Tag Archives: vegetables

Give Your Kid a Brain Edge


Want to give your kid a brain up? I know we think about waistlines and cavities when we think about junk food, but we really need to be giving thought to THE BRAIN!

A brain is a precious thing to waste, but indeed as parents, we are doing just that with our dangerous eating and feeding habits. The food a child eats nourishes his or her gut bacteria (or doesn’t). Then, by-products and interactions of the child’s own gut bacteria feeds forward to interact with the function and development of his or her brain.

Stomach. Brain. Connected.

Fiber Helps the Brain

Research supports that high fiber foods– and I ALWAYS suggest that any nutrient (including fiber) be eaten in NATURAL, WHOLE food forms (cook ’em, saute ’em, roast ’em, bake ’em, eat ’em raw—-don’t care–just eat them)– contribute to children’s “cognitive control.”

Cognitive control? Sounds spooky. What the heck is cognitive control? Some sort of mind straight-jacket?

Ha! NO!!! It’s simply a scientific way to say: the ability to adapt to a situation and make good decisions, to execute better behavior in it, and the ability to perform a task well.

Can anyone say, “Make a bed!” or “Put away the silverware!” or “Do your math homework!” or even “Hold still!”? All those, and so much more, require a person’s cognitive control. His or her ability to complete a task properly, to reason it out, to put a brake on talking and moving when talking and moving aren’t appropriate in the moment.

According to a study in The Journal of Nutrition, “Dietary Fiber is Positively Associated with Cognitive Control among Prepubertal Children“, dietary fiber may play a role in cognitive control among children. The children in this study, ages 7-9, who ate more total dietary fiber, insoluble fiber, and pectin performed better on the selected performance task in the study. (The performance task wasn’t making a bed but I think it should have been…)

A big, bad, sad 90% of American children do not get even close to the recommended fiber intake set (ranging for about 20 grams to 38 grams, depending on the age and sex)! AND the sources that most people turn to for fiber (breakfast cereal laden with sugar) is a sickening poor fiber food source for the gut bacteria.

[I also disagree with the use of bread for fiber, unless the bread is honest and pure. I’m sitting here looking at the bread label in my parents’ home and this is what I see: enriched unbleached flour (refined flour), high fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, monoglycerides, sweet dairy whey, ethoxylated mono- and diglycerides, calcium propionate, natural and artificial flavor, calcium sulfate, citric acid, ascorbic acid, soy lecithin, and so on.

This is NOT bread. I do not know what exactly this is. But it is NOT bread. I have made plenty of bread in my life, and I did so with about five or less ingredients: flour, water, salt, yeast. If I got fancy, I added eggs, milk, and butter or olive oil. You must seek out the ingredient list and not rely on the large print on the front that ways, “Whole grain bread!”]

Where to get “Fiber”

What do I suggest instead? Real, whole food rich in plant matter (Always keeping in mind what is tolerated by an individual. I know many people don’t tolerate nuts or legumes or certain vegetables. But there IS something a person can tolerate. Find it.). Good examples:

  • Greens and lettuces
  • Broccoli and cauliflower
  • Apples, oranges, blueberries, cherries, grapes (all fruits higher in pectin)
  • Carrots and parsnips
  • Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and hard squashes
  • Nuts and seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, pecans)
  • Avocados
  • Peas, beans, lentils
  • Real, honest, pure whole grains: pure oatmeal, pure quinoa, pure wheat
  • Dried fruits: raisins, figs, apricots

Not a Matter of Your Parenting

When we feed kids diets low in lots of vegetables, fruits, and fresh produce, it’s not just a matter of “good mom”, “bad-mom.” It has nothing to do with you, mom! We’re talking about your kids. I am not here to define your parenthood by your nutritional choices.

But please know when kids don’t eat plant matter as close to the way it is found in nature, they miss out on all these complex fibers that scientists are realizing now affect us by affecting our gut bacteria. And the gut bacteria affect the development of the brain.

When your kid fusses and you want to throw in the towel and let him eat macaroni and cheese every day, realize the role you are playing in the complete development of your child’s brain, at a time when really, what goes in their mouth is mostly up to you and the groceries you bring home.

