Monday, October 3, 2016

Chapter 2, Hopefully Your Toddler Doesn't Bite Like Mine

First, let’s talk about how old a child should be to take part in this Cleanse. I recommend talking with your doctor about any changes you make to your child’s diet. With that said, a child is never too young to eat more vegetables and less sugar. Wyatt was 3 and Finnegan was 1 when we committed to this lifestyle.
Second, when to start the cleanse? Anytime works, but after sugary-rich holidays like Halloween, Christmas, Valentines or even right before school starts is a great time to give it a try.
Okay – let’s get started! The focus of this cleanse is to remove all but one serving of refined sugar from your child’s diet and increase their vegetable consumption to three servings a day. Below you will see a list of all the rules and explanation of them followed by a detailed day-by-day schedule for the 14 days.

Rules To The Cleanse:

1)    What you serve is what’s to eat.
2)    You, the parent, must offer your toddler at least three servings of vegetables a day and you, the parent, must eat the same vegetables when you offer them. 
3)    You and your toddler are allowed one sugar snack a day.
4)    Talk about the importance of good nutrition.
5)    Be proud of yourself.

Now let’s break down each rule.

Rule 1: What You Serve is What’s to Eat.

It’s a simple rule, but a really hard one to follow. When I first started feeding Wyatt real food, he hated everything I served him. It was awful, and to make it worse, I’d always hear other moms say, “Oh my little girl loves peas, she loves broccoli, she loves chicken… she’ll eat anything I put on her tray.” Not my kid. And what’s worse, I quickly fell into the rut that when Wyatt didn’t like what I served him, I would get up and make something else. I thought it was more important that he eat something rather than nothing. Wrong.
            I’m extremely fortunate that Wyatt’s primary care doctor asked me about Wyatt’s eating habits at one of his regular checkups. Upon hearing me declare Wyatt as a picky eater, my doctor quickly set me straight. She said, “Picky eaters only exist in wealthy nations where children have options. Serve Wyatt the foods you eat, and if he eats, great. If he doesn’t, move on. Wyatt will not starve, but if you let him dictate what he wants, he will make you miserable and become a very unhealthy eater.”
Honestly, after hearing this advice, I felt such freedom. I can just make one meal, and if Wyatt doesn’t eat it, I don’t have to worry about him starving, perfect!

What we do in my house:

Thanks to my primary care doctor, in this house we have a strict mantra: When breakfast, lunch and dinner are served, you have to come and sit at the table. You do not have to eat, but what you are served is what’s to eat. I even have the rule written on the wall.


There are many nights that Wyatt only eats a couple of bites and it kills me! I often think he’s going to be starving in the middle of the night and won’t sleep well, or his body will stop growing, or his mind won’t work properly, or he will grow a third arm—seriously my worries can quickly go from semi-rational to crazy. Don’t let this happen! If your child is hungry, he will eat. And yes, some nights your toddler won’t take a bite even when he or she is starving—so what! They will eventually learn that it’s worth eating even if they don’t like what’s served. More often than not, if I can simply get Wyatt to raise his fork and insert it into his mouth just once, he usually discovers that sautéed kale leaves or roasted cauliflower is yummy, or at the least, painless to throw back.
I will, however, promise you that it will be horrible some nights. Your child will be furious at the sight of certain foods. Too bad! In my house, you will often here me say, “Try it and you may,” (Dr. Suess, Green Eggs and Ham). Or on a more serious note, I’ll say, “I’m really sorry you don’t like the meal, but I love you too much not to serve healthy food.” Sometimes I’ll even commiserate with them, “Broccoli isn’t my favorite either, but it’s just one of those foods that are too good for us not to eat.” Often, possibly every meal, I give my husband a look that clearly means, our kids suck and I wish they would eat their f-ing food!
It would be so much easier to just serve mac and cheese, but ask yourself this: if your child threw a fit because he wanted to go biking without a helmet on, what would you do? Would you say, “Okay, sure.” Hopefully your answer is no, otherwise this cleanse is going to be very hard for you to implement. If your answer is like mine, which would be, “If you don’t wear your bike helmet, you can’t bike,” you are able to stay firm because it’s a safety issue. Not eating vegetables is also horrible for a child’s health. So when your child is thrashing around at the dinner table because he’s pissed he can’t have chocolate ice cream for dinner, think bike helmet.
Even if your child doesn’t eat, I promise it still feels good to serve healthy food. Oh and you might be asking yourself, “What if I can’t get my child to come to the dinner table?” Well, if my kids don’t come, it’s bedtime and I literally put them to bed.


