My Most Asked Question Ever, Answered!

This is a long one, Happies, so strap in. For today I’m talking about food. And more specifically what I feed my toddler, whose health I hold very seriously in the palm of my hand. Because of all the health and beauty questions I ever get asked, the most popular one is around what I feed my little man. So here goes…

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Here he is, foraging for mulberries 

I’m not saying I have all the answers, but I do know a thing or two about nutrition. Or at least how to fuel my body with whole foods that sustain true health and ultimately happiness, so it’s little wonder that I practice what I preach with my little man too. Since we first started introducing food into his diet, we’ve made a conscious decision to feed him as many nutrients as possible. His diet is varied, very tasty and always filled with vegetables, with our primary goal being to establish a strong food foundation that’s all about involvement, understanding, and of course, healthy choices. Our founding principles are this… - Eat whole foods in their natural state with minimal (if any) processing. This does mean we make everything from scratch, which I understand can be hard for some people, but we feel it’s a top priority for our family so always make time to cook batches of food in advance. Basically, we want every meal he has to be of value rather than empty calories, so whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables and good quality proteins are always included. A time saving way we do it is to cook our whole grains (brown rice, quinoa or buckwheat pasta etc ) in advance so it’s ready to go in the fridge. - Educate him on where food comes from, what it’s called and how to cook it. We go foraging, take him to the farmer’s market or grocery shopping, cook with him watching on in his high chair and explain what we’re doing. We also eat almost every meal together (unless he’s asleep) and share off each other’s plates, so he can see that mum and dad eat the same as he does and understand that food doesn’t come from a factory, it comes from a farm. - Vary his nutrients as much as possible. We never assume Arlo won’t like something, even if it’s  considered ‘adult’ food. He eats raw onion, garlic, olives, mushrooms, grapefruit, lemon and even small amounts of chilli. He’s not afraid to try new things because we’re always introducing them to him, but even more importantly, he’s getting a diverse cross-section of nutrients because he’s not eating the same thing all the time. - Fat and flavour are paramount. Think about it, would you eat overcooked steamed vegetables without any flavour? My guess is no. So why would your kids? We cook Arlo’s meals with lots of coconut oil (you could use unsalted butter or ghee as well if you like), we drizzle cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil over the top and we add a few drops of tamari or lots of fresh and dried herbs. His meals are PACKED with flavour, they taste delicious and he gobbles them down. - Vary his tastes. Children and naturally drawn to sweet and salty foods, so we give Arlo bitter and sour foods as well to counteract this. Grapefruits, rocket, kale, watercress, sesame seeds and tahini, and turmeric are all on high rotation so that he doesn’t develop a strong flavour preference towards sweet or salty. - Reduce sugar but don’t freak out. We know refined sugar is bad and that a vast proportion of children eat way (way, way, way!) too much sugar, but for us, it’s also important not to become too strict, as demonising something can often make it more attractive. So here’s our stance… Alex and I don’t eat refined sugar at home, so there’s nothing in the house that Arlo would have anyway. For example, we don’t drink juice, so he doesn’t just because it’s not around. We do eat fresh fruit and add prunes to his muesli, so natural sugars are there, in moderation, for the taking. But if a friend offers him a cookie or he has a bite of an ice cream with Grandma we let it go. Kids are kids and as long as the pendulum swings in the positive direction, small amounts of sugar, in our opinion, aren’t the end of the world. - Food is medicine. Probiotics in the form of fermented foods like coconut kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and apple cider vinegar are a big deal in my kitchen. I’m obsessed with them. Probiotics help flood the gut with good bacteria, helping to boost your immune system and fight off bugs. Rather than worry about germs, I worry about whether Arlo’s had his coconut kefir that day. The slightest hint of a runny nose or cough is always neutralised with kefir, as well as homemade chicken and vegetable soup, bone broths and green smoothies. Of course I take him to the doctor if he’s unwell, but to be honest, he’s always pretty on point.

