Chemicals, Kids and what we as parents butt-up against as we try to raise healthy children in a toxic world.
There are foods here in the US that are currently in abundance and that we generally find difficult to find in Australia. Organic blueberries (and berries generally) are some of these. We are able to get pounds and pounds of blueberries at the moment…such a luxury! So inspired by these small balls of blue bliss we have been having a luxurious Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding with Hemp Milk for dessert (or breakie) all this week. And it takes just a few minutes to prepare and is just so good for our bodies. We would like to share this recipe with you. This delicious decadent can be served with peace of mind as it delivers incredible health benefits. Enjoy!
Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding with Hemp Milk and Blueberries [serves 4]
2 cups hemp milk (See below for more details)
5 tablespoons chia seeds
1 vanilla bean (or pure vanilla essence)
2 cups fresh organic blueberries (or frozen if you are in ac ountry where blueberries are hard to come by at the moment)
6 to 8 drops of your favorite sweetener, to taste (We like agave or local organic raw honey)
Combine vanilla bean and hemp milk, usually in the blender, or if you are using vanilla essence, stirring with a spoon is fine. Add the chia seeds and sweetener and stir vigorously with a fork for several minutes. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes, stir occasionally until the chia seeds are well blended and separated. Let the mixture sit out for an hour, stir one more time and refrigerate 8 hours, or overnight, until thickened and firm. This is a good dessert to make a day in advance in order to give it time to set. When ready to serve, mix in the blueberries and serve. Delicious.
Note: Hemp milk. We generally make our own by soaking the seeds and blending it in the vitamix with spring water, vanilla bean and a tsp of agave. This is often not possible in Australia where hemp seeds are still illegal for nutritional purposes. So Aussies will just have to use almond milk. There are also a few good Hemp Milk brands on the market here in the US. Our preference is Living Harvest.
Note: Here’s a quick note on the nutritional content of this pudding. Hemp seeds and chia seeds contain both of the essential fatty acids alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) from the omega 3 family and linoleic acid (LA) from the omega 6 family. They also contain all of the essential amino acids making them ‘complete’ proteins. Chia seeds are a great source of calcium containing 631 mg per 100 grams of seeds. And to top it off, we add blueberries with their powerful antioxidant abilities from ‘anthocyanins’ known to neutralize free radical damage that can lead to heart disease, cancer, cataracts, glaucoma, varicose veins and other health issues. They are also a good source of vitamin C and manganese.
I get emails from parents asking me about easy raw and delicious recipes for kids (and the family). Sorry, I’ve been a bit slack on posting suggestions while we have been travelling…but we’re in Brooklyn for a while now, so I have a kitchen, a local farmers market, and a weekly organic box of fruit and veges. So to start with here’s our fairly standard breakfast recipe. This recipe is a good brain-booster with lots of omega 3 in the chia seeds (and hemp seeds if you can get them – easy to come by here, but not so much in Australia). Our kids just love this breakfast. And for Jase and I, we add in extra ginger, which is warming for the body, but the girls still aren’t too keen on ginger in even small quantities so add just a wee bit for them.
Here it is…
Chai sees, apple and cinnamon porridge
2 apples, grated
1/2 C chia seeds (either soaked over night or not)
1/2 C pepitas and sunflower seeds (you can sprout these overnight)
1 tsp cinnamon
A good knob of ginger, as much or as little as you like, grated really finely
2 T hemp seeds (optional) but if you can get them they are great for this recipe and so good for you (or a drizzle of hemp oil)
1 – 1 1/2 C of your favourite nut milk (fresh sprouted almong milk with a dash of vanilla is amazing)
1 T Gratitude for these beautiful ingredients
Heap it all in a big bowl and mix it up! Let it sit a while, particularly if the chia seeds are unsoaked. They will need a bit of time to soak up the liquid and swell. This will probably take about 10 minutes. This should be enough for at least 3-4 people.
We have also used nashi fruit when in season in this recipe and that’s great too. And experiment with this recipe…add goji or soaked cranberries; a squeeze of lemon…
Love and enjoy!
It’s an apt place to do this thinking given we (our family) are snug in a cabin in the woods of the Teton Mountain ranges in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. 10,000 ft about sea level and surrounded by swirling snow, naked aspens, snow covered spruces, rolling rivers and the most incredible feast of nature.
Each morning the girls and I wake up to see what snow has brought us through the night. The irascible moose and her baby may have returned to our cabin for some relief from the snow or to eat the succulent green water grasses from the Fish Creek riverbed nearby. There is something about an irascible creature that I am drawn to. I·ras·ci·ble – unpredictable, prone to outbursts of temper; easily angered; known to charge if their calves are under threat. As a mama I appreciate some of these qualities and am known to charge too if my girls are under threat.
During the day the girls and I have taken to watching the elk on their migration routes; the mule deer forage for food anywhere they can find it; coyotes lingering on the margins of the forests; and the bald eagles flying overhead as the first field mice start to emerge from their burrows as the long winter ice starts to thaw. The girls build ice caves, make snow angels in the powder, and collect river rocks to paint. We drink lots of herbs in front of the fire to keep warm, and at nights when everything is silent – I write and watch the snow fall.
Yes… there is no doubt that this environment can also be extreme – dry cracked lips and stringy hair, muddy and cold and sometimes impractical – but its an environment that’s easy to think about nature in, because it becomes you; engulfs you. John Muir’s quote is apt here: ‘When one tugs at a single thing in nature, (s)he finds it attached to the rest of the world’.
So about kids and nature…
For years I have been speaking to groups about the importance of nutrition (raw and nutrient rich foods for kids and how to make these part of their everyday diets), adequate sleep, co-sleeping, touch, reducing (eliminating) toxic exposure to everyday consumer products. But importantly – kids also need contact with nature! The missing link (and heart) of my presentations.