Try really, really, really hard to implement this rule. Tell your children during a mellow, non-food moment that you have a new mealtime rule, so the children can process it before dinner. Write the rule out and post it on the wall so no one forgets.
Rule Number 2: You, the Parent, Must Offer Your Toddler at Least Three Servings of Vegetables a Day and You Must Eat the Same Vegetables When Offered.

Let’s break this rule down into two parts:
1)    Offering your child vegetables three times a day
2)    You, the parent, eat the same vegetables when offered

Rule 2, Part 1) Serving your child vegetables three times a day

The key point here is, offer. You’re job is to put vegetables on your child’s plate or in their cup three different times a day. I’m not asking you to force your child to eat.
In addition, do not serve your child three servings of vegetables in one sitting—they will not eat them and, if they do, you need to write a nutrition book. Space the servings out over the course of a day.

What I do in my house:

First, let me tell you I have a strict mealtime schedule and food is only allowed to be consumed during breakfast, AM snack, lunch, PM snack, dinner, and bonus snack. I found with my boys, if I didn’t create a schedule, they’d snack all day and not eat a thing at lunch or dinner. And that’s bullshit—I don’t serve good food at mealtime to see them snack all day.
And with this schedule, my boys know vegetables are served at breakfast, lunch and dinner. At breakfast it’s a green smoothie, lunch it’s a cold vegetable, and dinner it’s cooked vegetables.
If my kids don’t eat their vegetables, simple, they don’t get a snack. My boys’ plates need to be clean, their bowls empty and their glasses spotless or else they don’t get an AM snack. If they don’t finish their whole lunch—including their vegetable—they don’t get a PM snack. And if they don’t finish their whole dinner—yup, including their vegetable—they don’t get a bonus snack. Yes, there are many experts out there that say I’m bribing my kids with snacks to finish their meals. My reply to this is, it’s not a bribe—it’s called good behavior. I don’t serve healthy food to see my boys not eat it and reach for processed crap instead. If my kids aren’t hungry at lunch, that is totally fine, but then they also don’t need a snack.
I know, I’m super mean, but honestly it’s the one time in my life that I feel really good about being a bitch.


When I first started serving vegetables three times a day and told my boys they couldn’t get their snack if they didn’t finish their whole meal, I had enough tears to fill a large swimming pool. But it was an easily understandable and consistent rule I could enforce and in truly a very short time, the boys knew I meant business and stopped sobbing over it.


  • Be Consistent: Once you have figured the best time to serve vegetables, always serve them at the same time. Any preschool teacher will tell you that consistency is key in a toddler’s life.
  • Snacks: I truly believe snacks should not be served if a child did not finish his or her meal. Serve realistic portions, or even start super small so your kids have a fighting chance to finish their plates. I serve almonds at lunch almost every day, but I only put three on their plates.

Rule 2, Part 2: You the parent also need to eat vegetables three times a day.

Don’t under estimate the power of simply watching someone else eat healthy and how that can influence your child. Take my boys for example: Wyatt hated avocados. He would spit them out every time I got him to try them. Finnegan, however, eats them almost every day. After a whole year of Wyatt watching Finnegan eat avocados, Wyatt decided he, too, needed to try one. Wyatt now loves them!
Eating vegetables in front of your children will inspire them to do the same, just as reading in front of your children will encourage them to read.

If there is one thing to take away from this book, I hope it’s that you, the parent must eat vegetables if you want your children to.

What I do in my house:

Whatever vegetables I serve my boys, I eat. After all, it’s only fair I drink the same green smoothie to know if my boys’ cries and complaints are because it’s actually gross. Unfortunately, green smoothies can sometimes be a little too thick to choke back.


