What I'm feeding my family during the COVID crisis

Earlier this week I did a Facebook Live session from my kitchen showing our Raising Resilience Community what I'm feeding myself and my kids right now. For those not on Facebook, I'll summarize it here. 

To be honest, I'm not doing much differently right now - I'm just being more diligent with it. 

This particular virus is 'novel' (meaning we haven't seen it before), and it carries with it some characteristics that make it different from Influenza. The specifics evolve daily, but one thing that is not changing is the understanding that we stand our best chance if we keep our immune systems and nervous systems in top form. 

So in a time of stress, the likes of which we have not seen in my lifetime, I'm choosing not to turn my back on decades worth of research and hundreds of years worth of traditional knowledge that tells us what the body needs to function its best when faced with a threat.

It's the perfect time to draw on that knowledge. 

I'm still turning to the Pillars Of Resilient Health framework - supporting the pillars for a more resilient body that is better able to weather stress and infection.

(NOTE: if you get heart palpitations as you read through this because your child is picky and won't eat any of this, or you don't know how to prepare foods like this, please read through to the end. There are resources for more support listed at the bottom of this post)

THREE principles are guiding me right now... 

1. We Need Deep Nourishment

This goes for our kids as well as for us. We need to remember what nourishes a body and get back to doing those things.

Nourishment includes good food, play, fresh air, eye contact and connection, hugs, movement, sleep, breathing, thinking positive thoughts.

When it comes to food, I'm looking for foods that pack a nutritional punch and that store well so I don't have to grocery shop.

Some of what's in my fridge and pantry...

  • Canned sardines and salmon
  • Cabbage - raw and fermented
  • Carrots
  • Radishes - red and daikon
  • Frozen fruit
  • Frozen vegetables - peas, corn, kale, cauliflower, broccoli
  • Onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric
  • Fermented garlic - I eat a bit every day and also cook with it. Here's a recipe
  • Nutritionally dense flours for muffins, pancakes, flatbreads - teff, sorghum, buckwheat, tigernut, cassava
  • Quinoa and rice noodles
  • Lentils, white beans, black beans - canned and dried
  • Canned coconut milk and boxed nut milks - oat, macadamia, almond
  • Nuts and seeds for snacks, baking and milks if needed - brazil nuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almond, pistachios, flax seed, chia seed, hemp seed
  • Seaweed - nori, arame, kombu, wakame
  • Rice - wild, sushi, brown
  • Quinoa
  • Home made chicken broth - I made a big batch and cook with it regularly
  • Frozen ground beef
  • Dried lemons
  • Dried chicken liver - I dried it in a dehydrator (you could use low-heat oven) and then blend into a powder. 
  • Fresh and dried mushrooms
  • Canned tomatoes and pumpkin
  • Teas - licorice, chai, rosehip, nettle (and green tea for me! It's high in l-theanine which is helpful for the nervous system)
  • Don't forget good old hydration!

2. We Don't Need More Stress Or Irritation.

It's a great time to reduce the foods that irritate the body - particularly the immune system and nervous system.

  • If your child has known food sensitivities now's a great time to be diligent about keeping those foods out if you can (tip!... now that your child is at home for a stretch, it's actually a great time to do an elimination diet. Contact me if you want help with that)
  • Top of the list of irritants right now is sugar. Sugar will irritate the nerves, reduce immune function and reduce nutrient status so now's a great time to kick out the sugar! (There's a whole section about the ways sugar causes stress in the body and what to do about it in my book). Instead of sugar I'm using xylitol and Lakanto in baking, or a little dried fruit. I am continuing to use raw honey and a little maple syrup sparingly
  • Gluten is something we generally keep out because it's so hard to digest. Since we're all at home it's actually become easier to do that. Instead, we have some gluten free bread in the freezer and are making gluten free flatbreads and pancakes with the flours listed above (all are gluten free)
  • Chemicals will add extra stress to our already stressed out bodies. Now's a great time to switch to natural cleaners that have also been shown to be effective against COVID-19. 
    • Here's what I have in my surface cleaner:
      • 1 cup water
      • 1/2 cup vinegar
      • 1/2 cup 70% alcohol
      • 1/2 cup castile soap
      • 3 drops each tea tree essential oil and eucalyptus essential oil
    • Here's what I have in my hand sanitizer:
      • 9 parts 70% alcohol
      • 1 part aloe vera gel
      • 2 drops each lavender oil and tea tree oil
  • Coffee needs a little mention. I am still allowing myself a cup of organic coffee but I'm limiting it since I know that too much makes me 'edgy' - it always has and now I don't need the extra stress. I'm adding a little Maca Powder to it these days for its adaptogenic effect on the nervous system as well as MCT oil. I also like the mushroom-infused coffees like Organo. Different people respond differently to coffee, but it is known to irritate the nervous system for many. So just keep your eye on that. I love Chicory, DandiBlend or green tea as alternatives.

3. The Microbiome Needs Some Love

Stress hormones do a number on the microbiome and the fact that up to 80% of our immune cells reside in the gut hasn't changed. If we want our immune system at its best, we should feed the microbiome. Here are some ways I'm doing that

  • Deep breathing and mindfulness to calm my nerves
  • Fermented food to increase probiotic bacteria
    • Sauerkraut
    • Water kefir soda
    • Homemade yogurt
    • Fire Cider
    • Fermented garlic
    • Lacto fermented pickles
  • As many fresh vegetables as I can get into the kids
  • All the foods in section one also support the gut by bringing in important nutrients

Find more about digestive health...

* * *

To paraphrase one of my colleagues, Dr Apigian MD, our resilience lies at the intersection between optimal biology and strong connection. Right now we have an opportunity to work on both. So that's what I'm doing.

If there's a silver lining in all of this, it's that we're being forced to get back to the basics - of healthy eating, healthy connecting, healthy living. Getting there normally requires a real mindset shift for busy parents wrapped up in busy stressful lives. This calm and quiet has helped us all get back to basics as a collective.

If you're reading this and thinking, goodness... this sounds hard! Or, My kids won't eat any of these great foods they're too picky! let me assure you that you can do this. It just involves a learning curve and you might need some support. Most of us never learned how to feed our kids when we became parents!

The process of getting back to basics and supporting The Pillars Of Resilient Health is what the families going through my Resilience Roadmap program are doing right now, even if they don't like to cook or have a picky eater. There's room for you if you want support.

It's never been a better time to learn how to leverage food as your ally. If you're ready, I'm here to help you.

More resources for you.... 

How to get fermented foods into your kids

Beginner's guide to home fermentation

The 4 Pillars Of Resilient Health Quickstart guide

The Resilience Roadmap

Better Bellies e-course

Kicking sugar addiction

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About Jess Sherman, M.Ed, R.H.N

Jess is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist™ and Family Health Expert, specializing in brain health & resilience for kids. She is the author of Raising Resilience: Take the stress out of feeding your family & love your life, a mother and an advocate for children’s health. Her book and online resources have helped families all over the world improve the lives of their children with learning differences, anxiety, ADHD, autism and mood disorders by fitting the food and feeding piece into their health puzzles. She is the 2019 recipient of the CSNNAA award for Clinical Excellence for her work helping families get healthier, and she continues to work at bringing an understanding of the power of good nutrition to the mainstream conversation about children’s mental health, learning, and overall resilience through her blog, courses and as a  contributor to print and online magazines. You can reach Jess at www.jesssherman.com 

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