Masthead header
Aspieventures bio picture
  • WELCOME!

    Southern roots have given my family a love of sitting down to eat good home cooked meals together. Flavor was never in short supply, although as a young child processed food was. I went to school with a hand packed lunch in my personalized lunchbox every day. As I moved into junior high, I began making poor food choices as the "SAD" diet (Standard American Diet) became convenient and ever present.

    At 20, I was diagnosed with Grave's Disease, an autoimmune thyroid disorder. I struggled through poor health, daily medications, and eventually through a high-risk pregnancy. My son was diagnosed with Autism and Tourette's Syndrome at 6-years-old. The new challenges we faced led us to the GAPS diet, and down a nutritional journey as a family.

    Realizing that what we eat is foundational to optimal health I began researching, studying and cooking real food. I was led to the Nutritional Therapy Association to become a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. I followed that by becoming a certified Epidemic Answers Health Coach to learn more about the new childhood epidemics: Autism, ADD/ADHD, asthma and allergies.

    I am passionate about incorporating real food (that tastes good!) to achieve optimal wellbeing. Kids and families are my specialty. Focusing on growing families with preconception support, fertility enhancement, pregnancy, post-partum support and first foods for babies. Working with kids on the spectrum to improve digestion and blood sugar regulation so that they can feel their best. Nothing about my approach is a one-size-fits-all, each plan is tailor made for the individual and family. Long distance clients welcomed!

Pumping for Baby.. or Toddler

We have all heard the mantra “Breast is Best!” For some of us breastfeeding never gets off the ground, or we lose supply, or we think we have to give up when we go back to work.

Breastfeeding did not come easily for me with either of my babies. When my son was born lactation support in the hospital (on New Year’s Eve) was non-existant. He had a tongue-tie, but twelve years ago the correlation between bad latch and tongue-ties wasn’t as well-known as today. I was instructed to supplement with formula through a tube using my finger for him to suck on. A nurse told me that the epidural will kill milk supply and I might never be able to get anything out. I tried to pump for about a week before giving up (all the while my son was getting a bottle and not stimulating my nips). Second baby 10 years later (also with a minor tongue/lip tie) in a breastfeeding friendly hospital I received way more support AND I was determined to make it at least 6 months, but hopefully 1 year. From the onlooker’s perspective she had a good latch, but the ties actually caused quite a bit of pain and inefficient feeding. I supplemented again with a tiny amount of formula through a tube, but this time while she was nursing on the breast. Bi-weekly trips to the lactation clinic, herbs, milk-boosting foods and lots and lots of tears got us through the first two weeks, then the first couple months.

My husband and I had a work trip to Australia planned when she was only 4 months old. I had already been pumping some for the supplementing, but now I really got down to business to build up a supply for her while we were away for 10 days. Pumping is not fun. It takes up time you could be sleeping, eating or showering. I never got as much from pumping as I got from nursing (and I know because I was at the nursing clinic measuring exactly how many teaspoons little nugget was sucking out). After I had a sizable stash in the freezer I started to worry about keeping up my supply while we were away. Bless my saint of a husband for stopping every 2-3 hours to let my pump, for letting me freeze the pumped milk and for bringing a cooler bag to haul home 15 lbs of frozen breastmilk! (Don’t ask about airport security.. those poor men are scarred). I took two pumps with us (yes.. two. On a flight that charged us per pound for luggage). I had a hospital grade pump, which I highly recommend for at-home pumping, and I had a portable pump that I carried all over Melbourne (and half of New Zealand). I also had a video of my little one’s specific nursing noises to help with my letdown. I asked a LOT of questions of the lactation specialists, my mom and other friends who nursed.

We made it past 2 years old before Rowan fully weaned, but I had questions all along the way. Luckily, I have a friend who has been very willing to share advice with me about pumping, nursing in general, and “extended nursing” (basically, the internet knows nothing about nursing past the age of 1 year). When she voiced an idea on Facebook last week about wanting to share FAQ’s she gets about pumping I jumped at the chance to share them here. She has 4 beautiful children and is a WEALTH of information. Thank you Serena for your giving spirit!