There is a great book by Richard Louv called Last Child in the Woods. He writes about reducing what he calls the ‘nature-deficient disorder’ in children of the 21st century. Where more kids than ever before are disconnected from nature – have reduced amounts of leisure time; spend more time in front of the TV and computer; growing obesity rates, sedentary lifestyles and where nature activities are being criminalized. Researcher Jane Clark also calls these children ‘containerized children’ – they spend more time in car seats, high chairs, and even baby seats for watching TV. And when they do go outside they are often placed in containers – strollers.
Louv talks about the time he spends with teenagers: ‘I am reminded that while they are aware of the global threats to the environment – their physical contact, their intimacy with nature, is fading. It seems nature is something to watch, to consume, to wear’.
His primary argument (and core of his book) is to reduce the ‘nature deficit disorder’. Why? Because it is in our self-interest, not only because aesthetics or justice demands it, but also because our mental, physical, and spiritual health depends upon it. Exposure to nature reduces diseases, improves cognitive abilities and resistance to stresses.
I would also add that the health of the earth depends upon it as well. How young people relate or connect with nature, and how they raise their own children, will shape the conditions of our cities, our homes, or parks and the conditions of our animals, plants and ecosystems.
Author Bill McKibben has called this time as ‘the end of nature’. But a mama of two small girls and connected to a community of conscious parents, I am far less pessimistic. I watch how children connect with nature with such ease if we give them the space to do so. It’s like breathing to them.
Svetla Stoikova, a clinical psychologist at Alexandrovska University Hospital in Bulgaria notes in her research, ‘…If you place a bunch of flowers and a telephone in front of a 8-month-old baby, she reaches for the flowers. If you give a 4-year-old girl the choice between sand and stones, or dough with milk to cook a meal for her doll with, he will choose the former. If you offer a 14-year-old teenager a hike to a mountain peak or to let her chat on the computer, they will choose the mountain’.
Of course they will. We, as parents, have a brief opportunity to pass onto our children this earth.
* Photos of our cabin in the woods and hooked on nature adventures
‘…live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived…to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.’ (Walden, Henry David Thoreau, pg. 85)
Living deliberately is a big deal for us, even if we don’t come close to doing it a much as we intend. What we do know though is that everyday big business, the media, the cosmetic/personal care/fashion/medical/diet/food industries spend millions of dollars each day trying to make us crave and desire their products; and in the main, they are effective at doing this. They produce advertisements that appeal to us, both visually and emotionally, offering us promises of better/easier/faster laundry, cooking and cleaning; smarter kids; healthier kids, happier kids; and better/younger/fitter bodies, skin and lifestyles.
It’s all so alluring… but is it?
Therein comes the cycle of working, consuming, working, consuming, working, consuming, working, consuming…. more is better, growth is good…. And in this world of ‘more is better’ our planet is used as a disposable resource; parenting inherently becomes about control and discipline; the ‘sickness’ industry thrives as people (and our planet) gets sicker; and we are all so individually divided, yet accept that this is what we do in life, and go along for the ride.
And whilst it’s difficult to always break this cycle, we can be conscious of it – our relationships and interactions with people, the sort of families we wish to create, our connection with our environment – and go some way towards changing it. This is what deliberate living is for us (my family and I)
Most of the factors in deliberate living start with us as individuals, extend to our family, and then our approach to the world. In practice, this means living green – living as close to the earth as possible, and when we’re busy and not able to do this, supporting the organic industry – particularly those who deliver us the weekly box of organic fruits and vegetables and connect us to our local organic farmers. Essentially, living green means being aware of our impact on the world and the environment. When you are raising future generations, how can you not be? There’s an ancient Indian Proverb that says, ‘Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors; we borrow it from our children’.
It also means conscious parenting, and in process of parenting we invest in our own self-development. We have had to unlearn much of the inherited values that we grew up with, compassionately acknowledge our baggage and mistakes and move towards who we want to be as parents. We read, we take courses, converse and share stories with others on the same path and keep moving forward. We respect children, ours and others, as being whole and complete just as they presently are—not in the state of becoming, but rather that they have already arrived. In this way, we engage in ways with children in a way that fosters empowerment and connection, and we have learnt a lot about active listening, being present and giving up our own ‘stuff’ for another. This is not always easy to do. Author, Rue Kream’s work has been particularly influential in my own journey of conscious parenting. She states ‘… yes, we are parents, but we are also people living our one and only lives. Let your children see you live each day with happiness and hope’. In this way, we also try and lead by example because we know that what parents do, rather than what they say makes the difference for their wellbeing as they travel into adulthood.
Living deliberately for us also means establishing and maintaining as much of toxic free environment as we can. This means removing or minimising the chemicals and contaminants in our lives. We use personal care and cleaning products that are toxic free, natural, local and 100 percent beneficial to the body. We use natural remedies, herbs, oils, before we would consider dosing ourselves or our children with any sort of drugs. We live more and more by Hippocrates motto, ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’.
We also know in practice that a good partnership (or marriage), keeping the company of supportive friends, a nutritious diet, physical activity, rewarding ‘work’, sufficient money ( living deliberately means life gets less expensive), sound sleep, and religious or spiritual belief or practice all enhance our happiness, and their absence diminishes it. Gratitude and kindness lifts our spirits; and giving support can be as beneficial as receiving it. Being connected, engaged, cherishing intimacy, and maintaining interests give meaning to our lives. Having goals, a sense of belonging, hope, a belief that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves fosters happiness. As 19th Century German Philosopher, Friedrich Nietzche states, ‘He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how’.
Really, we all know we are going to die, therein comes the yearning to make the most out of the time we do have—to live deliberately. And so we continue to move towards this….
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