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This is the one I buy from the Pott’s Point Farmer’s Market

- Keep calm, consistent and fun. I truly believe kids pick up on your energy. When you’re stressed, they’re stressed. When you’re worried, they’re worried. Try to make meal times fun and enjoyable, yet calm. And be consistent with times and routines if that works for you. I find the best way to eliminate stress around meal times is to be as prepared as possible. I have all of Arlo’s meals ready to go well before he needs them, to reduce that last minute starving panic kids tend to get in. Yes, the wheels sometimes fall off, but that’s okay. Take a breath, relax, and stay calm and consistent – your child will ride out the moment, I’m sure of it. - Reduce snacking. When it comes to snacking each child is individual. Some kids prefer to eat smaller amount more regularly, while others tend to have food put in front of them when they don’t really need it, making them more fussy as they’re not excited about their next meal. We keep snacks to a minimum, instead opting for two breakfasts, one lunch and one dinner. This way, he’s always ready for a meal when it’s presented to him and eats whatever we put down because he’s excited and hungry. That could all change tomorrow, of course, but we’ll deal with that when and if it comes. - Manage dairy consumption. Again every child takes to dairy differently but since I recently stopped breastfeeding I’ve found that he doesn’t really want that much milk. Because he’s eating so much and drinking plenty of water, the desire for milk isn’t there for him. But we do give him the occasional bottle before bed if he’s having a really hungry day and we vary his milks so it’s not always cow’s. Organic, non-homogenised, full fat cow’s milk, as well as goat’s milk, homemade almond milk, rice milk and oat milk are all on high rotation. He’s not a huge fan of yoghurt as he loves his coconut kefir, which is a yoghurt consistency, but he does enjoy cheese a few times a week. Just watch how your child responds to diary and always make sure it’s organic, full fat and preferably un-homogenised. A word on calcium. Obviously calcium is needed for growing healthy bones but it’s important to note dairy isn’t the only source of calcium. Collard greens, broccoli and spinach are all high in calcium, as well as sardines, mackerel and salmon (canned with bones), dried figs, blackstrap molasses and sesame seeds. Soaking your legumes, grains, seeds and nuts is essential though, as they contain phytic acid which can inhibit the absorption of calcium.  So with all that in mind, here’s a sample menu of a day in the life of our little man… 1. Breakfast – water and seasonal fruit followed by homemade muesli that’s been pre-soaked when dad wakes up (he’s always first up in our house). It contains: rolled oats (or whole oat groats if you can get them and cook them or sprout them), rolled barley, spirulina, coconut flakes, coconut kefir, chia seeds, soaked prunes (and a bit of the water the prunes are soaked in), crushed nut and seed mix with walnuts, sprouted almonds, sesame seeds, pepitas and sunflower seeds and almond milk. He has this most days but if not muesli, he’ll share our green smoothie, which contains almond milk, coconut flesh and water, seasonal greens (kale, cucumber, spinach), frozen banana, kefir, mint…whatever is in the fridge, really.

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Here’s his morning muesli in his favourite coconut bowl

To save time we have a big container of oats and barley pre-prepared, a big jar of prunes in the fridge soaking and all the nuts and seeds pre-crushed and kept in the freezer. So all we have to do in the morning is pop everything in a bowl, rather than do each step everyday. Why it’s good: rich in complex carbohydrates, whole grains, nuts and seeds, probiotics and protein from your spirulina this is a seriously nutritious start to the day for a growing person. You’re getting essential fatty acids, fibre, protein, good bacteria and a mountain of other vitamins and minerals to ensure a happy, healthy belly that’s full for hours. 2. Breakfast #2 – before he goes down around 11am we give him the rest of his muesli (we make a big bowl) or perhaps some of our smoothie or just a little something before bed. 3. Lunch – again, he has pretty much what we’re having, which often involves lots of vegetables, some form of protein (often vegetable protein) and a grain. Some ideas include lentil dahl with brown rice, wild caught fish cooked in coconut oil with stir fried green beans and quinoa or buckwheat pasta spirals with pastured organic egg, kale, peas and cheese. The options are endless, all we aim to do is add the pre-cooked grain or sweet potato in the fridge to a pan of coconut oil with vegetables and protein. That’s it! If you’re looking for a vegetarian option remember that pulses (beans) or lentils +  grain = perfect protein. 4. Dinner – Dinner is very similar to lunch but we do vary his nutrients as much as possible once again. So if he had egg for lunch, we won’t give him egg again, instead we’d give him a vegetarian option, organic chicken, or grass-fed beef. Spaghetti Bolognese is a huge favourite of his. We make our own tomato sauce (a massive pot) and then add our organic grass-fed mince, grated carrot, onion, spinach, garlic, parsley, and mushrooms, so there’s lots of vegetables in there. We make a HUGE pot and freeze portions so he’s not having too much of the same thing in one week. Other super quick and easy favourites are a brown rice and egg ‘pancake’, where you just crack an egg over brown rice and pop it in the microwave (we use it occasionally for convenience) for 2 minutes and it goes sticky like a Japanese pancake. We then add peas and all types of vegetables and drizzle tamari and cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil all over it and he LOVES it. 5. Snacks and treats – When you’re out for the day and just want to pack a few things in your bag I highly recommend one of the best snack options ever – chickpeas or kidney beans drizzled with tamari and extra virgin. It’s the EASIEST snack ever and I’ve never met a child who doesn’t like it. It’s healthier than packaged, processed snacks, easier, cheaper and probably neater too. I also make batches of bliss balls with almond meal, raw cacao, coconut, dates and nuts and seeds. And for sweet treats in summer I make ice creams with coconut cream, raspberries, kaffir lime and banana. Or other ice cream varieties depending on what I have in the fridge and freezer. The shopping list basics… – coconut kefir – I buy mine from the Pott’s Point Market, they also sell at the French’s Forest Farmer’s Market and some selected health food stores around Sydney. See picture reference above – Mayver’s spreads – peanut and coconut and cacao and coconut are my favourites – Organic Tamari – I buy Pure Harvest – Selection of raw nuts and seeds – Red split peas, green lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans – Quinoa, buckwheat pasta spirals, wholemeal noodles, brown rice – Rolled oats or whole oat groats, barley flakes – Organic, pasture raised eggs – Organic chicken – Grass fed beef – Almond milk – home-made, as well as a selection of long-life milks (oat, rice, almond, coconut) for convenience – Prunes – Fresh coconuts – great for drinking and using the flesh in smoothies – Fresh and frozen berries – depends on season – Seasonal fruit and vegetables – Coconut oil, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil (for drizzling) – Spices and fresh herbs Final word? If all this sounds way too full on and totally overwhelming, don’t let it. Remember this is a culmination of years of eating this way and an extension of our lifestyle. Perhaps your food philosophy is totally different to ours or your lifestyle isn’t able to take on such a hands on approach. The key is, if you want to, take small steps and over time, the whole family will benefit. Stay Happy, Yaz x

