Nourishing Our Children

There were once three little pigs who, shortly after venturing out into the world, each built a house using different building materials.

The houses of straw and sticks were easily demolished by the big bad wolf, and if it were not for the well-built brick house of the third little pig, the first two little pigs would have been an easy target for the wolf’s dinner. The mother of the pigs was undoubtedly horrified that she never took the time to explain and model to her children how to build their houses to last; after all, she almost lost two of her babies to the big bad wolf.

Metaphorically, your children's bodies are their houses, and they need to be built with strong building materials — nutrient-dense foods. The real world of anatomy and physiology tells us that our bodies don't get a chance to move into another body if wise choices are not made the first time around to fend off the big bad wolf — chronic health issues, dysfunction and disease. The good news is, if you are reading this article for your children, your parents, or simply for yourself, it is never too late to start replacing some of the hay and sticks with bricks, even if bricks weren't used from birth.

The vast majority of parents are growing children with weak building materials because we don't know how poor they really are. We have been "educated" by forces that have motives in mind other than the health of our families. Nutrition and health are hot topics today and you will find data and studies, diets and cleansing regimes, as well as a host of doctors, scientists, and experts that all contradict each other. Food is political. Advertising and lobbying done by the trillion-dollar commercial food industry is misleading at best. Our attitudes about food are emotionally charged and can be emotionally triggered by how we were raised, how we feel, and how we seek comfort. Diets and foods seem to pass in and out of favor — “Eggs are terrible for you!” and then, “Oops, never mind, they are actually great for you.” Is it any wonder why people are so confused about nutrition?

Children are all little miracles with amazingly resilient bodies that grow and mature regardless (seemingly) of what is put into their bodies for nourishment. However, largely as a result of poor nutrition, chronic childhood health conditions such as childhood obesity, diabetes, ADD, allergies and asthma are epidemic today but were almost unheard of years ago. This incriminating review on poor body building materials continues as these children reach midlife and additionally develop heart disease, infertility and cancer, to name a few. This is not the natural state of the amazing human body. We have become unhealthy because we, as a country, are overfed and undernourished. We are eating to fill our bellies as opposed to eating to give our body the nutrients so desperately needed.

Physiologically, we are literally starving for nutrients to function correctly and fight disease. In Beating Cancer with Nutrition, Dr. Patrick Quillin tells us that, "It has now been well accepted that proper nutrition could prevent from 50-90% of all cancer." Most people don't know this even though he wrote those words 12 years ago. Radiation, chemotherapy and surgery are big, profitable businesses but herbs, which cannot be patented, and small organic farms, which require care and conscientiousness to run, are not.

At a recent nutrition conference, fertility awareness expert Katie Singer underlined another example of the crucial role of nutrition in health. Singer reported that 25% of the women who come to her for help are not even ovulating and that her case studies show that nutrition is a key factor in this body dysfunction. The list of evidence connecting poor nutrition to poor health is long and we need to sit up, pay attention, and take action.

Sustenance from the Earth

Good nutrition may vary from person to person, but, sound nutrition principles are the same for all of us. The key to sound nutrition principles can be uncovered by simply accepting the lessons of two teachers. The first lesson comes from what I call The Great Mother — Mother Nature, God, Allah, Zeus, The Creator, or just plain old evolution…basically whomever or whatever you believe made our amazing Earth and its inhabitants. Simply said, if it doesn't walk around, swim about, or grow on our planet, then The Great Mother did not intend for you to eat it. The definition of food is literally "material consisting essentially of protein, carbohydrate and fat used in the body of an organism to sustain growth, vital processes, repair, and to furnish energy." It is important to note that the word carbohydrate here is referring to the nutritional carbohydrates that exist naturally in vegetables and fruits, not the empty carbs that exist in processed foods like pizza, pasta, bagels, crackers, cookies and most breads.