My vegetable consumption is not always pretty. I often have my green smoothie in my coffee mug that I drink in route to driving my kids to preschool. During lunch I can be caught with a carrot hanging out of my mouth while I slap together peanut butter sandwiches, but I eat them, and most importantly, my boys see me throwing them back.


Try and eat the same vegetables at the same time you offer them to your children. And if possible, eat more than three servings of vegetables in one day.

Recap and Advice on Rule 2:

1)    Serve your children vegetables three times a day and at the same time each day.
2)    Think about requiring your children to finish their meals in order have a snack. (See Chapter 3 for more advice on rewards).
3)    Try and eat the same vegetables you serve at the same time.

What I foresee being hard:

Some of you might be saying, "There is no way I have time to make a green smoothie in the AM, or cook vegetables at night." I promise, I get it. Time is hard to come by in this fast-paced world, but during this cleanse make the time. For the next two weeks make nutrition the most important theme in your house. When you first make a change in your diet it is hard and takes time, but within one to two weeks the new diet becomes the new norm and you don’t even have to think about it.

Rule 3: You, the Parent, and Your Toddler Can Only Have Refined Sugar Once a Day.

Straightforward rule, but maybe not the easiest to implement. I promise I’ve got some great tips to help on this one.
First, let’s talk about refined sugar. Refined sugar is actually sugar that has been chemically created or extracted from something that has sugar in it. For example, aspartame is a chemically created sweetener. White sugar is actually extracted from sugar cane (the process of making refined sugar is more complicated, but I don’t want to bore you on those details).

Refined sugar comes in many different forms:

Sugar (sorry, had to state the obvious one)
White sugar
Refined sugar
Brown sugar
Cane sugar
Cane juice
Evaporated cane juice
Raw sugar
Fruit juice from concentrate
Beet sugar
Maple Syrup

I’m sure there are more. One day we should create some type of competition to see who can pack their shopping cart with the most diverse amount of refined sugar—yes, I know, I’m a total dork.

Artificial Sugars:

Now let’s quickly mention scientifically modified or created sugars. For the risk of being sued, I won’t comment on what I think of these products. Suffice it to day, I do not let anything off the below list in my house and during the cleanse, you cannot consume any of these—even during the one allotted sugar snack.

High fructose corn syrup
Acesulfame potassium
Hydrogenated starch hydrolysate

My spell check just went nuts; my computer didn’t even recognize half of these words. This list can never be complete, as it’s big, big money for food scientists to come up with the next sweetener. Watch out for these and any new creations invented after this publication. They are horrible for you. One of my main goals for this book is to make it a short read so you can get to working on your children’s nutrition immediately, however if you want more information on these artificial sweeteners, read Chapter 7 in The Dirt Cure, by Maya Shetreat-Klien—possible the best nutrition book ever written.
One last note on these sick inventions: when we took them out of Wyatt’s diet, his symptoms: horrible joint pain, asthma, open wound rashes all over his body literally disappeared almost overnight.

Natural Sugars:

Now, let’s talk about natural sugars. Natural sugars are sugars that are within all foods. Take an orange, which naturally has about 9 grams of sugar in it. Fruits have a lot more natural sugar than vegetables, which is why your children probably prefer a strawberry to kale. During the cleanse you can consume as much natural sugar as you want. Rule 2 only talks about reducing refined sugar and eliminating certain potential poisonous creations. However, there are some foods that have an enormous amount of natural sugar and should be consumed in moderation:

Fruit juices (Please note juice from concentrate is considered a refined sugar)

Use your discretion and try to consume these foods in moderation.

What I do in my house with regards to foods with extreme amounts of natural sugars:

  • Juice is only served at breakfast and it’s always cut with water—always. Wyatt is now 6 and I still do this. I pour about 4 ounces of juice in and add 8-10 ounces of water to the glass. The juice I buy is never from concentrate.
  • My boys have honey on their oatmeal every single morning. I don’t care. It’s local raw honey and even though its “sugar,” honey in a raw form has some pretty cool health benefits a nutritionist could explain if you’re interested (NOTE: Never feed honey to infants under 1).
  • If I get around to baking, dates are in a lot of the recipes I use as a natural sweetener. And yes, dates have a lot of sugar, but it’s better than the refined crap. In addition, when you are talking to the nutritionist about the benefits of honey, ask about dates as well. Dates also have some pretty cool nutritional powers.