First, about me: I have four kids, ranging from 11 years old down to 11 months old. All of them were exclusively breastfed for their first six months and no one has weaned before 2.5 years old. I also work full time. My schedule has varied for each kid, but for the third one I was working ten hours days with a long commute and was thus away from home about 13 hours per day. Needless to say, I am now very familiar with pumping. And over the years, I have heard a number of things from other women that have made me want to write up a post of responses to common concerns or questions about pumping (and maybe a little about breastfeeding in general). My hope is that women can access information like this when they are in the moment or even before the give birth; many times I hear comments about why people stopped nursing/pumping when it’s too late. I haven’t really asked people for their reasons why they stopped nursing or pumping, but somehow people feel the need to share when they see my rinsing my pump parts in the break room. So let’s use the experience of others to better support those currently in the thick of it.

“I didn’t get anything out when I tried pumping so I must not be making any milk.”

I’m not sure about the experience of other women on this, but I know that for myself, it always takes my breasts a while to get accustomed to the pump again. Nursing may be going fine (I usually start pumping when the baby is about three weeks old, so my milk supply is already in) but somehow my breasts don’t like the pump. They balk. They rebel. But I persist, and eventually they give in and start producing for the pump. I don’t think that pumps were really made to match how babies stimulate production, and I think that it’s a little unnatural for breasts to use the pump—perhaps this is why pumps never do as good a job as the baby at maintaining supply.

The other thing that may be going on is that you may have a slow letdown. I’m going to talk about the Medela Pump in Style because that’s what I’m most familiar with. When you first turn this pump on, the sucking cycle is fast in order to stimulate letdown. It is in letdown-stimulation mode for about two minutes and then automatically switches to slow-suck. If you haven’t gotten a letdown when it switches to slow-suck, press the button again. If you go into slow-suck before you have a letdown, you won’t get much milk out, if any at all. Hit that button again and see if the second go round helps you get a let down. I find my let down is particularly slow if I’m cold or stressed. Also, if ever you get the sense that the milk has stopped flowing but you haven’t really pumped what you’ve got, hit the button again. Get another let down. You can do this multiple times in any given pumping session, if needed.

Get the last bit out

Your breasts are never really “empty,” they produce milk continually. But when you’re pumping, try to be thorough. You may find it helpful to stimulate a second (or third) letdown. Breast compressions can also help. I don’t know what the typical method is for small-breasted women, but I shove my fist into my side-boob while pumping. Yes, I just said that. I think of those side glands as my “hidden” mammary glands and find that if I don’t give them a good shove they won’t empty properly and I’ll end up with blocked ducts. In the early days of nursing, I also do these sorts of compressions while the baby nurses, otherwise I get this odd partial-engorgement.

“How strong do I need to set the suction?”

My advice is to set it just below pain-level. I turn the strength up to where it becomes uncomfortable, and then turn it down to just below that.

“I got the same daily ounce total whether I pumped twice or three times, so I started only pumping twice.”

This is a recipe for reducing your supply. Three smaller sessions will do a better job maintaining your supply than two larger sessions.

“I couldn’t pump anymore, so I had to wean the baby.”

My own mother told me this, trying to explain why she weaned me at nine months (this was back in the day when she was considered a crazy hippie for nursing me even that long… or at all. So huge props to her for that and for the wonderful work that she has done supporting nursing women through her entire career.) I’ve heard this from a number of other working women since then. My goal when nursing my babies is to make it to two years. When I have had people ask me “How long are you going to nurse her?” I ignore the implied “Isn’t she a bit old to be nursing?” and just give my completely honest answer: “I plan to nurse for at least two years; anything after than is just bonus.” However, I stop pumping around a year (to be more specific, I typically drop to pumping just once a day on my lunch break at a year and continue that for another couple of months). Just because you’re not pumping during the day doesn’t mean you have to stop nursing entirely. Nurse when you get home. Nurse at night. Nurse on weekends. Now, if you tried to do this with a wee babe, I suspect your supply would dwindle. But for an older child that is on solids, it’s pretty workable. Especially after a year.

“I stopped feeling full so I stopped pumping as much.”

It’s pretty normal to stop feeling full when the baby gets older. Some women never feel “full”! Don’t wait until you feel full to pump. Letting your breasts get full signals your body to produce less milk. If you’re getting full, you’re probably not pumping often enough (unless you have oversupply and are trying to get your supply to let up a bit).

Related to this, I have had women tell me they stopped nursing because they stopped feeling full, they felt their baby was sucking and “not getting anything.” These women often tell me that this happened around a big growth spurt. Around the time of a big growth spurt, the baby will need to nurse a ton when you are more empty in order to stimulate you to produce more. In order to increase your supply, you need to nurse when you’re “on empty.”

