Last week I found out my second son has very low iron. His doctor has requested he start on a supplement, but we're going to have to build up to a full dose. The first day I dosed him with 3/4 of a dose and he had wicked stomach pain, and the day after that for the whole weekend an upset stomach. I *think* that was due to a bug that was making the rounds, but just in case I decided I should slowly introduce it to his system.
He isn't as bad an eater as he used to be, but he eats little amounts, and gets tired of eating. I won't generally force my kids to finish what's on their plates, because they can tell if they're still hungry or satisfied better than I can. I know I fill up quickly, but get hungry often, and we all know our own cues the best. I remember being forced to finish my plate or even to have seconds, and how it made me feel. I won't do that with the boys.
Still, I haven't been very proactive over the last year at making sure there's enough time between his calcium rich foods and his iron rich foods, and about making sure he's actually eating enough iron. He's very much a dairy kid, but some studies have shown that consuming calcium at the same time as iron means that the iron isn't absorbed as well when it comes to short-term. It's also important to plan out a good source of vitamin C to co-mingle with the iron. It helps assure higher iron absorption.
For the last several months our son has been complaining really non-specifically about how he's feeling. "I just feel really terrible" he'll tell us. He'd complain of feeling dizzy, or headache, pain in his legs, and so on. Our doctor sent us home with a blood test requisition and after some schedule juggling we finally have our answer. In part to being a little eater who is also picky, combined with massive growth spurt over the last year, we have this to reconcile.
Common signs of anemia in children (as well as adults) include paleness, weakness, and fatigue. He has great big circles under his eyes and is often tired. He has been prone to frequent infections over the last year- ear infections, throat infections, an eye infection, and plain ordinary colds. Other signs, such as bleeding and sensitive gums and a loss of appetite has also be present. Our doctor suspects that his leg pain and frequent headaches are related to low iron as well. A couple of websites with more information on symptoms and treatment include the Mayo Clinic as well as Children's National.
Our course of treatment will be slow and steady. It's much easier to maintain good iron levels than play catch-up, so I've adopted these rules for our family as a whole. To be honest, I've always tended toward anemia, and I know how terrible he really must have been feeling. 20 years ago I had mono, and my iron count was at a 6- he's at a 9 right now. I remember the exhaustion, dizziness, and overwhelming need to sleep.
The biggest change is making sure there are 2 hours on either side of the iron-rich food that are dairy free. We are spacing out his snacks and meals as best as we can to give his body as much time to absorb iron as possible.
Breakfast includes dairy- a glass of milk and yogurt if he wants it, among whatever else he'd like to eat. I certainly don't want to add calcium deficiency to his life!
Morning snack during the school week is a cheese string (dairy). When he's home from school, morning snack is another opportunity for an iron boost: some apple slices (Vitamin C in one of the few fruits he eats) and some iron-rich cereal such as corn bran or plain cheerios.
Lunch during the school week is a cold little homemade hamburger with apple slices and water, or if we have leftover meat from the dinner before that can easily be cubed up and sent to school to be eaten cold, he'll have those. Always apple slices. We aren't joining the milk program at lunch this year so I can keep dairy away from his lunch break.
After school snack is a peanut butter sandwich with apple juice- there is some iron in peanut butter and bread, though not a large amount.
Dinner is usually another iron-full meal. I try to combine heme with non-heme sources with our dinner as well as other sources of vitamin C besides apples- vegetables, usually, though I often add a couple of different fruits to his dinner plate as well- a strawberry, a few blueberries- to try to get his tastebuds into new flavours.
Bedtime snack incorporates dairy as well, if he wants it, usually a glass of milk or some yogurt.
The biggest challenges for me are remembering what time it is we last ate dairy, and getting dinner ready to eat early enough so he doesn't stay up too late to have a snack. A bedtime snack is a requirement for him because he struggles with an over-production of acid. He's really stepped up to the plate, so to speak, and is trying hard to take his medicine and eat enough of his dinner. He's at the right age to understand cause and effect, so he definitely knows how bad he'll keep feeling if we don't get his iron level higher. We're going to get another blood test early in the new year to confirm that we're going in the right direction.
Iron is tricky, because too much too soon is a problem as well. I'm going with the tortoise and the hare: slow and steady wins the race.
It's also made trickier, because he's somewhat picky. Here are some of the common and best sources of iron. The ones he'll eat are bolded, so you know what I'm working with. Here's a couple of websites so you can do your own research: WebMD and Huffington Post.
And that's my story today, friends. Has anemia had an effect on your life or on the way you eat? Let me know in comments here, start a conversation on my facebook page, or please message me privately! I look forward to hearing from you.
There are scheduled and unscheduled meal plans, and then there are the ones that are somewhere in between. Over the past month I've fallen into the latter category. I'm not exactly unscheduled, but I'm not precisely on a schedule either. I know what we've got going on and how much time I have to cook on any given night. I know what's in our fridge, freezer, and pantry. But cooking has largely been left to deciding the day of, rather than a week or two before. It's depending largely on how well I slept the night before, how my family is feeling, what kind of leftovers we have in the fridge, what my mood is, and what sorts of meal starters are in our freezer.