Persist, mother. Persist, father. A secure child is a child who knows that their parents will never give up on them. Your persistence and devotion is your greatest asset! Don’t stop just because of some pouting.

Be creative. Be firm. Be funny. Be loving. Be stubborn. Give rewards. Withhold rewards.

Do what it takes with love and compassion to get them there.

Your child’s gut microbiome is overwhelmingly tied to the health and function of his or her brain. Don’t give up on vegetables and fruits.

The brain of your child is at stake.

Good luck! Questions always welcomed.




Kahn, Raine, et al. Journal of Nutrition. Dietary Fiber is Positively Associated with Cognitive Control among Prepubertal Children.  January 1, 2015 vol. 145 no. 1 143-149: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/145/1/143

Image from Wikipedia: Giuseppe Arcimboldo [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

How Do You Eat THAT Vegetable? Fennel.

Vegetable Series: When we changed our eating two (now three) years ago, I resolved to be afraid of no vegetable. Not knowing how to cut it or cook it was NOT going to keep it out of my cart. I’ve been slowly working through a series of posts on all the different vegetables we have tried and what we do to the poor things. May you, too, vow to try any and all vegetables in your supermarket! Go get ’em, tiger.

fennel salad and bulbWho eats fennel?  Ok.  Maybe you do.  But I didn’t.  It’s still not my favorite, but how do you know ’til you try?  Can I tell you what I love about fennel?  Bon vivant–I feel like a bon vivant when I’m chopping that thing.  Like I should be cooking from Epicurean or something.  Dim the lights.  Set the music.  Pour the red.  And chop fennel.  To serve to four kids.

Fennel tastes like black licorice.  I’ve fed caterpillars a lot of fennel in my lifetime, so I can’t say why I think of it as a gourmet item.  Butterfly caterpillars love it.  We tolerate it because we know it’s good for us.  (How do caterpillars know such things?)  I’ve used fennel in soups, but I’ve observed we like it and eat it best in a salad mixed with some fruit (like caterpillars—not fruit “like caterpillars,” but we like fruit like caterpillars do).  Something about that licorice flavor that gets supported by fresh strawberries or oranges.

So I tell you, don’t be intimidated by a bulb.  Go get one to hack on today.  I buy the whole bulb of fennel with its little, fern-like leaves.  It shouldn’t have brown spots or soggy looking spots on it.  Give it a good rinse before use.  Then, chop off the top right where the stems and leaves start.  Save them.  Next, chop off the bottom.  Toss it.  You’ll be left with a bulb and some stems with soft leaves on them.  I just chop the bulb like I would an onion and use.  The stems and leaves are all edible.  So I use the leaves and some of the stem, disposing of any that look too big and tough.

Apparently people who have allergies to carrots and celery (or mugwort–What?  Anyone?  Anyone?  What’s mugwort?) may have reactions to fennel.  I don’t think my salad will bring about any of the reported effects, but fennel oil is reported to help painful menstruation, decrease hirsutism (unwanted hair growth) in women, increase libido, stop colic in babies, and decrease bloating and constipation.  Are those doTerra and Young Living “snake oils” onto something?

Fennel Fruit Salad

  • 1 bulb of fennel diced like an onion (get a fennel bulb with the leaves on)
  • 1/4  cup of the fennel leaves finely chopped, it’s okay to get some small stems in there
  • 1 cup of diced (or chopped) strawberries, stems discarded
  • 1 cup of blueberries
  • 1 cup of peeled cucumber, chopped (leave the peel on if it suits you better)
  • 1/2 cup of red onion, diced
  • 1 cup of fresh spinach, chopped up
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • Salt


  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and oil and about 1/4 teaspoonful salt.  Mix well.  Set aside.
  2. In a large serving bowl, mix together all the other ingredients.
  3. Pour the dressing over and mix well to coat.
  4. Finish the salad off with a sprinkle of salt over the top to greet the taste buds.
  5. Options:  You could also add in a tablespoon of poppy seeds or 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts or almonds to give it a nutty twist.  If you like a little more dressing, then double the recipe.  If you like the dressing a little sweeter, add not quite a tablespoonful of your favorite sweetener.