Embrace the night-nursing

Night nursing does wonders for keeping your supply up. I make exactly zero efforts to “night wean” because, as I always say, “The more I nurse at night, the less I have to pump during the day.”

“How much should I pump each day?”

Make sure you are pumping out at least as much as the baby is taking in each day. Don’t run a deficit. If you have a freezer stash from when you were on maternity leave, you shouldn’t be digging into that regularly. So each day, I get a report from whoever is watching the baby on how much he took down. I count my own number of ounces produced that day. If I’m short, I’ll pump another time at work before driving home, or pump an additional time at home. There have been times (especially when I’ve had a commute over an hour each way) when I would get to work a little early in order to pump before my first client of the day, then again at my morning break, then again at lunch, again at afternoon break, and then again at the end of the day before heading home. As the kid gets older and starts on solids, I can reduce the number of sessions per day, as long as I’m still keeping up with demand.

And yes, I’m writing this while pumping.

-Brynn again! The above picture I found on the Willow Pump website. I paid out of pocket to rent the hospital grade pump for more than 6 months, and I purchased my Medela Pump in Style rather than jump through hoops for the insurance company. I think I would have paid any amount of money for THIS breast pump. I can’t tell you how many times I cried over spilled milk trying to wrangle my clothing, the battery pack, the milk bottles and tubes while working. 

Public School System. A Synonym for Hell

Today, I happened across this Facebook post, “In all fairness, teachers, therapists, SLPs, and almost everybody else who works with children are ‘trained’ to look for problems. It takes a special kind of person to consciously look for strengths and use them.” This pretty much sums up my frustration with school personnel in general. We are constantly dealing with behavioral problems, with little to no room for flexibility. He gets in trouble for not keeping his bottom in his chair while working. Easy fix? Let him stand and lean on his desk to work. Would that be distracting to the other kids? Maybe, move him somewhere in the seating chart where he would cause the least amount of distraction. He’s wobbling all over, breaking pencils, tearing the wrappers off crayons and cutting up scratch paper in his desk. Easy fix? He’s a helper, give him a sensory chore to calm those needs and he’ll be able to pay attention to the next lesson.

Schools are a one-size-fits-all scenario. We can’t change too much of how it’s done for the sake of one child. I get that. I’m not asking for a teacher to overhaul the way she does things. It would be nice to hear some positive things about him occasionally. Traits they can use to help him perform better in the classroom, while at the same time letting the other children learn, and not creating a lot more work for the teacher.

Over the last 8 years, Cullen has been to 3 different daycares, 2 pre-schools and 2 elementary schools. All of the school changes have been because we moved. The last school transfer happened mid-year. We wanted to keep him where he was until the end of the year, but the principal did not want to keep him despite his high test scores. The move was unexpected, and frankly there was nothing we could do about it, but resign ourselves to making the best of a crummy situation. We were right in the middle of his first IEP evaluations, so we got to start the new school with more support and a bit more understanding of his challenges. He’s been there 2 years, and made incredible progress with his team.

Last week, we had to move again. To a new district, not just a new school. The principal at his current school was more than willing to let him finish the last two months, but the round trip drive is about an hour. Not really conducive for a slow-starting Aspie, who hates being in the car for long periods of time. I start looking in to transferring him to the new school. The registration clerk tells me its a year-round school. UM… HOLD THE PHONE! Year round? As in, a completely different schedule than he’s used to? As in, a completely different schedule than his brothers? This is it. I’m in hell.

The biggest concern is that the new school is almost done with their year, where Cullen was on track to finish in June. There’s a chance he may have to repeat 3rd grade.. since there isn’t a summer school option. He’s already older than his classmates because of a late birthday. We really don’t want to stretch the age difference any more. The option that looks best is to have him complete the year at home, with me spending 3-4 hours as his “learning coach”.

On the surface this sounds great. He gets to stay home most of the day where he’s comfortable. He gets to learn at his own pace, and interact with other kids when we choose to. I get to finish the last 2 months of pregnancy with fewer trips outside the house (my fat feet would LOVE that). Here’s the catch…. What happens when he goes back for the next grade? Will his behaviors improve or come back with a vengeance? He loves to learn, but hates to go to school. He will excel at a home school program, but it may make reentering school difficult.

Anyone have any thoughts/advice on their decisions for schooling choices?

