The Power of Food – The Wonders Lurking in the Spice Cupboard!

The difference in my little boy is staggering; his weight gain has been phenomenal to the point where he is now a healthy weight/height for his age and is back on the growth chart where he should be!

He is healthier and happier than he has been in years.

We keep his immune system strong by giving him a wide range of fruits and veg, making sure his vitamins and minerals are in the right range, thanks to his dietician, who has gone above and beyond to confirm that his meals are absolutely, perfectly meeting his needs.

He has different herbs and spices renowned for their dietary/health properties.

The favourites being garlic, ginger, cinnamon, oregano and the spice that above all other things turns his tube yellow… turmeric.

I know the power of a healthy diet.

I know the power of herbs and spices to help us keep well and indeed to fight off infection.

So WHY I ask you, do we as parents and carers not put in as much effort and consideration into our own diets?!

I am pretty certain that I am not alone in making sure my child has the best diet imaginable, while I eat rather less well, shall we say.

Too many years of hospital visits relying on Costa, pre-packed butties and cola?!

I really should pay more attention to my diet too.

As a woman with autoimmune issues its more essential than ever that I keep myself as well as possible.

Recently, after many years of suffering in silence, I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder that conventional medicine can’t really help with, other than to give antibiotics when the inevitable infections take hold.

If this were my son we were talking about, I would be doing everything in my power to ensure that he was healthy and that we found a way to control the condition.

So the time has come for me to practice what I preach!

I will admit, the first thing I identified as a major problem for me was gluten.

I don’t have a coeliac allergy, but it was very noticeable that if I ate gluten, within 24hrs I was in pain with a flare up.

So taking what I’ve learnt over 12 months of doing a blended diet for my son, I cut out all gluten. Totally.

Caffeine was another one to go (although I haven’t quite managed to fully remove that one as yet… my morning brew is still an essential).

Then, I turned to the spice rack that has, for the past year, helped keep my boy healthy.

Turmeric is would appear is a potent anti-inflammatory.

Coconut oil is renowned not only for being a very healthy oil to cook with but also for having anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.

After a few weeks on antibiotics, feeling utterly meh and having flare-ups despite the medication, I was prepared to try ANYTHING regardless of how weird and wonderful it sounded!

Both can be used internally via diet but also externally… as its my skin that’s worst affected I was happy to slap the stuff on and deal with the glorious yellow tinged skin that resulted… but it calmed my skin down a treat.

I also tweaked my diet and added such beauties as these in on a daily basis (although I found taking turmeric in capsule form rather better than the Bart Simpson look). 

A week on and I’m feeling better than I have in a long time, pain level is down (not gone I should add, and I did this with the full support of my GP), and the inflammatory responses that have plagued me for years are a lot calmer than they were.

I am actually speechless.

How ridiculous, to have had these items sitting in a cupboard for the past year, regularly being fed to my son, yet I never even considered their usefulness for my own wellbeing.

If it hadn’t been for Sam being a tubie, I doubt I would ever have even thought about them.

Hippocrates was spot on; let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food.

Holidaying… With A Tubie

It is also our first time staying in a caravan (granted, a posh one) with Sam and only the second time we’ve been away since he had his PEG fitted.

Now, formula isn’t an issue as we just need to make sure we have sufficient sachets to make up his milk… the blended diet aspect however is requiring rather more planning. 

Think of it as a week-long picnic, but with the planning involved for a small military campaign…

The prospect of making up enough blended feeds for a week plus transporting them from one end of the country to the other does not fill me with joy.

Currently, Sam’s feeds are done in batches; each recipe is then split into the correct portion sizes to give him around 250 calories per portion.

Sam CAN taste his meals even though they go straight into his stomach (think burping… sorry), so we try and give him different meals for each feed so he doesn’t have a whole day with just one blend.

Like anyone else, he’d get very bored, very quickly.

Usually we use storage pots into which we portion up the blends, cool them and freeze, labelling as we go.

This also means that a week’s worth of blended meals will take up considerable freezer space, which we simply won’t have in said caravan.

Hmmm . . .

As the prospect of carting our beloved vitamix with us fills me with dread (have you seen how expensive those things are, not to mention the amount of power they use!), there has been some considerable research done into alternatives… unfortunately none of the options are going to be suitable for us.

A lot of families use the reusable, sterilizable baby food pouches, but the volume of Sam’s meals means that these aren’t big enough.