This week we are down to a potato, 5 mushrooms, a bunch of onions and garlic, 3 sweet peppers, 5 good sized carrots, 2 heads of romaine, and quite a few frozen vegetables of differing variety. We also have lots of canned goods- beans and fruit, and lots of meal starters in the freezer- various cooked proteins, stocks, and wraps. We are fully stocked for raw proteins as well, but I'm trying to free up space in my freezer for a good quantity of cooked turkey I expect to have after Thanksgiving.
Another post coming this week is a conversation about iron deficiency anemia. I found out late last week that my second son has very low iron, so my meals are reflecting that. This dinner pairs vitamin C (found in the potatoes and peppers) with many sources of iron- heme, from the beef, and nonheme, from the beans. We'll talk more about that later though.
For dinner this week we are using up as much fresh food as we can so it doesn't go off, and whatever meal starters I have kicking around in the freezer and pantry will make up about half our meals.
What are you eating this week? Enjoy your kitchen, and be well, friends! I'll write more soon.
One year while in college I lived with 3 roommates. We shared a 2 bedroom suite and it was one of the best years of my life.
Every Sunday I'd make "Sunday Soup". Whoever was around could come and eat soup. Sometimes it was just me, sometimes it was my roommates, sometimes guests. It always started with a package of ramen noodles and enough eggs just dropped in to poach for however many people were eating it. Whatever leftovers I could scrounge from the fridge went in there, and sometimes a handful of vegetables. The specifics are long gone, because that was 22-23 years ago, but I remember loving my soup tradition. Plus it was cheap, a very important consideration for broke college students.
Nowadays I don't make soup every Sunday, though I'm thinking I may want to revisit the idea for the fall and winter. Last night we enjoyed Sunday Soup for dinner. It's the time of year when our people are starting to catch colds or just feel under the weather. It's warm outside, but there's still a bite in the air, especially when it's windy. And I worked hard all day and was too tired to really think. Like I said on my interview with Carrie Ann, soup is my all time favourite meal to cook, especially the last week of the month when we're on the end of our fridge food.
Growing up with a mom who didn't usually waste anything, soup is one of those things we ate often. I don't remember her ever using a recipe. I got my Sunday Soup idea from her, and over the years I've cooked periodically without following a recipe as well. I like to know I can stay a little more free-flowing with my ideas, something that's a challenge for me sometimes.
This soup started with some meal starters pulled from the freezer, flavour added to with fresh onions and carrots, and enhanced with basic herbs and spices. It was gentle on the taste buds and delicious.
And sadly I will never be able to recreate this particular soup because I used some of my meal starters- a bit of this and a bit of that from my freezer- some leftover gravy, a baggie of roasted pork drippings, some turkey stock I made last Thanksgiving, and the rest of the pork loin I cooked last winter. A handful of pasta left in the bottom of the box filled it out, and voila! Dinner was served.
We saved money cooking in rather than ordering in. We used up leftover bits of food from the pantry and freezer, and took advantage of meal starters I'd been keeping track of and organized. This meal was more nutritious then anything we could have brought home and was less expensive than ordering food for the family from any local establishment- and as an added bonus, we get to enjoy the leftover soup for lunch.
What's your go-to homemade meal when you're at the end of your energy? Do you have a favourite Sunday Dinner tradition?
Enjoy your week, friends.
When we think of futuristic grocery shopping, we think about the ability to order online, pay and pick up for your groceries, or sometimes home delivery through amazing companies such as The Organic Box or Spud. For many of us, that future is already here. My imagination jumped a step further ahead the last couple of weeks with the news that the sugar industry as a whole has lied to the public for the last 5 decades. What will groceries even look like?
You can read about the lies here, here, and here if you'd like to know more about them. What makes me the most angry is how much misinformation was scattered about and regarded as factual. We are generations into rising obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and so on.
"In short, rather than do definitive research to learn the truth about its product, good or bad, the association stuck to a PR scheme designed to "establish with the broadest possible audience—virtually everyone is a consumer—the safety of sugar as a food." One of its first acts was to establish a Food & Nutrition Advisory Council consisting of a half-dozen physicians and two dentists willing to defend sugar's place in a healthy diet, and set aside roughly $60,000 per year (more than $220,000 today) to cover its cost." - (copied and pasted from: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/10/sugar-industry-lies-campaign)
Surely our shopping and eating habits will change. I was in high school in the early 1990's when the shift moved to low or non-fat foods. How does food taste good when all the fat is removed? Add sugar. Our entire snack and cooking industry has evolved to include sugar in just about every form. It's not just cakes, cookies, icing, and boxed cereals to point the finger at either. Salad dressings, ketchup, canned tomato soup, canned fruit, even our favourite bread for toasting and sandwiches comes with added sugar.
Over the years I've morphed almost all my recipes to remove added sugar when possible- made the switch to tomato paste, for example, instead of tomato soup. Ingredients list: tomatoes. It's definitely a learning curve, and not an easy one for our taste buds. My friend Kareema wrote about sugar addiction here on her guest blog post. Everyone in our family noticed the change in flavour and it took some time to get used to. But how will things change with the way food is produced, stored, and sold in the future?