Cullen010

photo credit: D’Avello Photography

April 9, 2014 - 3:24 pm

Jacqueline - home-schooling… indefinitely?
obviously, something I’ve never looked into but have heard of small groups of mothers getting together and taking turns.
I suggest the obvious only b/c you mentioned how much he thrives in this type of “home-setting” environment AND loves to learn.
would be a FULL-time job plus some. my hat’s off to you parent-people.

June 16, 2014 - 5:12 am

Sue - Brynn, I think if you have time to complete his education at home, do it. I know kid in Cali and here in Indiana that have been home schooled, and they are by far better educated and better mannered than public school children. You will be able to help in learn in the manner he needs. If you get in a group, he will still have contact with other home schoolers as you do group activity once a week or more if you choose. I think it will be so much better for him.

The Little Things

Social media and electronic communication are notorious for misunderstandings. You read something online or in a text and your personal lexicon inserts the definitions for the words that are most comfortable for you. You have little context for the comment, and you have absolutely no non-verbal cues you would have if you were face-to-face with the speaker. In that way, technology should make us more in tune to how autistic people (or people with autism if you prefer) interact with the world.

I posted something on Facebook about severe autism a while back, and a good friend made an offhand comment. They know us well, they like our children, and they know a lot about Cullen’s personality. But the comment stung. It was said with humor. It wasn’t said with a mean spirit. I know enough about this person to know hurting me was never their intention. It kind of felt like they were chastising me for not being more grateful for how well Cullen behaves compared to someone with “classical” autism.  Talking about it yesterday with my mom and husband, something rose to the surface of my heart that explained why such a little comment caused me pain.

When Cullen was an infant I did not know what I was “missing out on”. He was a quiet baby, he started sleeping through the night within a few months. He laughed and interacted with me through eye contact, and I spent the first 8 months with him 24/7. He didn’t babble, or make noises that I know now most babies do. He laughed and cried… and almost never played with toys I bought for him. Instead, he wanted to play with everything he saw me using while I worked. He would sit in a baby seat at my desk or in a play pen next to it. Phones, highlighters, paper, computer keyboards… all of his favorite things. Once he started going to daycare he picked up normal toys, but he still didn’t babble. It wasn’t until after 2 that he finally started talking.

I had quickly established a bed time routine within 6 months of his birth. One that is still the same, just evolved since growing into a little boy. He takes a bath, relaxes for a little while and then goes straight to bed with a hug, kiss, and a tuck (the tuck intensity depends on which end of the sensory pendulum he is on at the moment). For years this was the only reciprocated hug and kiss I got. He would accept hugs and kisses, but he would just lean toward me. Even when I asked for a hug I would get a quick lean, or if pushed a limp noodle arm around my shoulders. Interestingly, about a year ago I was unsure if kissing him on the lips at night was still appropriate at his age. I know there are lots of families that do the lip-kiss into adulthood, but I felt a little nagging that maybe it would be confusing for him as he reached an age to think lip-kissing was ok for anyone.. even friends at school. So I switched to kissing him on the cheek. He was distressed and asked me why I changed about 4 days in. I realized there were some things that he will outgrow on his own when he’s ready. We still had a conversation about boundaries and who it’s ok to kiss and where. (So far so good.)

Our lives are full of these little things. Little things that pile up to be a completely different “normal” than the family with “neuro-typical” kids. Yes, every family has their issues, but do your kids willingly hold hands with you? Do they climb into your bed when they have a bad dream or don’t feel well? Do they hug you for no reason or spontaneously tell you ‘I love you’? Do they snuggle up next to you and fall asleep while watching tv? Ours doesn’t. He follows a pattern, which means he does a thing because it’s required or part of the routine.

Here’s where the pain comes in. Our friends and family see (for the most part) a very well-behaved child. We have worked on his social skills and behavior to the point that he can handle going out to dinner, or spending half a day with friends without meltdowns, rude comments, or rolling on the floor. And that is HUGE!! We are consistently proud of him in that regard. He even surprised us one night after dinner at a friend’s house by offering to rinse all the dishes and load them into the dishwasher! This has been years in the making and we are ecstatic with the progress he makes. However, most people do not get to see the day-to-day disappointments, coaching and behaviors we still have to work on. No one sees how drained he is from a social situation, needing to spend hours by himself, or wrap up in a blanket and roll on the floor. No one sees the angry outbursts and depression that comes from days of trying to fit in at school and keep friends that actually enjoy his quirks and personality. He gets teased, he is isolated, and he does not make the connection that it is the way he treats that usually cause those things. And we don’t really talk about those things on a regular basis with friends. For friends without kids it isn’t interesting; and for friends with kids it is painful for us. Their normal is different from our normal. When I list his behaviors out loud it doesn’t sound like much. You have to live with Cullen to really understand how frustrating it is to live in a constant mode of one-step-forward-two-steps-back. They do not see the constant coaching. We are teaching around the clock. Repeating lessons over and over and over again until they become second nature for Cullen. We feel like complainers when we say what his behaviors are… like we should only be talking about how smart he is, or any of the other great traits he possesses.