Knew it wouldn’t be that simple!

Another alternative option was a nutri bullet type blender that would be fine for smaller batches… however as money is tight that isn’t an option either.

So… not so much back to the drawing board as back to the vitamix.

Yes folks, you’ve guessed it, it’s coming with us.

So if the news reports a black out across a caravan site in Devon next week, you’ll know who’s to blame! x

Tube vs Food: Are We Making The Right Decision?

He was weak and tired and needed it to be just a little easier to get milk. After trying everything we had to get him on the bottle for his health, his jaundice was very apparent and he was sleeping a lot.

Once he got the knack of drinking from a bottle, there was no stopping him, he was a greedy boy, nothing pleased me more than giving him a bottle and having to up the ounces so quickly.

Very soon it was the next stage! FOOD! And didn’t he just love it!

There was nothing Zachariah didn’t like, he would eat and eat and eat. I was so pleased to see him enjoy the adventures of food.

But then there was the drink, I tried to give him bits of water from his bottle, but he would struggle so much, he would gag and cough and almost choke from little bits of water.

I put it down to it being a different texture to milk, it was fast flowing and he would get used to it.

At seven months old he was referred to a Speech and Language Therapist. Who knew that they specialised in feeding as well as communication?

I remember feeling rather confident attending this meeting, as this was Zachariah’s strong point, he was good with his grub, and this was time for him to go to an appointment and show off his skills.

However when she watched him eat she was concerned, she started to talk about aspiration and a videofluoroscopy. What is she talking about?

This was the start of something else, another issue to to worry about, someone else to come to our home monthly. I was gutted.

The therapist started her visits and taught me how to feed Zachariah the safest way, he was introduced to thickener to allow him to have fluids and had to stick to a blended food diet, he tried little bits of toast and soft snacks, but it was just not worth it, it was such a hazard as he would gag and struggle.

He had a videofluoroscopy which showed he was aspirating and that concluded that it would be much safer for Zachariah to be tube fed. I was devastated. 

I didn’t really believe it, my little boy who loved food so much would have it taken away and have it pumped straight into his tummy instead.

His favourite part of the day was being ripped away!

At first we refused, said no to his consultant and no to the surgeon, we couldn’t give up on him yet.

A few months passed and it was clear that Zachariah was only struggling more and more, it wasn’t worth the risk anymore. I just wanted him to be safe.

I started to look at the positives, that he would have stress free days fighting with food when he wasn’t feeling great, he would get all of his medication as he wouldn’t be able to spit it out, and he would have more time for fun and therapy.

So now it’s the waiting game for his date to go and have a gastrostomy, and all I can question is whether or not we’re making the right decision!

I love my Boy!

Rochelle, Mummy to Zachariah. Xx

Recipe For Weight Gain: Strawberry Banana Smoothie

If your child needs more calories, your healthcare provider may suggest adding more high-protein and high-fat foods and beverages.

Smoothies can be a great way to add more calories and protein to your child’s diet.

They can be served as part of a meal – with buttered toast for breakfast, for example – or as a mid-day or evening snack.

Strawberry Banana Smoothie


½ cup whole milk
½ cup plain whole milk yogurt
½ cup frozen strawberries
1 banana
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed


Mix all ingredients in blender and serve.

Ideas For Your Special Needs Summer Picnic

In the spirit of childhood experience and family participation like a moth to a flame; there you are coordinating and planning a summer picnic.

Here are some great tips to help make your picnic easy, fun, enjoyable and accessible:

Picking the seating option for your picnic is the first step. 

Do you want a picnic table or are you going to be laying out a lovely blanket on the ground? 

For those seeking a great accessible picnic table for children who use wheelchairs, the Convert-a-bench is a fantastic option.  Retailing at around $100 each this piece of outdoor furniture does just want the name suggests; converts from a outdoor bench to a picnic table (single) or if you combine two – it makes a typical picnic table! 

If you use only one as a single it provides for easy roll up for a wheelchair to join the table!  Perfect for home use or family summer gatherings. 

Picnic Blanket

For those of you wanting to enjoy the picnic blanket experience a fantastic blanket is an extra large waterproof backing with fleece top provides a great soft sensory experience that will also make sure that you can enjoy your picnic without having to worry about how wet the grass or ground might be.