Is the grocery store of the future a place where everything is produced locally and made fresh that very day? Would a return to a "farm to table" mentality take over so we wouldn't have the same need for shelf life? Who can say? But one thing I do know is that we as a species cannot continue to knowingly fill our pantries and tummies with food that contains sugar, something we are just now starting to learn the extent of the damage it can do. It will take a public shift of perception to force companies to take a look at the items added to our food supply, but in the long run I think there will be no other option. As long as evidence continues to surface that the food we eat is killing us slowly, there will have to be a change in the mass production and marketing of food.
Will processed groceries ever be truly healthy? How will we know for sure? If a lie of this magnitude can be perpetuated for half a century, what untruths do we believe today?
And that's my 2 cents for today. I hope you're enjoying your weekend, friends.
My Baked Savoury Oatmeal turned out as tasty as I anticipated! Check out the recipe here. There will be more #testkitchen and other meal starter meals to follow!
Enjoy your week, friends!
It was a busy week, and with school in full swing again, it's going to be another busy week. We ran to Costco one day this week to get a few things ready for cooking ahead, and one of those things was a package of breakfast sausages. Today was the day we cooked ahead to fill our freezer with meal starters.
I cooked a lot this morning, but started with the sausages because they take the longest- 30-35 minutes to reach their internal temperature of 160*F. The quickest way to cook a lot of sausages at once is to line a cookie sheet with foil, and then put them in a 375*F oven. After about 20 minutes, flip them and poke them with a fork. After another 15 minutes or so and confirming internal temperature, place them on paper towel to allow them to drain as much grease as possible.
While sausages aren't the best food to eat nutritionally, they add an enjoyable flavour punch to many dishes, and a little can go a long way. My philosophy is to enjoy them in moderation- the sausage won't be the focus of my meals, but an interesting flavour component.
Some of the meals I'm able to make with these sausages:
I also cooked a double batch of oatmeal...but that was because I accidentally added too much salt to my first batch. I cooked a second batch to mix with half of the first batch, and half the first batch will be used to #testkitchen a meal I referenced above, baked savoury oatmeal. I've got some good ideas stewing around in my head, and tomorrow morning I hope to try them out. #wastenotwantnot!
Oatmeal is one of the greatest breakfast foods of all time, in my humble opinion. You can dress it up or down for whatever mood you're in, and leftover oatmeal reheats beautifully and tastes wonderful. Dress it up right and you can make yourself a satisfying meal that keeps you full for longer. It gives you fibre to help lower cholesterol and keep you comfortable and provides iron and protein. It's easy to make and my goal is to get my boys to try it a few times before Christmas. I'm under no illusions that they'll actually love it or ask for it anytime soon, but eventually their taste buds and bodies will acquire a taste for it, hopefully sooner than later.
Some of my favourite ways to enjoy oatmeal are:
I'm sure as I play around with flavours and moods I'll find more ways to enjoy oatmeal. I definitely prefer to cook it plain rather than add flavours to the pot, because I like to cook enough for a few meals and I don't know what kind of mood I'll be in when I'm ready to eat it. Mental and emotional states definitely influence what we eat, when we eat, and how we eat, so cooking ahead in this way gives the best chance possible to eat well no matter what our emotional or mental state happens to be.
I toasted sunflower seeds and almonds today too. Toasted nuts make the most amazing flavourful topping to anything from yogurt to oatmeal to salad. I enjoyed a bowl of fruit salad this morning with a sprinkle of toasted almonds on my fruit as well as on a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries. As with any food, it's easy to overdo it with nuts- pay attention to portion sizes- but the health benefits of nuts make them valuable to add to your daily routines. If food allergies are an issue, don't forget to read the labels.
I hope your Sunday was excellent. Enjoy your week, and keep watching for my #testkitchen meals!
Questions, comments? I can't wait to hear them. Feel free to hop over to my facebook page and start a conversation there, add me to your email subscriptions, comment here, or email me!
September this year seems to be firmly planted in fall. Not only are the daylight hours obviously less, but some of our morning lows have felt suspiciously chilly. As have many of our daytime highs.
This week I'm going to give you all our meal ideas, not just dinners. I won't be planning what we're eating on what specific day and when because this week is a pretty busy one and it will depend on who is home and when. We've gone grocery shopping and have all the ingredients on hand and most of these meals are quick to prepare and relatively quick to cook. The soups will be made on Tuesday morning and warmed up as needed.
Scrambled egg, pepper, and sausage wraps
Pancake, sausage, and fruit salad
Beef and Bean Chili
Baked chicken with pasta and vegetable platter
Turkey Meatball Soup
Mini Hamburgers with cheese and fresh fruit
Spring Green salad with feta, nuts, and chicken
Thai Sweet Chili Turkey Wraps
Grilled Cheese and Ham Sandwiches with fresh vegetables
Beef, pepper, and onion grilled sandwiches
I'll be adding some recipes to my website this week! Check back soon for Turkey Meatball Soup (in Soups) and Scrambled Egg Wraps (in Breakfast).
I hope your Labour Day weekend was an enjoyable one!