For our family, going a day without wetting his pants, getting a hug for no reason, seeing him study my face for a few minutes and ask, “Why do you have angry eyes?” or just sitting on his butt at the table for longer than 2 minutes are all huge achievements that equal a baby’s first step or first word for us. We do not need to be reminded that it could be worse. We know how lucky we are that he can speak, and that he will be an independent adult one day. We know those things. We also know how hard, how draining and how discouraging what we actually deal with is. We don’t complain about it. He is an amazing kid making great progress.

We believe in bringing more awareness to the entire spectrum, not just high-functioning. We want respite care for the parents that need it. Whether they have a non-verbal child or one that argues every single thing. We want tools for the non-verbal kids, and therapies for the sensory distressed. We want our kids to be held accountable for their actions, while at the same time receive understanding for why they acted that way. And we ask for consideration for where we are as a family… comments and discussion that are meant to build up and support as opposed to making light of our struggle and challenges.

 

Autism “Warriors” – Why are we fighting each other?

IMG_2053

It was almost 3 years ago. I walked in to a lab for some blood work for myself. It was late afternoon, and the tiny 15×15 waiting room was packed. Twelve chairs lined the walls and all but one was taken. I checked in and took my spot against the wall, pulling out my cell phone to pass away the time until it was my turn. Over the edge of my screen there was a mom with her son sitting in the corner. He was probably 11 or 12 and he was crouching on the edge of his chair, tapping his mom on the arm, face, or leg, and grunting intermittently. She glanced around nervously when he got a little louder, and tried to calm him. She was uncomfortable, but not as much as he was. She met my eyes and looked an apology at me, “I can’t help it. I can’t control him. I’m so sorry he’s disrupting your afternoon.” I smiled at her.. not in a condescending way (I hope), but in a I-understand-he’s-not-bothering-me-at-all way. I was only a few weeks in to our autism journey. I had not read all the books yet. I was still quite lost, but I recognized it in the other child. I wasn’t at all bothered or upset when the boy laid down on the middle of the waiting room floor. I even glared at the other people who rolled their eyes or sent accusing looks at the frazzled mother. They couldn’t understand that this was better than screaming; better than a full meltdown in the middle of a small room. How could they know that to this child the room felt like a tiny box, full of scary strangers, that the flourescent lights were probably hurting him, or that the door screeching as it opened was like needles to his ears?

I went out to use the restroom, and when I came back there had been a shift in the seating. There was one seat left beside the boy. I didn’t have any problem taking it, but he did. He started patting me on the back while looking down at my feet. Clearly he was asking me to move. I stood up again and his mom immediately told me how sorry she was, to please take her seat, she would make him behave. I touched her on the arm and told her, “It’s ok. I don’t mind. I know how he feels. It’s a small thing for me to stand if it makes him comfortable.” I didn’t ask her if she had him on a special diet, or what biomedical treatments she was following, or how many hours of therapy he had a week. I didn’t ask if he was fully vaccinated, or unvaccinated, or if he had an iPad to help him communicate. I didn’t ask what caused his autism, or if she thinks there is a cure. There was no judgement. We get enough judging from the rest of the world.. do we really need it from the people who are supposed to be in the trenches with us?

Get someone on Instagram or Facebook, and suddenly that is exactly what happens. Bickering, trolling and judging. MY WAY IS BETTER! YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG! YOU DON’T LOVE YOUR CHILD ENOUGH! When we can’t see the other person face-to-face we can’t imagine the beating they take from our “well-meaning” words. They might be at the end of their rope and just trying to get through the day. How is a nasty, judgmental comment going to help?