An extra-large blanket will also give you plenty for room for your picnic feast and allow for additional room if you’d like to pair the Go-To Seat and floor sitter on your blanket top surface for your child with special needs.

For a traveling picnic a picnic basket on wheels is a must!

For that traditional picnic feel you may want to consider a wicker picnic basket on wheels.  Certain baskets come with silverware, dishes, cutting board, salt and pepper shakers, wine glasses and napkins which make your picnic needs complete.

Retailing depending on style from $150-$200, this choice is a bit more of a summer time investment.

For those wishing for something a little less expensive there are so some great cooler options that are on wheels retailing for around $50 and allow you to bring your own silverware and plates from home.


Considering little details on how to make your picnic extra special for your child with special needs consider cutlery items and dishware that would be fun and functional.

Both the ez-pz mini-mat and EasyHold products are excellent choices for children working on independent and caregiver assisted feeding.

The ez-pz mini mat retails for $19.99 and is great for picnics and home use:

EasyHold 5 piece pack retails for $34.99.

Both of these items pair well for items that are small and pack well for picnics on the go.

Plan your menu to be easy! 

Avoid messy, difficult, complex foods. 

Simplicity at a picnic can ensure a stress free and fun experience. 

Plan finger foods and plan for your child’s dietary needs and carry some wet wipes to assist with easy clean up. 

Whether you pick your peaceful patio, a grassy park filled with trees for a gentle breeze, or a sandy beach, a picnic is the perfect way to unwind and enjoy each other’s company.  

Recipe for Weight Gain: Tuna Salad with Walnuts and Raisins

For those kids who do have trouble gaining weight, eating foods that provide plenty of calories and protein can be important.

This recipe for tuna salad provides a dense source of calories by including tuna packed in oil (rather than water or brine), nuts, dried fruit and mayonnaise.

Served with crackers and fruit juice, this would be a great meal packed full of calories and protein!

Tuna Salad with Walnuts and Raisins

Serves 4


– 6-ounce can tuna packed in oil
– 2 hard-boiled eggs
– ¼ cup onion, chopped
– 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
– 2 tablespoons yellow (or black) raisins
– 1/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
– 1/3 cup mayonnaise  (or more, if desired)


1. Open tuna and drain off oil.
2. Mix drained tuna with eggs, onion, relish, raisins, walnuts and mayonnaise.
3. Refrigerate until serving.

Fight Stress with Healthy Foods!

Unfortunately, many of us have a habit of turning to traditional, “comfort”, foods when we are stressed – pizza, pasta with creamy sauces, ice cream, candy bars…

They may help us to feel better in the short-term, but are likely to leave us feeling lethargic and even more stressed!

High-fat, high-sugar foods such as these can raise our cholesterol levels over time. Stress itself can also drive up our cholesterol and blood pressure.

So, if you turn to high-fat, high-sugar, “comfort”, foods, you have essentially dealt your heart-health and your stress level a one-two punch.

Fortunately, there are many delicious, healthy foods that can actually help to alleviate stress.

Choose the right carbs!

Carbohydrates help your brain to produce a calming hormone called serotonin. But take note – not all carbs are created equal!

Refined carbohydrates, such as those in white bread, white pasta, white rice, sugary drinks and desserts, are digested rapidly and cause spikes in our blood sugar.

This can cause us to feel a, “crash,” and end up having less energy and more stress.

Complex carbohydrates, found in whole grain breads, whole grain pasta, brown rice, beans and oatmeal, are digested more slowly and provide a more even energy source.

They also help our brains to produce serotonin, so they are a great choice for calming our bodies and reducing stress.

Meal Idea:  Veggie chili made with black beans and lots of veggies, served over brown rice.

Go Nuts!

When you are feeling low energy or stressed and need a snack, reach for the almonds (or pistachios, or walnuts!).

Our bodies’ stores of B vitamins go down when we are stressed. Nuts contain a lot of B vitamins and can help to build our stores of this essential vitamin back up again.

In addition, nuts such as pistachios contain a lot of potassium, which can lower your blood pressure.

Meal Idea:  Wholegrain pasta with walnut-parsley sauce

Load up on vitamin C!

When we are stressed, our bodies produce more stress hormones.

Eating foods high in vitamin C can help to lower stress hormone levels and bring us back into balance.

Next time you are feeling overwhelmed, reach for vitamin C-rich foods, including bell peppers, spinach, broccoli, berries, kiwifruit, tomatoes and papayas – all good choices to help bring your stress level down.

