misses out on some of the nutritional and immune-building benefits of breastmilk.

The new research is clearly telling us though that early introduction, not avoidance, delivers better outcomes.

So, what’s a parent to do?

Ready, Set, Food!

It’s worth mentioning that there is one company bridging the gap between this research and putting it into practice. An allergist-mom concerned about this issue teamed up with an incredible panel of experts and allergists to develop a simple powdered supplement that can be added to baby’s bottle (either expressed breast milk or formula).

It’s called Ready, Set, Food! and it is organic, non-GMO, and contains small amounts of egg, dairy, and peanut (the 3 top allergens).

(Personally, unless I had to bottle feed I wouldn’t express breast milk in order to do this, as there is some nutrient loss. I would wait until the introduction of solid food and add it at that time, but do your own research about what’s right for your family.)

What’s nice about Ready, Set, Food! is that it makes it very easy on parents (always a fan of that!) to start with very small amounts of allergenic foods without the hazard of intestinal upset or choking by feeding solid food too early. It also makes it easy to be consistent and frequent with exposure in what is often a busy and sleep-deprived stage of life.

Other Things to Try

Early exposure to allergens in carefully calculated doses are one way to help reduce the chance of allergies. There are some other lifestyle factors that can help to optimize as well. While not all of these are definitely going to help, they are generally good for your health anyway, so they can’t hurt.

  • Gut healing – Because most of the immune system resides in the gut, it makes sense to make it as healthy as possible. Babies inherit mom’s gut health, so starting with your own gut health is a good first step. Breastfeeding, if possible, is a good way to get baby off to a good gut-health start.
  • Eat allergenic foods while pregnant and breastfeeding –  It would make sense that this could be helpful since we know that babies get their first taste of foods from amniotic fluid and breastmilk. At this point, researchers aren’t convinced that a mom’s diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding affects the baby’s allergy development. However, one study in mice shows that this prenatal and breastmilk exposure can reduce food allergies.
  • Immune support – Allergies are sometimes thought of as a misfiring or overreaction of the immune system. Making sure the immune system is properly developed may help. Since we know baby inherits some of his immune system from mom, it’s not a bad idea to make sure your immune system is at its best.
  • Vitamin D – Studies suggest that infants with low vitamin D levels are at higher risk for food allergies. Boosting your own vitamin D during pregnancy and breastfeeding can help. Vitamin D drops after birth are also a good choice but always talk to a doctor before giving a baby any supplement.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – In one study, women who took fish oil supplements during pregnancy had a 30 percent lower risk of their child developing egg allergies. Again, check with a doctor and make sure to choose a high quality omega-3.

As mentioned, there isn’t much evidence that the above advice will help avoid food allergies. But at the same time, most of this advice has no drawbacks and is good general health advice, so it can’t hurt to try.

How to Introduce Allergens Early

Always consult your child’s healthcare provider before making any decisions to introduce food. If you’re planning on introducing allergenic foods at 6 months of age here are some tips for doing it:

  • Start with milk, egg, and peanut as these are the most likely allergens.
  • Offer very small amounts of one food at a time. Then and work your way up to larger amounts.
  • Offer them often. Once is not enough. Baby needs time to “learn” about these foods.
  • Consider using Ready, Set, Food!’s system which gives baby a very small amount of the highest allergenic foods (one at a time). It makes giving baby these foods (in small amounts and on a regular basis) easy for you.

While you begin feeding baby these foods, always be aware of any allergic reactions that pop up.

Allergy Signs to Look For

Even though you’ll be feeding very small amounts of these foods, baby may still have a reaction. Here are some allergy symptoms to look for:

  • Digestive issues like vomiting or diarrhea
  • Hives, welts, or other skin rashes
  • Face, tongue, or lip swelling
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

Severe reactions require medical care. If you feel your child is having a severe allergic reaction, call your child’s doctor or 911.

Preventing Food Allergies in Children

Food allergies, especially in children, are on the rise. We don’t know yet what is causing it. But the most recent research shows us that early introduction to allergenic foods is the best way to prevent food allergies.

What I Would Do

For the first 6 months of life, all baby needs nutritionally is breastmilk or formula. If I were already bottle-feeding, I would use Ready, Set, Food! as early as 4 months of age to match the time window recommended by the research.

