Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Feeding the Special Needs Child {Confessions of a Zealot}

 Children with sensory issues often have undetected food sensitivities, especially to preservatives, flavorings, and dyes, and don't let anyone tell you any different.  Artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame, should be strictly avoided.  They are so far removed from anything occurring in nature that the body has absolutely no ability to deal with them.

The Feingold diet is a good place to start if you want more information about how diet affects attention.

  There is a correlation between ADHD and pesticides,  so if your child has attentional issues, the more organic foods you can provision, the better.   Or try to buy the organic versions of the worst offenders. There are many foods that don't contain a high concentration of pesticides, so you can buy the conventionally grown ones if money is an issue.  Speaking of which, can we prioritize a bit here?  What luxuries can you reduce or eliminate so that you can increase your food expenditures and buy more high quality food?  Many people in other countries are accustomed to spending a far higher percentage of their disposable income on food.

Microwave ovens are bad news.  I have never owned one and won't let anyone heat my food in one.   Not only do they change the internal structure of the food, doing heaven knows what to the nutrition,  nuking things in plastic containers leeches toxins into food.  Do you want your children eating that?  I didn't think so. Replace your microwave with a good convection/toaster oven, and get used to waiting an extra minute or two for your food to heat.

 Get rid of your non stick cookware, which flakes toxins into your food as it ages.  Use cast iron instead.  A Lodge preseasoned cast iron skillet costs less than thirty dollars, and it will last forever.  Your great great grandchildren will be able to cook with it.  Cast iron is not very hard to take care of, and is completely non stick if washed and dried correctly.  Cast iron pans do a much, much better job of cooking things that you would normally associate with non stick cookware, like eggs and fish,  which in turn makes you a better cook. Instead of toxins, they add iron to food, which among other things is what allows the body to absorb and retain calcium.  They're reactive, but the only things you really can't cook in them are high acid foods like tomatoes and wine based sauces.

 Industrially raised cows, pigs, and chickens, and farmed fish, are pumped full of antibiotics and hormones, which we ingest when we eat them.   They live horrendous lives, are fed diets that nature did not design them to digest, which makes them ill,  and they die violently.  The {often undocumented} workers who process them, which is a polite way of saying kill and eviscerate, are treated almost as badly.   Don't believe me?  Watch Food, Inc.  or read Johnathan Safran Foer's  Eating Animals.

Restaurant food, especially fast food, tastes good because it has a very high percentage of sodium and fat.  We don't need to be eating it every day.  Take out and eating in restaurants should be reserved for special occasions, and should not be the default option.

  Something I don't consider real food:  Soy.  {I once heard a well known pediatrician say to a group of parents that he wouldn't feed soy to his own children, and that was good enough for me.}  Most soy is genetically modified.  This may or may not be harmful to humans, but genetically modified crops cause harm to insects,  This in turn disrupts the food chain, which eventually will be devastating to all living beings.  We are in danger right now of losing the ability to grow our own food here in the US, because our bees, who pollinate the crops, are dying off.  If we have to import all of our food in order to survive, that leaves us incredibly vulnerable.

Back to soy.  Even Asians, who have been consuming soy for generations, don't depend on it for the bulk of their protein, and neither should we.  They use soy as a condiment, such as a few cubes of tofu in a bowl of miso soup.  Soy milk and soy yogurt are a relatively new phenomenon.  Soy based  hot dogs, sausages and burgers are highly processed and contain tons of sodium and additives.   It's not a good idea to rely on these things, even if you're attempting to eat less meat.   Have some edamame once in a while as a special treat, or have some delicious homemade tofu at a Japanese restaurant, but I don't recommend consuming soy every day.   Which, in fact, if you rely on any processed foods at all, you already do.   Soy shows up in all kinds of places where you wouldn't expect it.  Kashi cereal, many granola and energy bars, breads, crackers,  mayonnaise, even canned tuna fish contain soy, like soy oil or soy protein, in some form.

Many fruits and  vegetables that we could never dream of buying even as a treat are now readily available at supermarkets.  Have you discovered fennel, lacinato kale, chayote, pomegranates, loquats, passion fruit, or ripe plaintains?

Is there a greenmarket near you?  Discover the joys of seasonal produce and watch the the seasons go by in rhythm with the market:  ramps, spring garlic, cherries, berries, apricots, tomatoes, apples, eggplant, peppers, tatsoi, kale, turnips, corn.  Take your children with you and discover these things together.  Or take a trip to your local Chinatown and discover green things and fruits you never knew existed.

Instead of white rice or spaghetti, try farro, quinoa, kamut, and wild rice.  They are delicious, easy to cook, and highly nutritious.

Remember: we are what we eat.  Do you want your children to be eating bad food?

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