This past weekend my whole family went grain free. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, then you know that I have been avoiding grains for a couple of months now. I have eaten small amounts a few times at dinners out and have felt really tired and lethargic the next day or two for doing so. It has become really clear to me that I do much better completely off all grains. There is also a huge difference between eating no grains and eating even small amounts of grains, at least in my case.
It’s amazing that it took me almost 10 years of traditional eating to discover this fact. My husband is the same way. He’s been off grains since Feb 19, 2010 (but whose counting?) and he says he hasn’t felt this good since Middle School. That’s quite a testimonial especially for someone who was basically raised on organic, biodynamic whole foods (his Mother is amazing and a real pioneer in this area).
Lately, my husband and I have been discussing whether or not to take the kids off grains too, if only for a couple days a week. After all, if both of us do better off grains, there is a very strong possibility that there is a genetic component to our digestion not handling grains very well. If that is true, then the kids would do better off grains too.
Problem is, our kids really enjoy their grains and seem to show no ill effects from eating them. None has any allergies or other issues that could be linked with poor digestion. They certainly don’t overdo – refined carbs in any form, organic or not, are not welcome in our pantry. They do enjoy sourdough bread or sprouted English muffins for breakfast, though. With a few exceptions, they basically eat no grains the rest of day. Our dinners rarely include a grain (some rice or homemade pizza once a week or so) and consist primarily of meat and veggies. I rarely serve pasta (maybe once a month), as pasta, unless you make it yourself with sprouted wheat, is just a bowl of sugar to me and not very nourishing fare for anyone.
It seems, then, that removing what little grains my children eat would be pretty easy. Not so. When I suggested it to them, I was surprised at how resistant they were to the idea. It became clear that I was going to have to use all my ingenuity to get my little experiment off the ground.
Three Days Grain Free
This past Thursday, I decided that Memorial Day weekend would be a good time for our family’s grain free experiment. For three days, no one in our home would consume anything made of grains, even if properly prepared. Meals would consist of only meat, veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, and fresh dairy.
I made a large batch of honey muffins made with coconut flour, several large pizza crusts made with almond flour, and a huge bowl of crustless pumpkin pie (sweetened with dates, not sugar) in preparation. I knew I need to entice the kids with very yummy alternatives to avoid 3 straight days of whining about “where is my toast!” I didn’t have to worry about grumbling for chips, (store) cookies, and crackers as we don’t have those sorts of processed foods in our home anyway.
And so, the experiment began. Here is what I observed:
– The kids were noticeably more more cooperative with each other. They played more games with each other without needing me to intervene and referee some disagreement. Given that grains are very difficult to digest and any undigested or underdigested bits can cause toxins that spill into the blood and cause irritability, this was not surprising to me. The books Gut and Psychology Syndrome and GAPS Guide (2 Books) discuss this physiological process in detail.
– Their appetites were ravenous. This really surprised me. Particularly my youngest child who is the pickiest eater – typical for a child her age (or so I thought). She was eating more food than I have ever seen her eat and not being in the least picky about it. It was like her digestion was freed from bondage and textures and new flavors weren’t bothering her anymore. Amazing.
– All of them really loved the pizza made with crust made of almond flour. I will be making pizza this way from now on as my kids won’t eat almonds any other way. What a great discovery of how to get nuts into them!
– Little things didn’t seem to bother the kids as much. They seemed to laugh more and be grumpy less. It was a delightful weekend. Happy kids are much less stress for Mom, that’s for sure!
Where Do We Go From Here?
Based on the success of our grain free weekend, my husband and I have decided to go grain free as a family every weekend, schedule and travel plans permitting. Flexibility in this approach is key, of course. Militancy in one’s approach to eating is never a good idea. Giving the kids a regular break from these very hard to digest foods can only be helpful to their growth and development, particularly since both Mom and Dad have issues in that area, at least in the short term.