No matter what “side” of the cure/therapy/treatment debate you are on, we all have a common goal (even the parents of non-autistic kids). We want our kids to be healthy and happy. Some of us might want a spontaneous hug that isn’t part of the bedtime routine. Some may want real eye contact. Or a full sentence. Or an I love you. Those are the things autism parents crave.. the things that other parents take for granted. I find myself complaining sometimes when Cullen won’t stop talking, but I remind myself that there are lots of moms that would give anything for one word!! Or the nights when I watch him stretch, wiggle, roll, contort and flap across the floor while we’re watching tv. Sure, it’s distracting, it can be comical, it can be irritating, but he’s calm and he isn’t hurting himself. He could be violent. He could be hitting or biting himself, or banging his head on the floor or the wall.

As parents, we are all finding our way down the road we have to follow. We are doing the best we can, and we are doing what works for our child. What works for mine, may not work for yours. It might be something worth trying… I’m always looking for new techniques and new therapies. But I hate being told that if I don’t believe in a cure, that I’m not doing all that I can for our son. His brain is wired differently, there is nothing I can do about that. I can help him be comfortable in social situations. I can teach him (a hundred times if needed) how to behave appropriately. I can feed him the best possible food to make all of that easier. I think he can get better. I know he can be independent. I know he’s going to be an awesome adult. And I know that he’s going to be happy. I love that he speaks his mind.. I just want him to do so respectfully. At the end of the day I don’t care if he makes a puppy dog face with his tongue hanging out when he’s excited, or if he goes up the stairs every night on all fours, or if he slithers on the tile like a snake. It’s not about being normal.

We are all warriors. We are all fighting for our kids. Let’s not fight each other too. Work hard and be nice to people.

February 24, 2014 - 11:40 am

Lisa - I can attest to the fact that Aspie kids do grow up to be awesome adults that can fully function in the world—and that their unique perspective can coax those in their sphere to grow and open up in remarkable ways. My husband has Aspergers, ADHD and is bipolar, and his journey has been rough. He wasn’t even diagnosed until he was in his 30s, but his challenges have fostered amazing determination without destroying his creativity or beautiful spirit. There is no one right way to deal with the condition. Find the way that works for you as an individual/couple/family, and keep evolving it as you learn new things. Try on different styles to see what fits, and don’t judge those who differ. Nothing is static in this way of life.

#jerf = Just Eat Real Food … But How!? {Tips + A Giveaway}

“I don’t know how you do it.” I get this a lot. My typical response is, “It’s not that hard.” But I’m just being modest. It is hard some days. Some days I just want to be able to drive through somewhere and pick up dinner. Some days I could pull all my hair out if I have to wash one more dirty pan. But most days, when I’m in the zone, it’s easy as pie. I’m now chuckling at that metaphor since pie really isn’t that easy. Three kids (one with Aspergers), running our business, and cooking real food can be a challenge, but it was something I grew into, not something I mastered overnight.

“I make breakfast and clean up the mess and it’s time to start lunch!” This is exactly word-for-word the frantic complaint from friends that have gone “Gung Ho” for real food. They are knee deep into a lifestyle that is built on making new habits, breaking the old ones and planning ahead. Unfortunately, they are probably battling sugar cravings at the same time from their cold-turkey stop of all things processed = no fun. We started off at a moderate pace. We emptied our cabinets of anything with sugar or msg. We replaced russet potatoes with sweet potatoes. Dropped grains out completely. Then we stopped all starches. I was making the same meals wrapped in lettuce or with extra veggies instead of bread or potatoes. I started incorporating more soups. I made my own sauerkraut. Then nut butter. Then yogurt. One day I opened my fridge to find the top shelf a collection of mason jars full of my concoctions, and I asked myself; “How did I get here?” Now, any given day of the week you will see one of my kitchen gadgets humming along, or a bowl of something fermenting or soaking on the counter, and you will still find a motley crew of jars with handwritten labels in my fridge. There are nights I spend 4 hours in the kitchen prepping, baking or cooking. But that isn’t the norm. I make the most of my time in the kitchen, plan ahead and keep it simple!

I have a list of tips I learned along the way that will hopefully come in handy for you. Just remember to ease in to it.. unless you’re the cannonball type. In that case, jump right in, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

jars037

TIPS FOR STARTING A REAL FOOD HABIT – in no particular order

* Take a class. It doesn’t have to be at a school… if grandma makes a killer pot roast, or the bomb-diggity Fried Chicken, hang out and help her do it. She’ll probably make cookies while you’re waiting for the roast. (I wouldn’t worry too much about the refined sugars/flours in this case. You need to learn how to crawl before you can walk. Capisce?