Meal Idea:  Spinach salad with salmon, red bell peppers and tomatoes

Magnesium-rich foods

Magnesium helps to decrease our stress hormone levels and blood pressure.

In addition, magnesium-rich foods can help by lowering the amount of a certain protein in our bodies that leads to stress and sometimes depression.

Most of us do not get enough magnesium in our diets.

Focus on magnesium-rich foods such as dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, swiss chard), beans (black beans, kidney beans), brown rice, nuts, seeds, avocado, whole grains and banana.

Meal Idea:  Wrap made with whole grain tortilla, beans, spinach and avocado

Enjoy your tea

Next time you are feeling anxious or stressed, make yourself a cup of tea! Both black teas and herbal teas help to lower stress hormone levels.

Since the caffeine in black tea may increase stress response, however, your best bet is to stick with green, herbal or decaffeinated black teas.

Not only does drinking tea lower stress levels, just holding a warm mug in your hands can be so soothing and relaxing!

And with so many varieties of herbal teas available – chamomile, lemon balm, peppermint, ginger and green teas, just to name a few – you are sure to find one that you like.

Meal Idea:  Whole-grain muffin made with bananas and yogurt, with a mug of chamomile tea

Don’t forget the chocolate!

If you are really feeling stressed and want a little treat, go for some dark chocolate.

Like tea, dark chocolate can lower stress hormone levels.

Dark chocolate has more beneficial nutrients (and less sugar) than milk chocolate, so choose chocolate that is at least 70 percent cocoa.

Since chocolate is a high-calorie food, you will want to watch that you don’t overdo it.

But a couple squares of dark chocolate each day could be a delicious way to lower your stress level.

Dessert Idea:  Strawberries dipped in dark chocolate

Next time you feel stressed or overwhelmed, do yourself and your family a favor by choosing these healthful, stress-reducing and delicious foods!

Struggling with GER? You Are Not Alone…

Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when foods or liquids in the stomach reverse direction and go back into the esophagus, throat or mouth.

If you think of the mouth to throat to stomach pathway as a road, there is a gate between the throat and the stomach to keep traffic moving in one direction toward the stomach.

This, “gate”, is called the esophageal sphincter.

If the gate swings open rather than staying closed, food, liquid and stomach acid can all pass back into the throat – going the, “wrong”, way on this one-way street.

In kids with neurological impairments, the gate (esophageal sphincter) may be more likely to let food or drinks pass through when it is not supposed to.

In addition, long periods of lying down, scoliosis, increased pressure in the stomach and seizures can also make GER more likely in these kids.

Repeated reflux can cause inflammation of the esophagus, and may eventually lead to ulcer formation or strictures (a narrowing of the esophagus that can lead to more difficulties swallowing).

Most of us experience reflux at one time or another.

If you have ever burped after eating and experienced a burning sensation in your throat, it was probably caused by GER.

Children may not always be able to put into words the symptoms that they are experiencing.

The unpleasant sensations associated with GER may cause them to avoid foods, leading to reduced food intake.

Frequent spitting up or vomiting can also contribute to nutrient and energy losses, leading to difficulties in gaining or maintaining weight.

Since children cannot always communicate their symptoms (such as that “burning” feeling), it is important for parents and carers to be on the lookout for symptoms of GER.

Symptoms can include:

– Frequent regurgitation with or without vomiting

– Weight loss or poor weight gain

– Frequent pneumonia

– Irritability in infants

– Wheezing or cough

– Complaints of stomach pain

– Refusing to eat.

If your child does experience GER, foods that are likely to cause irritation should be avoided.

These typically include chocolate, spicy foods and any foods or drinks containing caffeine. Large, high-fat meals may also cause symptoms, and should be avoided if they do.

If your child uses bottle or tube-feedings, thickened formula may help reduce reflux.

Using concentrated formulas that have more calories in a smaller amount of liquid can be a helpful way to make sure that your child is getting enough calories.

Check with your physician or dietitian if you suspect a change in formula might be helpful.

Here are more tips to help manage GER symptoms.

For babies:

Adding rice cereal to formula may be helpful; check with your physician or dietitian.

If using a bottle to feed, keep the nipple filled with milk so that your baby doesn’t swallow too much air.

Swallowing air can cause excess burping, which may be accompanied by reflux.