Who Am I Again?

It feels so good to be back.

Back in touch with me. The real me. The one who understands the importance of a mind/body connection and breathes and sits and feels stillness, because I’ll be honest, having a child is the fastest way to eliminate stillness. Not in a negative way, but stillness isn’t really a part of the program those first 12 months. Or ever, really.

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So I’ve made a conscious decision to bring it back into my life. To prioritise small moments of calm to come back to myself and feel grounded, everyday, in order to be a better mother; a better wife; a better friend; and perhaps most important of all, a better me.

It all started at Billabong Retreat. An amazing eco resort 50 minutes drive from Sydney that specialises in reconnecting your head and your heart. It’s a yoga and meditation retreat essentially, but the way this place instantly calms you, settles you, invites you to unravel and relax and let everything go is unique to any other retreat I’ve been to.

It’s so…still.

My sister and I treated ourselves to a 3-day retreat, leaving our kids in the very capable hands of our husbands as we zipped up the highway, along Old Windsor Rd. and down into the bush covered timber oasis of Billabong. We could hardly believe it was true – three entire days of nothing but time to relax, unwind, rebuild and rest – but as soon as we got there, we immersed ourselves in getting that sacred connection back.

It’s yoga and meditation that does it. Allowing yourself the freedom to sit (or move) in silence and breathe. That’s really all it takes. Breathing. Tuning in. Connecting.

So we did just that. Yoga classes, meditation of all varieties, reading and eating the most glorious organic vegetarian food I’ve had in some time. We sipped tea, we talked about all the things that really matter and we found that caring for ourselves is just as important as caring for our loved ones.

Here’s what I’m doing going forward…

1. A daily yoga practice

Billabong understands that the mere nature of a retreat means that you unwind while you’re there, but what happens when you get home? Often those zen feelings are lost within days, taking you back to where you started. So they’ve developed a yoga practice that you can do at-home in as little as 7.5 minutes, teaching you the sequence before sending you off back into the ‘real world’. For me, this is what wellness is all about. Doing what you can – even if it’s only small increments everyday – rather than nothing at all. So a daily yoga practice of at least 7.5 minutes has become part of my morning ritual.

2. Breathing

It sounds so simple to just breath, but the reality is most of us are doing it all wrong. If you’re unconsciously breathing shallow breaths, or letting your day go without stopping to just breath, think about taking a few moments to just reconnect, calm down and centre. The best time? When your stress levels are peaking.

3. Meditating

That magical 7.5 minute yoga sequence also happens to include a chant and time to meditate. It’s  incredible. I think of all the ways to feel grounded meditation is the most effective and by taking a few moments to sit in stillness, you’re allowing yourself the space you need to truly find your Zen.

Tell me Happies…

Have you lost your mind/body connection?

Do you need to do a retreat to re-find yourself again?

Spring Awakening

Oh, hi!