Family “gustar” report:  The kiddos blew me away.  Everybody ate their salad.  Epicurean.  So this salad gets a 5/5 rating!  I know.  We have six in the family now with the baby.  Babies don’t eat salad.  Do they?  She ate the blueberries.  One other one picked out the red onions.  Will your kids or hubby like this?  I don’t know.  Your call.


My kids are slowly learning to expand their palates.  If I had given up in the first month.  The first three months.  Even the first two years, I would have lost the battle.  Call me Boadicea.  I’m tired of marketers and government guidelines raping my children, taking the health that is rightfully theirs.  I’ve had enough.  No, kids.  Your friends don’t eat this way.  Period.  We do.  We’re brave.  We’re fearless.  We’re gourmands.  Or maybe we’re just plain folks who eat fennel in a salad.  It’s just food.  Have another bite.

Have a good one!  Eat some fennel.  And artichokes.  And rutabagas.  And jicamaAnd parsnips.  And kohlrabiOr some vegetable!  Got a vegetable you’re proud of chopping this week?  Care to share?


My List to Guide My Vegetable Choices on GAPS, Utilizing a Low FODMAP Approach

Foods containing FODMAPS may be responsible for your bloating, stomach cramps, diarrhea, constipation, or irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.  I follow the GAPS diet for now, and I have noticed a definite worsening in bloating after eating foods with FODMAPS.  I have composed myself a list of vegetables that are appropriate for a low-FODMAPS, GAPS diet.

This is NOT a comprehensive FODMAPS post, FODMAPS food list, or GAPS vegetable list.  It is only trying to align the vegetable component of GAPS and FODMAPS.  Higher FODMAP levels can be found also in some grains, fruits, sweeteners, legumes, dairy, nuts/seeds, some teas, some coffee, cocoa, and alcohols.  So, by all means, if this is something that seems to affect you, go searching and asking questions!

I have read all of the FAQs on the GAPS site, and Dr. Campbell-McBride does not seem to feel that both approaches necessarily need taken (GAPS plus FODMAPS).  It seems that she thinks the FODMAP intolerance will straighten itself out following GAPS.  But I may be paraphrasing way too much and putting words in her mouth.  Always read for yourself!  And I don’t know who is right about what.  And thus the food experimentation going on here in my house.  Some tolerated vegetables may not be tolerated.  And some supposedly poorly tolerated vegetables may be tolerated.  It’s all a game.  Play it.

A List to Guide My Vegetable Choices on GAPS, Utilizing a Low FODMAP Approach (Approved Vegetable List)

Artichoke hearts: 
1/4 cup

Beets:  4 slices, compared to my usual 4 beets
Bell Peppers (capsicum):  These are nightshades, they may cause people problems aside from “FODMAPS” issues.  Beware.
Broccoli:  1/4 cup.  That’s not much for a broccoli lover.
Brussels Sprouts:  1/2 cup
Bok Choy
Buttercup Squash
Butternut Squash:  1/4 cup
1/2 stick.  Too fibrous for GAPS Intro.

Celeriac:  I read it was too fibrous for GAPS Intro.
Collard Greens
Cucumber:  Found this listed as borderline on 1 list.
Eggplant (aubergine):  Found this listed as borderline on 1 list.  A nightshade.
1/2 cup.  May be too fibrous for some guts.

Green beans (string beans): I read somewhere these are too fibrous for GAPS Intro.
Peas, green: 
Limit quantities.

Radish:  GAPS specifically states that black radishes are okay, but I don’t see anything on plain radishes.
Red chili
Snow Peas:  Keep it less than 10.
Swiss Chard (Silver Beet)
Spring onion, green part only (scallions)
Summer Squash
Tomato:  A nightshade.
Zucchini (Courgette)

As always, I am wishing you much success in your endeavors!



Posts in the Draft Bin:  A GAPS Story that was shared with me regarding seizures, How is GAPS Intro Going?  cropped-hsd-line-drawing_edited-1.jpg
Related Post:  Bloating?  Check Out FODMAPS.