* Find a cookbook/website with basic recipes. Save the harder things for later (see above). Do not alter these recipes until you have made them perfectly a couple of times. Then you can experiment.

* Hone your knife skills and buy a pair of really good knives. Prepping is a time-sucking vortex. A pair of really good kitchen knives will help lessen the pain of chopping and dicing. (Unless you cut yourself with them)

* Invest in some handy gadgets: apple corer, garlic chopper, egg separator. There are some really awesome time-saving tools that wash easily and cut your prep time down.

* Invest in a crockpot. It will be your new BFF and you won’t have to remember it’s birthday or listen to it whine about the last jerk that stood it up.

* Learn how to make tasty meat stock. You’ll use it for everything. Including a beverage!

* Replace vegetable cooking oils (corn, canola, soybean, etc.) with Coconut Oil, Butter and Ghee. You can save your Olive Oil for drizzling on food after it’s been cooked, hummus and salads. Throw everything else away.

* Find a Farmer’s Market near you on a day that you can attend. Check it out. Buy some berries. Maybe get a little crazy and come home with a squash. (These things happen). Once you’ve found a good one use it to buy your weekly vegetables and eggs. Meal plan around your purchases and use your grocery store for supplementation. CSA boxes can be awesome too, but I like a little more control than a random assortment of produce.

* Try a vegetable you’ve never tried before. I know, I know. You’d rather lick the ground than try a new veggie. Buy a little, buy it fresh and buy it in season. Google your favorite celebrity chef + the name of the veggie. Try that recipe. If all else fails cook it with butter. Butter makes everything better.

* Eat eggs for breakfast. Poached, Scrambled, Fried, Frambled, Baked, Hardboiled, Softboiled or in a smoothie. They are good for you and as easy to make as dry cereal. Eat dinner for breakfast! Sometimes a bowl of soup or leftover veggies with a fried egg on top hits the spot!

* When I buy a new ingredient (usually a vegetable, sometimes a fruit) I like to google tips for how to prep it. I had a painful reaction to peeling a butternut squash. My hands turned bright red, started swelling, then itching and peeled for 3 days. I now cut the squash in half and roast it, then scoop it out. Or if I’m lazy I will roast it first and then cut it in half. It changes the flavor of my soup a little, but I like it. I could grab a pair of gloves if I really wanted to peel it and cube it.

* Beef up your kitchen gadgets! Ice cream maker, Vitamix, mandolin. Go crazy! Avocado slicer? Apple peeler. Spiralizer. Dutch Oven. Yogurt Maker. Dehydrator. Fermenting vessels. Dammit Jim, I’m a mom not a scientist! (Random Star Trek reference). If anything it gets fun. Storage space may be a problem, but look at all that room in the microwave you aren’t using anymore.

* Start stockpiling glass. Pyrex and Mason. Pyrex you can find at thrift stores, but not the new-fangled whippersnappers with tupperware lids. <— Read easy stacking + less smell in your fridge. I’d stay away from the mason jars at the thrift stores though. Get wide mouth freezer ready jars for all the broth you’re gonna be making. BPA-free plasticware is your next best option.

* Make double batches when you make dinner. You can reuse leftovers in a soup, throw meat on salad for lunch or mix up veggies into an omelette or frittata.

* Pick one day a week to meal plan. I like to do it after the farmers market. I cut down on food I throw away (because I forgot about it) and also it saves me unnecessary trips to the store.

* Clean out your spice cupboard. This is where sugar and msg lurk. You want to eventually switch over to pure ingredients, there are very few blends in my cupboard. I mix my own chili powder and taco seasoning. I have a few blends I bought at my farmer’s market that don’t  have salt, sugar or msg. Watch out for “natural flavors” – if the manufacturer wanted you to know what they use they will list it…. = beaver anal gland.

* Eliminate soy from your diet. This will make practically everything in a package off limits. Soy is the #1 most genetically modified crop in the U.S. with corn close behind. We are only now seeing results from what GMO’s are doing to our health. On top of the GMO factor, soy is a natural estrogen-disrupter. For women the balance between estrogen and progesterone is so crucial that throwing it off a little will wreck havoc on your moods, cycles and fertility. Traditionally fermented soy is ok, but it’s not what they are including in  your chocolate.

* Easy things to start making yourself: Nut butters, salad dressings, spice mixes, yogurt, dried nuts, granola bars, beef jerky and applesauce.