Let's be straight here. Food conglomerates are in business to make money. They have stakeholders to please, shareholders to satisfy, and government regulations to deal with. Profits are maximized by using cheap ingredients and by ensuring long shelf lives of products, using chemicals and high temperatures, killing whatever natural vitality was contained in the original food. They process foods so that some will last for years on a store shelf. Unhealthy ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil are not things that walk around, swim about, or grow on our planet; they are highly processed ingredients that are in convenience snack foods and many so-called table foods (like salad dressing and mayonnaise). These manufactured foods are not what nourished us to become the highly evolved, versatile creatures that we are today.

The second lesson is given in concert by our ancestors and by the few remaining indigenous societies of our world today. These people did not eat processed or refined food or have hydrogenated fats in their diets and none of their food was grown with hormones and pesticides. Studying these groups shows us a different picture of health than we see in our society today. We see healthy, robust people with fine physiques and resistance to disease; missing are the degenerative diseases and chronic health issues that plague our society. These people had wide dental arches and freedom from cavities. Their bodies were healthy. Before 1920, coronary heart disease was rare in America. Today, 12.6 million Americans have coronary heart disease. In a recent annual report, the American Heart Association stated, "Heart disease is by far the number one killer in the United States, although a third of those deaths could be prevented if people followed better diets and exercised more." I would argue that this is a low estimate. What has changed in 86 years? Food, toxins, activity levels and stress.

Nutrition is a large, complex subject but the point here is this: our bodies are getting very little of what they need and a lot of what they don't need. It is making us sickly, and it all starts in childhood.

What Little Bodies Don't Need

Little bodies (and big bodies, for that matter) don't need processed foods and empty calories. They don't need synthetic vitamins that their bodies respond to as a chemical as opposed to a nutrient. The lion's share of supplements sold today are synthetic and all "foods" that are "fortified" or "enriched" are done so with synthetic vitamins. Little bodies don't need:

  • Fried foods such as french fries and doughnuts, due to the type of oils most often used, the high heats they are kept at, and the repeated re-use of oil batches
  • Refined sugars and especially sugar substitutes, which includes fruit juices and soda
  • Refined grains, especially white flour, like those found in commercial flour products, most snack foods and crackers, pizza, pasta, cereals, and bread products
  • Margarine and other butter substitutes
  • Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats and oils, refined vegetable oils made from soy, corn, safflower, canola, or cottonseed
  • Genetically modified foods and irradiated produce
  • Pesticides, chemicals, and additives

This is a partial list, but it is a good start. Nourishing foods, as a general rule, do not come in a can, bag or box and definitely do not have long shelf lives. Most parents of young children respond to this information with "Well, what's left to eat?" Parents of older children, possibly at the grandparent stage of parenting, simply nod. They remember spending time in preparing food for their families because their childraising years occurred before, or at the beginning of, the huge influx of convenience foods.

What Little Bodies Do Need

Our children need real food. It helps to imagine what kids ate in the era of the Little House on the Prairie book and television series. They ate:

  • Locally-grown, organic produce — (Pa wasn't spraying pesticides on their garden) — the deeper and darker the color, the better
  • Plenty of nutrient-rich traditional fats like butter, olive oil, coconut oil and cod liver oil
  • "Safe" fish, which excludes farm-raised fish and means limiting mercury-prone fish like swordfish
  • Full-fat, preferably raw, milk products including milk, cheese, and butter
  • Whole and sprouted grains in moderation
  • Game, beef, foul and eggs from free-range animals eating their natural diet
  • Homemade bone broths and soups
  • Natural sweeteners in moderation such as raw honey, real maple syrup (not the corn syrup version), date sugar and dehydrated cane sugar (now sold as sucanat & rapadura)
  • Water!

A good tip here is when at any grocery store, stick to the perimeter of the store where the whole foods are, as opposed to the majority of the aisle products, which are usually highly processed and use many unhealthy ingredients. A special note for those who feel that they battle their weight: eating this type of food naturally keeps the weight off, when accompanied by the traditional health guidelines of portion control and exercise. Did you know that some farmers feed their pigs skim milk to fatten them up? Neither did I.

A Special Note on Cholesterol, Fats, and Sugars

Dietary cholesterol has been demonized by many forces, including the food industry, right alongside of fat. William Catelli, MD was the director of the forty-year Framingham Study, one of the major health studies looking at the proposed link between saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet and the relative incidence of coronary heart disease. At the conclusion of the study, Dr. Catelli said, "In Framingham, Massachusetts, the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, then the lower the person's serum cholesterol…and these people weighed the least and were the most physically active." Other similar studies had similar results.