If any of you have any ideas to share in this area regarding your family’s approach to grains, please share them in the comments section. I would love to know about it and I’m sure others reading this blog would too.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
I thought cooking almonds (flours) at high temperatures affected omega6? At least in my very fresh exposure to traditional foods (newbie, learning a lot I think), this scared me off almond flour: http://www.theprimalist.com/paleo-baking-oxymoron/. I’m not considering going paleo, but I’m really trying to figure the healthiest way for me to eat. I’m still learning my body’s cues! Your thoughts?
Your diet is sounding more and more like the Paleolithic Diet (or at least the lacto-paleo version thereof). I recommend you look into it! I am LOVING being paleo!
Oh, Sarah, do you have the recipe for the “crustless pumpkin pie” sweetened with dates and not sugar? The thai custard recipe is wonderful. I’m sure I could use pumpkin in this somehow. Thanks!
I know this is an old post, but I’m thankful for your personal experience. I’ve been practicing a traditional diet (WP) with no processed food in our home. However, I have felt like a piece of the puzzle has been missing. We have been off grains (even properly prepared grains) for a few weeks and WHAT a difference. My children, who are very healthy with no food issues, have been eating like ravenous beasts. They seem more agreeable, more consistent throughout the day (probably due to more stable blood sugar levels without the grains). The first week, my daughter had ‘detox’ symptoms of a headache and nausea for a few days. I have lost most of my baby belly left from the last twin pregnancy in 2 weeks. I have given the kids a few tablespoons of soured (for 24 hours) grains at one meal in the last couple of days, but will likely due no grains on most days for a while. This is amazing as we are what you would consider a “very healthy family” yet the grains were not working well for us. They are even asking for their CLO!
I find the problem arises when the loaf of ezekiel bread is handy, naptime is overdue and we just walked in the house from a trip to the park or store and everyone is famished. LEFTOVERS! I’ve been keeping smoked salmon, raw milk cheddar (from TJoes), frozen muffins (from coconut flour), fermented veggies, and lots of butter and raw milk smoothies available so I don’t have to resort to a sandwich on the days I’m trying to abstain from grains. Moderation is key, but sometimes having a couple of grain free days in a row really makes a difference. PLUS, you’re putting great nutrient-dense foods in their place. It is a challenge, but it’s exciting to try and get creative and think new thoughts about daily meals. Thank you so much for sharing your successes, everyone. It’s so encouraging!
Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist
Can your kids handle chestnuts? I heard that chestnut flour makes absolutely beautiful pizza crusts, muffins etc. I have not tried it myself yet, but do want to source some to try it out.
The biggest problem for us going grain-free (and we have done it) is that our kids can't handle nuts, seeds, or most legumes, either. 🙁 I'd LOVE to use almond flour and such but so far they can't tolerate it. Do you suppose if I made the almond flour myself after sprouting that it would be okay? My kids do horribly on regular whole grains but "okay" on sprouted. So maybe the nuts would work the same??
I am trying so hard to be grain- and sugar-free right now but without legumes and nuts it's HARD! Coconut is our only option!
Dear Sarah, Have you tried experimenting with making grainless sourdough bread using kefir, chia seed flour and chestnut flour? I have not tried this but chestnuts and chia seed seem to be the best types of nuts and seeds to use when making bread. Please respond if you have experimented with either of these types of nuts/seeds.
Karen Bannan @ NaturalAsPossibleMom
Ohhh, grain-free is tough for me! I am a bread-hound. Bagels, especially, although I know they are terrible for me.
Great post. I am impressed at your ingenuity. (And who knew there was such a thing as coconut flour!)
My two and four year old boys and I have been off grains for nearly 5.5 months. My older son got rosy cheeks after a couple of days off grains. They were both very small and skinny now they feel dense like their bones, muscles and organs are getting nourished. We have been on the GAPS diet for this period of time too. NO grains, sugar or dairy or starchy veggies. I see no reason to ever go back to eating grains unless they are properly prepared and very seldom.
It's the best thing I've ever done for myself and my children!