Personally, I wouldn’t express milk or bottle feed just for this purpose since breastfeeding has many benefits of its own, but I encourage everyone (especially those with a family history of allergies) to do their own research and make the best decision their family.

At 6 months of age when solid foods can be introduced, I would include small amounts of allergenic foods right away (along with nutrient-dense foods like bone broth, liver, etc.) and add Ready, Set, Food! as well to keep the introduction of allergenic foods consistent.

Have you tried feeding allergenic foods early? What was your experience?

Sources

  1. Lack, G. (2012, May). Update on risk factors for food allergy. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22464642
  2. Hygiene factors associated with childhood food allergy and asthma. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5080537/
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Why is Corn Unhealthy?

Corn, a staple of the American diet, isn’t looking so golden anymore. Here, read about the kernels of truth.

Made into chips, it’s the perfect salsa partner. Popped, it’s movie-magic in a bag. And cooked in its most natural form, on the cob, it’s one of the great tastes of summer. It’s hard to imagine life without corn. But should we?

For starters, corn’s inherent starchy sweetness can be a problem for anyone hoping to maintain a six-pack. Nutritionist Haylie Pomroy considers it her go-to food if an actor client needs to gain weight fast for a role. And like wheat, corn has been subjected to hybridizing and genetic modification (the altering of an organism’s DNA) over the years. This doctoring has increased yields and pest-resistance, one reason corn is so pervasive in our food system, but it’s also made it more likely to cause weight gain and potential disease.

“The corn we have today is not like what we saw 200 years ago or 10,000 years ago, it’s been hybridized and genetically modified and this creates changes within the corn and also changes how our bodies handle the corn,” says Dr. Terry Wahls, clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and founder of The Wahls Foundation. Here, the nutritionist and the scientist sound off on why you should sideline this ubiquitous staple:

What The Nutritionist Says: Haylie Pomroy

Corn’s natural ingredients can make it a diet foe
Corn is easy to overeat since it gets paired with fats like butter for popcorn and guacamole for chips. But it also contains lectins, proteins that can interfere with leptin, your feel-full hormone. If leptin isn’t functioning properly you’re more likely to overeat. That’s why corn is added to lots of packaged foods to stimulate cravings. It also contains the phytonutrient phytate, which can prevent proper absorption of iron, as well as zinc and selenium, which can lower thyroid function.

Corn is what we feed livestock to fatten them up
Corn is naturally sweet but today’s corn is practically a bucket of sugar. It’s become so refined and hybridized—even the organic corn—that the rate of sugar delivery is intensified, so it’s even more likely to cause an insulin spike that encourages your body to store fat. Farmers feed cows corn before slaughter to increase fat marbling; not exactly what you want for your body.

It can cause allergies
Corn is often a hidden ingredient; it can act as a binder in your salad dressing or even your vitamins, which can lead to allergies. Some people react to corn like they do pollen; the body creates histamines and they easily feel bloated. Watch out for ingredients like cornstarch, vegetable glycerin, maltodextrin, and artificial sweeteners like xylitol and maltitol.

What The Scientist Says: Dr. Terry Wahls

Today’s corn contains more pesticide, less nutrition
The biotech company Monsanto engineered their genetically modified corn to have a tolerance for herbicides like Roundup. Plus the amount of Roundup that’s put on these corn crops has also dramatically increased over time. Roundup, among other things, kills other plants and weeds by binding up the minerals in the soil. As the soil becomes less healthy and robust, the nutritional content of the corn decreases and pesticide exposure increases. 

GMO corn can wreak havoc on your health
New genes inserted into corn result in new proteins that our bodies haven’t seen before, which changes how our cells respond. Instead of recognizing it as corn and seeing it as safe, it sets off an alarm response in the body. This causes a number of problems — food sensitivities, changes to the bacteria in our gut, and confused hormone signaling in the body. Whenever you confuse hormone signaling in unpredictable ways, it’s going to lead to disease. You will have more of a tendency toward obesity, metabolic syndrome, polycystic ovarian disease, erectile dysfunction, autoimmune diseases, and cancer.

Before you prepare that next batch of corn on the cob, ask yourself if it is really worth the health risk.

To learn more about Terry Wahls and The Wahls Foundation, click here.