Dietary fat does not make your body fat. All people, especially children, need good fats, including saturated fats. Our cell membranes, for starters, are made up of more than 50% saturated fatty acids, and our brain is 60% fat. Mother’s milk contains over 50% of its calories as fat, much of it saturated fat, which is why children should drink full-fat milk products. Our bodies need fats, but the right kind of fats. Saturated fats play a vital role in the health of our bones, enhance our immune system, and lower Lp(a), a type of lipoprotein in the blood that indicates proneness to heart disease. The "low fat" craze in this country is simply that — a craze based on studies that were suspect and inconclusive, at best. And, when you remove the fats from a manufactured food product, the taste suffers immensely, which is why the food conglomerates replace them with sugar.

There are over 70 forms of sugar that food manufacturers use; by using 3-8 different forms in each product, sugar does not become the first item listed on the ingredient label, even though the product is mostly sugar. The bottom line with refined sweeteners is that they are not good for your body, and especially not to the tune of 150 pounds per year, which is what the average American consumes. Sugars reside most everywhere in those supermarket aisles from crackers to yogurt to pasta sauce, aside from the obvious cookies and candies. To make a simple eight-ounce glass of orange juice, a processing plant juices nine oranges, containing a staggering twenty-two grams of sugar. Eat an orange with breakfast instead.

Educate Yourself and Your Family

Nourishing a child's body requires commitment from parents. These commitments involve:

  • Make nutrition a topic of discussion in your home. My kids often ask me where each food on their plate came from and I know I'm doing a good job if the answers don't involve a scary ingredient list or a processing plant. What you choose to teach them now will serve them, for better or for worse, for a lifetime. Take time to explain to your children why certain foods just aren't good for them. Choose to give them health and an appreciation for caring for their body.
  • If you must buy a processed food, read the label and understand what you are feeding your family. Better yet, buy food that doesn't have a label — like a carrot!
  • Don't give in to sweets and treats at every turn just because it's there or because everyone else is doing it. Just because there are lollipops at the barber's, doesn't mean your kids need one. Hear your own drummer and your kids will learn to hear it as well.
  • Avoid the quick fix of stopping at fast food restaurants; instead, plan ahead and pack your own snacks and lunches. If dinner prep time is tight, get friendly with your slow cooker (crock pot). It's a real time-saver and there's nothing like coming home to the delicious smell of a healthy dinner all cooked and waiting for you! Double the recipe, freeze leftovers, and there's another meal all prepared for next week.
  • Spend time to educate yourself, as opposed to letting TV and the popular press "educate" you. I am happy to share the following resources with you as a way to get started; check out, and the books Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, The Maker's Diet by Jordan Rubin, and The Untold Story of Milk by Ron Schmid. Here you will find a wealth of information on various food topics, including plenty of recipes.

Set Your Frame of Mind for Successful Implementation

There is a good chance that I am challenging your food paradigm with this information, and hopefully you will see it as an opportunity to do your own research, learn, and find your chosen path of good nutrition. Try not to be discouraged by the seemingly overwhelming task of changing your family's diet to nutrient-dense foods. It has taken me years and years to move our meals and snacks toward the nutrient-dense end of the spectrum, and I still have plenty to accomplish.

Big ideas, such as a nutritional lifestyle change, have to be approached with small steps. Kids will happily eat the foods listed above in “What Little Bodies Do Need” as they have for centuries, but you have to give it time and, as always with children, teach them by example. You can't expect little Sarah to slow down and plan time for a good breakfast if you don't. Please remember to celebrate your achievements and forgive yourself for setbacks.