* Start eating fats. Good fats like whole eggs, wild fish, uncured bacon, avocado, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, olive oil, and that crispy goodness wrapped around your roasted chicken… you know the skin! Our bodies have not evolved as fast as the processed foods have.   With the large amounts of grains we now consume, our bodies think we are out of meat and protein, so it sends the message to store that energy for later, leading to fat retention, which is great if you are in a famine… not so great in 2013. You need to send the message that you have plenty of food and nutrients and get your body to start burning protein for energy.. and to stop storing the carbs. Mark’s Daily Apple explains this principal much better than me it’s under the heading Fat Paradigm. Basically, you need healthy fats to lose fat, get pregnant and have more energy. All good reasons for me!

* Stop using your microwave. It destroys nutrients. Steam in a basket in the oven or stove, or use a pot or skillet to reheat.

* Don’t try to “replace” junk food with “healthier” junk food. Grain-free bread doesn’t taste the same, just lettuce wrap it. Same goes for cakes and cookies, switch to homemade ice cream or fresh whipped cream and fruit. Veggie chips are not as satisfying as Lay’s Potato Chips, but then again neither is a veggie snack tray. Find new snacks that you love. My new favorite snack is rosemary roasted almonds, but it requires 24 hours of soaking before I can roast them.

* Keep snack foods prepped and easily accessible for when hunger strikes. I keep hard-boiled eggs, uncured salami, cubed cheese, and sliced carrots and cucumbers in my fridge whenever possible. I also have a bag of Enjoy Life Mega Chunks in the cupboard for when I need a quick “sugar” fix. A spoonful of coconut butter and raw honey work for this as well.

* Throw out your refined sugar. Replace with GradeB Organic Maple Syrup, Raw Organic Honey, and in a pinch.. stevia extract. Bananas and fruit make great sweeteners also.

October 11, 2013 - 8:01 pm

Angie Thompson Huebner - Hmmmmm… I'm stumped! Well, we know bone broth and sauerkraut for sure. Maybe a mayo?? What the heck is the bright colored one and the really dark one? I'm racking my brain. I will keep thinking

October 11, 2013 - 8:37 pm

Bethany Barton - L-R: yogurt (or maybe coconut butter?), ghee, kefir, bone broth, apple cider vinegar or maybe homemade kombucha?, nut butter (I'm guessing almond.)

October 11, 2013 - 9:53 pm

Brynn Davello - Bethany and Angie you each got 2 right. Only 1 was a shared answer.

October 12, 2013 - 1:40 am

Lindsay Guleserian - I got this. We have mayo, whey, sour kraut chocoolate milk,bone broth, and hummus/almond butter …. Not sure why you have chocolate milk, but I'm okay with it! Bam!!

October 12, 2013 - 4:26 am

Brynn Davello - Lindsay Guleserian you're in the lead with 3 😉

November 14, 2013 - 5:43 am

Brinly Standridge - My guess is L to R…kefir, ghee, whey, beef broth, ACV or komb, and mayo. I have only tried my own sauerkraut. Found your site looking up asperger and GAPS. Read the book now going thru assessment/diagnoses. Will be interested to explore your adventures!

November 20, 2013 - 8:56 pm

Aspieventures - Brinly (I love your name!) I’m so glad you found us. I told a friend today that I am very close to saying my son is recovered, but I didn’t want to jinx it. And then he had a terrible day at school.

There is broth in there, but it’s jar number 3 (chicken). These were pretty hard. Not even the nutritionist guessed them all right.

Some other correct guesses were sauerkraut juice (jar number 5) and cashew butter (jar number 6)

February 11, 2014 - 11:12 pm

Helen M - Can I still have a turn? I say: cooking fat (from an animal); pickle juice (or pickled egg juice – is it weird that I even think that?); chicken stock; fresh-pressed juice; sauerkraut juice; cashew butter.
I think you shared most of my favorite real food tips, but one I have, is to be nice. Make friends with your local food people, talk to the people at the farmer’s market, ask the random people in the aisle at the grocery store about products you’re interested in and/or how they use them, and chat up the cashier. Call your favorite companies and tell them what you love about their products. It’s another “investment”, but it almost always results in at least a little new knowledge, probably a bit of money saved, and definitely some good food conversation and new friends 🙂

February 12, 2014 - 6:08 am

Aspieventures - I love your suggestion Helen!