I know it’s been a while but I’m not going to apologise. What for? I know you don’t mind, and quite frankly, I’ve come to the realisation that when there’s a small human in the house, there’s a rare few seconds spare.

But today I’ve had a spring awakening. A rare moment of clarity to sit and quietly write while Arlo’s down. Which is fabulous, really, because it coincides with the end of spring – the season that’s all about shedding excess waste, removing your winter coat and hurling yourself into new beginnings – and the start of summer; the time of sunshine, refuelling and digging into salads, rather than soups.

And so I’ve been thinking. Thinking about how fast the year is slipping away and what I want to achieve come January 2015. What’s left on my list? What’s left on your list?

Think about it. So often the year sails by without us really getting the opportunity to stop and unfurl the sails. Summer turns into Autumn, which turns into Winter, which turns into Spring, which brings us back to Summer again, only one year on. Did you have time to pause and change with the seasons, as nature does, or were you so caught up in the day-to-day that the four quarters of the year simply merged into one?

Having just returned from a fabulous 3-day yoga and meditation retreat at Billabong Retreat (more on that in another post), I’ve had the chance to pause for a moment and consider what it is I need to do in order to reconnect and tie 2014 up with a bright pink bow, while also honouring the season ahead. Keen to do the same? Here are some options…

Step 1: DE-CLUTTER

Spring and summer are light, airy, breezy months, meaning that you need to shed what’s holding you back. Often, that’s possessions. When was the last time you did a serious house chuck out? The kind where you go through every draw and get rid of the unnecessary things that are cluttering your home; your life; your head. There’s an incredible lightness that comes with having fewer possessions, so if you’re feeling heavy and sluggish and weighed down, now is the time to de-clutter your life. Start with the kitchen and work your way around every room.

Step 2: SWITCH YOUR SCHEDULE

The sun’s shifted gear; rising earlier and setting later. You should too. Embrace the longer days by setting your alarm (or waking naturally) even 15 minutes earlier than normal, slowing bringing the time earlier and earlier as the weeks progress. Spiritually there’s a believe that the energy in the early hours of the morning is calmer, as the thoughts and busy-ness of the evening has settled as we sleep, so take note of that and allow some time in the morning for yoga and meditation to set you in good stead for the day. Come night time, enjoy the later evenings by going for a walk, having an outdoor dinner picnic with your loved ones or just reading a book. My advice? Ditch all electronics at least an hour before bed.

Step 3: KEEP IT LIGHT (AND EASY)

Winter calls for heavy, hearty meals that satisfy your body’s comfort cravings but come summer, it’s time to keep it light, fresh and seasonal. Look around your local farmer’s market and you’ll discover that summer fruits and vegetables are starting to make an appearance, so cash in. Make fresh fruit, zingy salads and smoothies, varying your nutrients as much as possible.

Tell me Happies…

What’s on your to-do list to close out the year?
Any of these?

The Ultimate Clear Skin Cleanse

The buzzer rings. I squeal, knowing that on the other side of that door is the delivery I’ve been waiting for. Clear skin, flat tummy, and bright eyes bottled into those hipster glass jars and filled with raw, cold-pressed, unpasteurized juice that I will happily be sipping on the for the next three days. Summer, here I come.

Its name is Lucky You Cleanse, and if you’re a fan of Miranda Kerr, you’ll likely know that it’s her juice cleanse of choice. What you might not know is that LYC prides itself on creating cleanses that are easy to follow (each bottle is numbered, so there’s no guessing what comes next), incredibly tasty (the cashew mylk is sublime) and a marketers’ dream in terms of presentation and packaging (those hipster bottles I was telling you about make for great vases and the big cooler packs are a handy addition to your picnic basket). Their aim is to break unhealthy eating patterns, refocus, and move towards feeding yourself vibrant and health generating foods. Easy, right?

There are 6 nutrient dense, cold-pressed juices per day on a LYC cleanse (including a Green Smoothie and Nut Mylk) – consumed every 2 hours. Each juice is raw, fresh and cold-pressed using state of the art juicing equipment, made with love and delivered straight to your door.

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But here’s what I find with juice cleanses; they encourage me to cleanse all aspects of my life. What’s the point of eliminating toxins in one department, but continue to have them in other areas. Like your skincare? Or cleaning products? Or emotions? The fundamental point of doing a cleanse, I believe, is detoxing everything to get the best results. Sure, it’s an incredible springboard into a healthier lifestyle and to rebalance the body, oxygenate & alkalise the system and give you energy, but by using your cleansing time to reflect and sweep out the unnecessary, ever-accumulating waste in life, you’re going to get even more value for money.