A note about time…procuring and preparing nutritionally rich foods takes time. Be mindful about it and enjoy it. A little planning goes a long way in making this change doable. I find it helpful to do a meal plan for a week and I do the plan while looking at our calendar, planning easy or slow-cooker meals for especially crazy days. While I'm at it, I write a note in my calendar for Thursday night if I need to do chopping for a slow-cooker meal that needs to start cooking on Friday morning. I shop for that week's food in one trip, to save time making multiple trips to the market. Eating well takes more time in planning, procuring, and preparing, but oh, the joy of feeling energetic and healthy, the joy of knowing that your little pigs all have houses made of bricks! And, remembering that we make time for what we think is important helps to keep us from making excuses.

Some of these foods cost more than what you may be accustomed to spending, so a few words on the cost issue are warranted. When you feed your body real food, it needs less of it because its nutrient needs are being met. It stops screaming for more every hour or so. More importantly, view it from the perspective of pay now or pay later. Paying for good food now beats experiencing increasingly poor health while paying doctor, pharmaceutical and hospital costs later.

A final implementation word is to not make this a new area to be stressed about. Don't be neurotic about eating well but instead approach it as a wonderful gift that you can give yourself and your loved ones. Work on it slowly but surely. Good health is not just a new year's resolution to be made, but rather a commitment to a change in lifestyle.

Get Started

Here are some helpful tips to get started and make your transition easier.

  • Start out by making a good breakfast every morning like farm-fresh eggs, sprouted grain toast and some fresh organic fruit. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.
  • Remove the unhealthy fats and oils from your kitchen and replace them with healthful ones (referencing lists above).
  • Use full fat milk products instead of low fat or skim. My kids love their raw, whole milk.
  • Be mindful of what type of produce you are buying. Is it organic? Is it local? Make informed choices regarding pesticides using the info at
  • Make water the drink of choice in your home.
  • Remove all the empty-calorie bread products from your home and replace them with sprouted grain breads and muffins
  • Replace your white sugar and "breakfast syrup" (flavored corn syrup) with rapadura, real maple syrup and raw honey. Remember that even natural sugars should be used sparingly.
  • Offer vegetables, fruits or nuts for snacks instead of packaged snack foods.

Get Involved

Once, over a period of time, you start to experience how much better you and your family feel eating nutrient-dense foods, you may be aching for others to experience it as well. You may want to lend a hand in putting the control of our available food choices out of the hands of government and big business and back into the hands of people and especially parents. Involvement can be as simple as expressing to the doctor's office, bank or barber that you don't appreciate them displaying candy to placate your children.

Involvement can be as fun as bringing your kids to a farm, especially to a teaching farm like the Natick Community Organic Farm (NCOF), to see where real food comes from and to give them an appreciation for sustainable farming. Buy some eggs and veggies while you're there! By doing this you are supporting local farms who supply real food and who support your local community. You are also supporting our Mother Earth, who does not need any more chemicals and additives thrown her way.

Work with your schools to remove vending machines full of nutrient-empty edibles or to get real nutrition information into health class curriculums. I am currently sitting on a committee at the NCOF to develop a nutrition curriculum for the farm to present to students. The fact that even one child may live a healthier life because of this future program, based on the knowledge absorbed and subsequent choices made, makes it worth the time for committee members.

As a member of and chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Nutrition Foundation, I cannot speak highly enough of this organization's goal of restoring nutrient-dense foods to the human diet. This is a non-profit organization that does not sell things or experience any monetary benefit from your quest for health. They offer education, research information, and activism opportunities. Visit the website listed above and take advantage of the chance to educate yourself and others for better health.

Remember the story about the boy and his father on the beach? As they walk along the beach they see that the beach is strewn with thousands of starfish that have been left behind by the receding tide. They will bake and perish in the sun. The little boy runs ahead, picks up a starfish, and throws it back into the waves. The father says gently, "There are thousands of starfish on this beach, son. You can't make a difference." The boy picks up another starfish and throws it to the ocean, replying confidently, "I sure made a difference for that one." I urge you to start by making a difference for a few growing bodies, starting with your own little miracles.

Laurie Warren is a mother, food activist, writer, and student of nutrition. She works to teach others how to embrace a nutritionally rich lifestyle, teaches classes at Harmony Center in Medfield, MA and can be reached at Thanks to Sally Fallon and the research of Weston Price for making so much of this information easily accessible for the health of us all.