Burp your baby occasionally throughout bottle- or breast-feeding.

Burping is less likely to cause reflux when baby’s stomach is only partially (rather than completely) full.

For children:

Offer your child snacks and small meals throughout the day, rather than just a few large meals.

Limit fried and fatty foods, chocolate, soda or other caffeinated drinks, citrus fruits and juice, tomato products, and peppermint.

If your child has any inflammation of his/her esophagus, acidic foods such as citrus and tomato products can cause further irritation and pain.

Offer the evening meal at least 3 hours before bedtime.

Encourage your child to stay upright, rather than lying down, for at least 30 minutes after eating.

On The Go? Healthy Snacks To Keep You Going Strong!

With so much to squeeze in every day, sometimes our plans to eat healthfully fall by the wayside and instead we just grab whatever is convenient.

Unfortunately, choosing convenience foods often means choosing high-salt, high-fat, refined-carbohydrate options (think chips, candy bars, cookies, sugary drinks, etc.) that may give us short-term energy but result in a sugar “crash” later on.

A little bit of planning, however, can go a long way in helping us to fuel ourselves and our families right for all the adventures to come!

In my opinion, probably the number one thing that people can do to help themselves eat more healthfully is to create a healthy food environment.

By that, I mean surrounding yourself and your family with good options, so that you can’t help but make a healthy choice!

When you are on the run, this means not only having healthy foods available at home, but also in your car, your purse, your backpack, etc.

That way, when you get hungry, or your kids need a snack, you have a healthy option right there ready to go.

A good rule for snacks is to include mostly carbohydrate, and a little bit of protein.

Healthy carbohydrate snack ideas include fruits, whole grain crackers, and low-fat dairy foods like milk and yogurt.

Carbohydrates are the primary fuel for our brains and our muscles, so including these at every meal and snack helps to keep us going strong.

The best snack-type protein choices are nuts and seeds, and low-fat dairy. Including some protein at snacks helps us feel more satisfied and full, so that we can get through until the next meal!

So, what snacks should you pack?

Basically, you want to pack your own, “convenience”, foods – that are easy to carry and eat, and don’t require refrigeration.

Fruits are the ideal single-serving, healthy, “convenience”, food!

When you are heading out for the day, stock your car or purse with a couple of bananas, apples, mandarin oranges, pears, peaches, plums, or even kiwi fruit (you can eat the skin and all!).

Fruits are not only delicious and sweet, they are packed with healthy vitamins, minerals and fibre.

If you can’t bring fresh fruit, keep some single-serving containers of unsweetened applesauce or unsweetened squeeze pouches of fruit purees on hand.

Dried fruits like raisins, dried apricots or dried plums are also a great choice, but remember that they have a lot of calories packed in a small serving.

If you do choose dried fruits, opt for the ones that are not coated in sugar.

That way you’ll get more of the good stuff (fibre and vitamins) without excess calories.

Pair your fruit with some protein from nuts or seeds, and you’ll have the perfect on-the-go snack.

Keep a little bag of almonds or walnuts in your purse or car.

Pumpkin seeds and roasted soy nuts are also delicious, healthy snacks, and you can find them in regular or spicy varieties.

You can even buy single-serving packets of almond butter or peanut butter, which would pair perfectly with your whole grain crackers.

Granola bars and other bars combine carbs and protein in one convenient snack; just be sure to watch the sugar level to get some good energy while avoiding a sugar crash.

Look for bars that have less than about 10 grams of sugar in each bar. The healthiest choices for snack bars are ones made with mostly nuts and dried fruit.

Unless you are a serious athlete, avoid the sports bars that are packed with a lot of mysterious-sounding ingredients, often along with tons of calories and more protein than you need.

Even with the best intentions, sometimes we end up on a day out running errands with the kiddos, they start clamoring for food, and we don’t have anything with us!

If you do need to run into a convenience store, you can usually find some healthier options, including many of those mentioned above.

String cheese is also a great go-to snack, and most kids love it. With calcium, protein and carbohydrates, it is a great option. (And it’s not just for kids – try it yourself!)

And don’t forget low-fat milk, even chocolate milk – also packed with good nutrition, and most kids won’t turn down chocolate milk!

Next time you are heading out the door, take a minute to think about whether you or your family are likely to be needing a snack before you return, and stock your purse, backpack, or car with the right fuel to stay on track!