Which is why I embrace a juice cleanse with aplomb. I love the fact that I’m challenging myself, clearing out the system and giving it a well-earned break every once in a while. It’s cleansing on the mind, body and spirit, and while I do eat 80% clean and 20% mean all year round, sometimes that 20% creeps up and I need to tame it, and my post-baby belly, with a smack of liquefied nutrients and a spring clean of life. Think: more yoga and meditation, clearing out the wardrobe, reorganising cupboards and draws, and finally, letting go of any negative emotions associated with only drinking my meals for three days.

But there’s one other very important aspect of cleansing that needs to be addressed – your skin. Often, with the onset of juicing also comes an onset of pimples, as your skin purges toxins and eliminates waste. Your muscles can ache, your eyes can become puffy and your body dry and flaky. Headaches may surface, energy levels will probably dip (just for the first day and a half) and your mood will swing more than an aerial artist in Cirque du Soleil. The remedy? All-natural skincare to support your system while you cleanse.

It’s lucky then that Sodashi, one of my favourite skincare brands, has partnered with Lucky You to create the ultimate clear skin cleanse, offering detoxers the chance to drink their way to good health while also giving their skin everything it needs to pop out bright and sparkling post detox. I massaged the Sodashi Toxicleanse Body Oil into my limbs post shower to stimulate circulation and help eliminate toxins, the Rejuvenating Concentrate to gently exfoliate dead skin cells and the Eye Lifting Gel to relieve the tell-tale signs that I was currently undergoing a serious waste-elimination process. All of which come with your cleanse, too. The results? Spectacular. Clear, soft, smooth, glowing skin, bright eyes and more energy than I’d has since pre-baby days.

So I urge you, Happies, to consider a cleanse for yourself. It’s challenging and intriguing and an amazing opportunity to go inwards and reflect, if you allow it to be. Cleansing isn’t just about drinking juice for three days and then going back to your old ways, it’s about pushing the reset button on negative patterns and breaking them, before moving forward in more healthy, positive ways. With killer abs and glowing skin.

Tell me Happies…

Have you ever done a cleanse?
Do you want to?

 

Yes, You Can Meditate With a Small Human

As far as I’m concerned, meditation is one of the most important life skills I can teach my son. Right up there with using the toilet and eating healthy food and, you know, being a good human, learning how to stop, breathe and just chill the hell out is an essential life skill in this day and age. Just ask Jerry Seinfeld. Oprah Winfrey. Lena Dunham. The late Steve Jobs. All extremely successful people who… you guessed it… regularly meditate.

But let’s be frank. Finding the time to sit in silence is challenging at the best of times; throw a one-year-old into the picture and it may, for some, seem completely impossible or just a waste of time. But hear me out.

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Countless studies have shown that meditation doesn’t just reduce stress on the surface, it physically changes your brain too. How? Meditation increases the thickness of your prefrontal cortex – the area linked to decision making, planning and even your personality – making it stronger and potentially more resilient to change, stress and today’s hectic, technology-driven lifestyle. Begging the question, who wouldn’t want to meditate?

So how do you get a toddler to sit still and tune in? You don’t. That’s impossible. Instead, like with all things baby related, you expose them to different experiences of the same outcome over time. Here’s an example: when Arlo was a newborn, rather than sit in front of the TV at night for his feeds I’d remain in our dimly lit room and play guided meditations. My thought process was that it’s the middle of the night and I don’t want to stimulate him (or me) with the TV, so this was an incredible way for us both to get close and remain in a nice sleepy state, while also being entertained.

Cut to now, when things are slightly more (ahem) busy and I’ve had to adapt to the situation. Now, when he’s eating dinner I dim the lights and play relaxation music, giving him cues that it’s quiet time. There’s no TV or electronic devices, just time to sit and eat and enjoy in a really calm, relaxing setting. We play and have fun, but there’s no external distractions. And he loves it. He loves that we’re so present with him and that he can slowly (so slowly!) eat his dinner without feeling rushed or sensing any stress.

Or, when he’s just having a crazy manic day, I stop everything, pick him up and put on a guided meditation. I hold him and gently sway, breathing deeply into his ear and reassuring him that it’s okay to be expressive and frustrated, and to just breathe it out. To me, this seems completely normal. I see my job as Arlo’s mum to remain as calm as possible when he becomes overwhelmed, I’ve had more practice than he has, and heck, life is overwhelming. It will continue to be. But it’s how you learn to cope with the craziness that sets you apart.

 

Tell me Happies…

Am I crazy?
Do you meditate?
Do you want, or more importantly, need to?

 

Stay Happy,

Yaz x