Okay, back to how to implement Rule 2.

What I do in my house:

During my boys’ AM snack, they can pick out whatever sugar snack they want. All the foods containing refined sugar are on one shelf, so my boys never get confused about what has sugar and what doesn’t.


Often the second my boys finish their breakfast, which includes a green smoothie and a bowl of oatmeal, they demand their sugar snacks. And I oblige. It’s a little absurd they are eating two Newman Oreos or a graham cracker right after breakfast, but they’re excited for their sugar snack and I don’t blame them. Honestly, the sooner they get their AM snack over with, the less it interferes with their appetites at lunch.
Unfortunately, there still are days my boys don’t eat their breakfast and still demand their morning snacks. In fact, just this morning Finnegan didn’t finish his breakfast and said to me while hugging my leg and being the sweetest snuggle bug ever:

“But Mama, I gave you a hug so now I can have my sugar snack.”
“No Finnegan,” I said. “You didn’t finish your breakfast.”

You know what the little monster did? He opened his mouth wide and bit me on the calf like a freaking piranha. I screamed, he screamed and everyone got super mad. I could have killed him. Really it was a proud moment for me, not.


  • Pick one time a day when you allow the sugar snack and be consistent, always make it the same time every day.
  • Separate all the sugar snacks from the non-sugar snacks into different drawers or shelves so your children can easily tell the difference.
  • I promise this rule will be a lot easier to follow once your children get into a routine. Most days I don’t get bitten.

Special Note:

  • When looking at packaged food to see whether or not it contains sugar, only look at the ingredients, not the nutritional breakdown. Take for example orange juice that is made from whole oranges. The nutritional breakdown will state that the juice has sugar in it because oranges do contain natural sugar. But the ingredients will not list sugar, unless of course they’ve added refined sugar. Remember you are decreasing the amounts of foods that have added refined sugar, not naturally occurring sugar.


This is the only rule that has an exception. If you have a birthday party or some special event your children are attending during the Cleanse, go to it and let them eat whatever they want.
Birthday parties make me cringe. I know it means a morning of basically an I.V. strapped to my kid’s arm, pumping sugar into their veins. Throw your hands up and grab yourself a slice of cake as well. I do really respect the families that only serve ice cream and cake and don’t send us home with a goodie bag full of candy.
Also Halloween—don’t implement the Cleanse during this candy-rich holiday. There is just too much sugar flowing in the air to ever be successful. In my house, I use to let my kids eat their Halloween candy as fast as they could. I wanted that shit out of my house as quick as possible. Now, however, since finding out how horrible artificial sweeteners are for Wyatt, we had to limit the candy. So now on Halloween night, my boys are allowed to eat 5 pieces of candy. The rest they leave beside their beds, and the Halloween fairy comes and takes it away. In place of the candy, the Halloween fairy leaves a really nice piece of dark chocolate and other candies that aren’t loaded with crap and a really cool toy. I highly recommend coming up with your own Halloween fairy version. (Thank you very much Julie O’Shea for introducing me to your Halloween Book Fairy).

Rule 4: Talk About the Importance of Good Nutrition

Many parents would argue, and possibly be right, that toddlers will not be able to understand why it’s important to eat right. Well, I argue that it is never too early to talk about good nutrition. If you start talking about nutrition before your child can understand, you have started at the right time. It’s like safe sex. Do you want to talk to your child after they have gotten their girlfriend or themselves pregnant or before? Do you want to talk to them about safe sex when you think they are ready for sex? Because I’m pretty sure, whether we like it or not, most kids have sex before they are ready. Odd comparison, but it works. Do you want to talk to your child about nutrition after the McDonald’s bags are piling up in their car or before?
My preschool teacher always jokes with me that Wyatt is the only one that knows what a collard is. And not only does he know what a collard is, he knows that a collard has calcium which helps makes his bones stronger. I don’t know if he actually understands what all that means, but he can recite it back and, one day, without me knowing, it will click.

