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
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. Her work is dedicated to helping families effectively incorporate the principles of ancestral diets within the modern household. She is a sought after lecturer around the world for conferences, summits, and podcasts.
Her work has been covered by major media including USA Today, ABC, NBC, and many others.