Clean eating saved my son’s life. As a baby and young child, Tosh was constantly sick with chronic conditions that put him in the hospital for weeks on end. Some of his conditions were more severe than others, but all of them affected him on a day to day basis. I wholeheartedly believe that clean eating has allowed Tosh, my son, to grow out of chronic ailments and sensory conditions and into a thriving, engaged and healthy 6-year-old boy.
Over the years, clean eating has transformed our whole family. As an infant and early toddler, Tosh ate only organic food. We bought him lots of Earth’s Best™ granola bars, organic yogurt, Annie’s Organic Mac N Cheese™ and the occasional organic gummy fruit….lots of foods that made me feel like I was making the right choices as a parent.
The problem was that Tosh was always sick. Whether it be a cold turned into a hospital visit, one of MANY ear infections, adenoid infections, viruses, tonsillitis, eczema or sensory conditions, Tosh always seemed to have something going on with him. At the time, I did not realize why he was always sick. Now, after years of training, research and adopting an anti-inflammatory diet myself, it is clear that Tosh’s whole body was highly inflamed from the foods I was giving him.
Essentially, I was giving my son lots of organic junk food filled with the top inflammatory foods: processed sugar, wheat, cow dairy, unhealthy fats, and foods filled with GMO ingredients such as corn and soy. The knowledge I had at the time of my son’s birth was based mostly on the clever marketing strategies the food industry adopted. Because something was organic, all-natural or gluten-free, I assumed it was super healthy. Boy was I wrong!
The more I studied and adopted an anti-inflammatory diet the more I realized our world was FULL of inflammatory and toxic foods. These foods are creating havoc in our children’s’ bodies each and every day (not to mention our own bodies as well). Through further research, I discovered the direct correlation between highly processed foods full of inflammatory ingredients and the increase of: auto-immune conditions, heart disease, cancer,diabetes, and behavioral conditions, obesity, skin conditions, arthritis, digestive issues, high blood pressure, depression, ADD, Autism and lowered energy (just to mention a few). What scared me the most was the increase of many of these ailments in children. Health conditions and behavioral concerns are showing themselves at an earlier and more prevalent rate in our youngest generation than ever before. This to me is alarming and requires a call to action.
The call to action is so simple, yet intricately difficult in our current day society where time is of the essence, convenience is the norm and addiction to sugar is at an all-time high. As stated by Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, “Inflammation is at the root of most ailments, conditions, and disease.” The problem of inflammation is huge. It spans the depths of a billion-dollar food industry that is more interested in the bottom dollar than helping to keep you and your child healthy. Overwhelming at first, this problem has the potential to be solved easily. Remove inflammation from the body and the root of the health issues disappears.
The wrong types of food and drink increase inflammation every time they enter our mouth. Science shows us that by exchanging inflammatory ingredients for non-inflammatory foods the body will regenerate on a cellular level. Simply by swapping out our food and drink, we can skip the doctor, skip the medications, and skip the stress and anxiety of trying to find out “what is wrong” with your kid (or yourself). Eating the right food literally allows the body to heal. It is powerful medicine.
The results from eating an anti-inflammatory diet are quick to show, however, the process of adopting an anti-inflammatory lifestyle takes time. There are many different claims in the media today for foods that fall under the category of “clean eating” or “anti-inflammatory”. There are no real stipulations as to what someone can call these foods. For some people, clean eating is eating unprocessed foods. For others, it may be choosing to eat a cold cut sandwich instead of McDonald’s. For others, it involves going gluten-free. While for some, clean eating is equal to eating an anti-inflammatory diet. Clean eating is a process. It involves unpeeling one layer of inflammatory foods at a time while instilling a new lifestyle.
Anti-inflammatory eating falls under more strict guidelines, however these are not governed by any organization so a person will find varying perspectives of the definition. Merriam Webster’s definition of anti-inflammatory is: counteracting inflammation.
The Clean Eating Kid’s perspective on this is to counteract inflammation by swapping out the top inflammatory foods: processed sugar, wheat, cow dairy, unhealthy fats, GMOs (and for us adults, alcohol is at the very top of the list) for foods that still satisfy with the use of non-inflammatory ingredients. It is common to find “anti-inflammatory” recipes that have cow dairy or whole wheat or seemingly healthier options, however if a person is adding highly inflammatory ingredients to the recipe, it no longer aligns with the definition of anti-inflammatory.
This can be confusing and frustrating as a consumer, so the best line of defense is to educate oneself. Read the ingredients of everything you put into your mouth no matter how healthy it sounds or how great of a claim the label makes. If the food is comprised of the top inflammatory foods, see if you can identify a food swap to make that would allow for the inflammation in your body to decrease.
When adopting and anti-inflammatory diet for children (and let’s be honest—for adults too), simply removing sweet tastes will not allow a person to succeed in a lifestyle change. More than likely, removing all sugary tastes will create a mentality of deprivation. This type of “diet” typically does not have a lasting effect. However, by replacing processed sugars with raw honey, pure maple syrup, liquid stevia, or fruit, a person is able to gain delicious and satisfying sweet treats in their diet without compromising the inflammatory response in their body.
Swapping out foods is key to keeping my kids on the clean eating (anti-inflammatory) train. To meet success in eating an anti-inflammatory diet, my recommendation is to eliminate one inflammatory food at a time. It can be totally overwhelming and unrealistic to remove all of the top inflammatory foods at once. My suggestion is to start with sugar as it resides at the top of the list of the absolutely most toxic, addictive and inflammatory substances out there. In swapping out processed sugar for unprocessed sugar, there is the potential to experience tremendous health benefits with that stage alone!
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet has generated two very unique stories from both of my kids. My son Tosh was raised eating organic “healthy” foods for the first two years of his life. These foods are highly addictive and getting on the clean eating train for him has been a longer process. It has required persistence including many discussions on what it takes to have a healthy body that can play hard, as well as modeling how delicious and fun eating clean really is. At first, Tosh would have complete meltdowns. He wanted his cookie after skiing, and let me tell you, it was pretty darn easy to justify eating a cookie after a long day of skiing. However that mentality came from the mindset of calories in, calories out. Ultimately, it is the not the calories that harm a person, but the TYPE of calories that person is eating. I use to say Tosh deserved a cookie after a long day of skiing, but when I unpack that statement, I am actually telling my son he deserves to be toxic and inflamed. The pivoting and unpacking of my thoughts in regards to foods, calories and treats has totally transformed our families eating. Now, I make him a clean non-inflammatory sweet treat and he is happy and feeling good.
My daughter Chloe, now one and half, was conceived and brought up eating 100% of an anti-inflammatory diet. Never has she had processed sugar, wheat, cow dairy, unhealthy fats or GMOs, never. For anyone reading this with a new baby, I have to confess that raising a clean eating kid from the start makes life so much easier. Everything is second nature, and you don’t have to deal with the addictions so many of us get from eating inflammatory foods.
There are hundreds of diets out there, and while some give great nutritional advice (while others not so much), my approach supports an anti-inflammatory lifestyle change. The adoption of clean, non-inflammatory foods instead of toxic inflammatory food-like products will rock your world, regenerate health and give you and your child the future he/she always dreamed of. To keep it SUPER simple – eat whole foods plucked from nature. But, if you want to get a little more creative, The Clean Eating Kid (www.thecleaneatingkid.com) is full of anti-inflammatory recipes, shopping lists, meal plans and tips for getting the whole family on the clean eating train.