Bottom line—it’s never too early to start talking about good nutrition.

What I do in my house:

I’ll try and fit in at least one nutrition comment a day. Take for example last night at dinner I served artichokes. My boys are fascinated by their huge leaves and spiky tips. So I took this moment to say, “Hey guys lets look up on Mama’s phone what’s kind of vitamins are in artichokes that make them good for us.” A quick search on Wikipedia told me that artichokes are one of the highest sources of antioxidants. Who knew!
            You don’t have to be a nutrition expert to insert one tidbit of healthy information into any conversation; you just have to remember to do it.


When your children aren’t screaming or super grumpy during any random dinner, try and work in a conversation on healthy food. You might be surprised at what a fun conversation you end up having.

Rule 5: Be Proud

No, be really proud of yourself! During the Cleanse you are going to take an enormous amount of sugar out of your child’s diet and add in a lot of vegetables while enduring a million, possibly gazillion temper tantrums for rocking your toddler’s world. And let me tell you—I’m giving you mental high fives because I’m impressed you are committing to a healthier life for yourself and your child. This Cleanse sounds simple, but it’s an extreme toddler makeover. Let’s be real, if you switch out the kind of toothpaste your toddler uses it can be earth shattering. Change in a toddler’s life is hard. If your child is the kind that munches on gold fish and gummies all day, then his world is about to be rocked. In all seriousness, pat yourself on the back every second of every day when you are in this cleanse land.

Day-to-Day Schedule:

Below you will see a fourteen-day plan. The first 5 days are spent planning. Each day you have a single task to accomplish. Don’t take these planning days for granted—they’re a critical component to the cleanse. Think workout—if you workout with a coach, they make you warm-up first because its truly an important part of the workout. I’m your coach here, and I’m telling you not to slack off on these 5 prep/warm-up days.
The next 7 days you implement and live by the rules. The last two days are for you to assess how it went, and whether you think it’s possible to translate the cleanse into long-term dietary habits. Again, don’t slack on the cool down either.

Day 1-3: Figure Out What You Currently Eat

Take three days to write down everything you and your toddler eat—including all the snacks and random handfuls of whatever. After those three days look it over and ask yourself the following questions: How many vegetables am I eating in a day? How many vegetables are my children eating in a day? And lastly, what foods are we eating that contain sugar.
Seeing how many vegetables you and your toddler are eating will give you a great benchmark of how far you need to go. In my house, before Wyatt was diagnosed with allergies, we were only eating vegetables at dinner, and honestly, it was a pathetic serving at best.

Day 4: Write a Meal Plan

Making a meal plan will make your life so much easier. Even when I’m on a binge—yes, even my family regresses—and we are eating like crap, my life is still easier with a meal plan. Most importantly, map out when you are going to serve your three servings of vegetables.

In Chapter 5, I provide a full week worth of realistic meals in case you need some ideas.

Day 5: Organize Your Sugar

Pull out of your cabinet everything that contains sugar and move it all onto one shelf or drawer in your kitchen. Unfortunately, if you guys are cereal eaters, this means all those boxes need to be moved to that shelf too. (Cereal does make for a great sugar snack.)

Day 6-12: Go Time!

Print out the rules and paste them on your fridge. For seven days—one simple, full week—you need to make this happen! Follow the rules and your meal plan. If you make a mistake or have a bad day, let it go and get back on track.

Day 13: Assess How it Went

What worked for you? What didn’t work? The main goal of the cleanse is to get families to eat more vegetables and less sugar—was this achieved?

Day 14: Decide Whether You want to Stay on the Cleanse or Not

The cleanse might not be realistic for everyone, but it is a very sustainable and healthy diet. In my house, we follow these rules unless we are on vacation. I have to admit, it is a little sad that my kids are so freaking happy to have cereal when we are on vacation, but it makes me feel good they don’t eat that kind of sugar every day.
            Even if you are desperate to serve cereal again, think about creating a variation of this cleanse for your family that you could realistically live by.

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