Thursday, January 6, 2011

You Are What You Digest II

By the time my daughter was eating solids, I was way into Ayurvedic cooking. It had become just a normal part of life up here at Casa de M.E.M.P.H.I.S. Because I knew she was getting milk of the highest quality, I didn’t rush into giving her solid food. I figured she would eat when she was ready at some point after the 6 month mark. I offered here and there but she would stick it on her tongue and spit everything out. It wasn’t until she was about 9 months that she swallowed her first piece of avocado. Then the real work began. If you think it seems overly complicated to keep your own system in balance, you’ve never tried to do it for someone who can’t speak. For the next 2 months, we struggled with her maintaining perfect regularity. I tried many different types of foods and eating schedules.

She is now eating three or more meals a day so I have recently attempted to cut down nursing in order to let her food digest. One of the [many] Ayurvedic food rules is that you don’t mix milk with other food so we try our best to not nurse within two hours of food. It’s not always a smooth process but we do our best and it shows in her regularity. I notice that she gets that big bloated belly on the days where there is no space between meals or snacks. Since the day is not always perfectly on a schedule, there are a few exceptions that work for us such as a pre-nap snack of oatmeal (recipe below). Knowing that I will be nursing her before nap, I give a small oatmeal snack, which according to Ayurveda is one of the foods that you can mix with milk. The foods that mix well with milk are sweet in taste just like milk. Some examples of these food items with sweet taste are rice, cream of wheat, mango, almonds, dates, raisins. You should not mix milk with sour, salty, astringent tastes and you shouldn’t mix it with fruits other than mango, dates and raisins so we avoid having anything but these things when I know for certain that she will be nursing.

Typically, eating meals, snacks or milk too close together creates aam [undigested food particles]. It doesn’t matter how healthy those things are separate, together they may sour in the stomach causing gas and other digestive ailments. It will only lead to trouble. If not in the immediate digestive problems, a bad habit of mixing milk with sour, salty or astringent tastes will surely show itself in years to come. For instance, eating kitchadi (ayurvedic super meal) with a big cup of spiced milk will make you feel heavy and bloated while each of those separate leave you feeling light. If you or your kid are grazers, snackers or frequent nursers and experience the symptoms of aam being formed, cut it out! If you are still nursing frequently enough where its tough to make space for meals, try giving your child more things that are compatible with milk.

An idea which greatly benefited my daughter was to create set snack/meal times so she would fill up on solid food and not want to nurse all the time. Like almost everything else with young children, it’s all about the routine and habits. Start offering them the sweet meal and see if they cut back nursing to build that space in between feeds. Change is usually hardest for the parents. From my experience and that of people I talk to, this jump to more time between eating usually happens pretty quickly if given a chance. A busy, varied play schedule certainly helps too. A lot of babies and toddlers just nurse frequently out of boredom and to be close to their mom. My daughter anticipates meal time just the way she knows its time to take a bath in the evening. Kids love sweet taste so it shouldn’t be too hard to introduce into the diet. After they start leaving time for the food to digest, they will be hungry enough to eat whatever it is you make for them. It may be hard to adjust to a new eating schedule in the short run but it will greatly benefit your kid’s health in the end.

What currently works for us is serving a light breakfast of stewed apples (recipe below) two-three hours after she wakes up and nurses and then offering oatmeal 2 ½ hours after that for her to eat before she nurses and naps. She does quite well with that. The afternoon consists of a post-nap savory lunch and dinner. Depending on if she nurses when she wakes up from nap, the times may shift a little and include a snack like raisins and nuts. All the while throughout the day, she sips on warm water just like I do. Keeping to this as a rough sketch of daily meals is really keeping her digestion working well. That could all change any day but I am pretty vigilant and can adjust according. That’s really all it takes for anyone. It doesn’t take some deep studying of Ayurveda, just pay attention to the cause and effect. Perhaps I am a tad crazy but I like to have a good understanding of all that goes into and out of my daughter’s body. Hopefully this craziness pays off with good eating habits and very little sickness for a lifetime.

Recipes of the day:

Stewed Apples:

Ingredients -

  • 1 organic apple
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp organic raisins or chopped dates
  • 1 clove or pinch of ground clove
  • ½ in cinnamon stick or 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  1. Dice apple into small pieces.
  2. Add ingredients to pot
  3. Bring to a boil
  4. Cook apples until soft ~ 15 minutes

Benefits - Enhances vitality, builds immunity, stimulates regular bowel movements and adds to overall well-being

Spiced Oatmeal:
Ingredients -

  • 1/2 cup steel cut or rolled oats (soaked overnight)
  • 1 tsp ghee
  • 1 cup organic whole milk (optional)
  • ¼ tsp cardamom
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 pinch of ground clove
  • 5-6 raisins
  • 3-4 almonds (soaked overnight, peeled and chopped)
  • maple syrup
  1. Put all ingredients except for maple syrup in pot
  2. Bring to boil
  3. Lower heat to simmer
  4. Stir frequently
  5. Cook until very soft
  6. Top with maple syrup


  1. I too notice that my son does better when he doesnt graze. I thought that kids were supposed to graze though?

  2. LIttle kids have more delicate digestive systems than those older, and have to live by the same laws of Mother Nature the rest of us do...some body types like Pitta usually digest better than Kapha or vatas.

    I really honor what you are doing raising your little one this way! So fortunate, she is! Hey, a friend of mine here is studying at the Ayurvedic Institute with intents to take it back to her Jewish community. Her hubby is actually a cantor in the synagogue on Chicago. I know she would love to talk with you!