Amie Valpone was sick—really sick. And the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her.
In the end, treatment by integrative physicians along with extensive research and the adoption of a “clean” lifestyle, led to Valpone’s complete recovery (read more about Amie’s story here). Now she wants to help you get well, too.
Kars4Kids writer Varda Epstein stumbled on Amie’s blog after seeing a lot of mommy/healthy nutrition blogs with truly dreadful looking photographs and descriptions. But Amie’s blog, thehealthyapple.com, was a horse of a different color. The photos were GORGEOUS and the food, healthy as it was, looked absolutely delicious. We thought Amie might offer our readers some guidance on how to foster better, more nutritious eating habits in our children so we reached out to her for an interview. As it turns out she had a lot to say on the subject and much helpful advice to dispense.
K4K: So many children have learning disabilities these days. According to a collaborative study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the rate of ADHD alone, went up 33% from 1997 to 2008. From your perspective, as someone involved in clean eating, could there be a connection between diet and learning disabilities? Is this rising rate of learning difficulties a sign that children have nutritional needs we’re not meeting as parents?
Amie Valpone: Who knows if food is at play here because so many things have changed—it’s hard to extrapolate what’s at play with such a large sample and so many variables—but also awareness is so much higher. It’s possible that we are just diagnosing better, or possibly over-diagnosing.
K4K: How should a child’s diet differ from an adult’s diet?
Amie Valpone: Less sugar. Avoid the crash and cravings. Less carbs, take the opportunity to introduce foods they don’t/can’t get at home and let them run around and breathe. Too much sitting is detrimental to concentration and sugar only makes it worse by spiking their blood sugar and leading to so many other awful issues including gut issues.
K4K: Are there items we should include in a child’s diet to aid in concentration in the classroom—to relieve the stress that comes during exams and tests? Are there dietary changes we might try before putting children on medication for ADHD, such as Ritalin?
Amie Valpone: Less sugar and more organic lean proteins like beans, legumes, poultry and low-mercury seafood but also a more regular schedule in general. ADHD is definitely real but it can’t be an excuse for behavior if the behavior can be changed without drugs.
K4K: You speak a lot about clean eating. Is it more difficult for city children to get clean food in their diets? Are they exposed to more toxins than children who live in rural areas and if so, can we address this from a dietary standpoint?
Amie Valpone: Some cities are “food deserts.” Some inner-city kids don’t know what fruits and vegetables look like in their natural form—only what’s cut up and soaked in preservatives on their lunch trays or in packaged processed food. Current government assistance does not provide enough money for fresh fruits and veggies to feed full families (ask yourself what you would do if you’re trying to fill your babies’ empty bellies and you can buy a few pieces of rotten fruit or a ton of cheap cereal and chips and soda), and so the grocers don’t stock fresh produce.
School breakfasts, snacks and lunches are the number one way we can help these kids experience new foods and good nutrition, which is the number one way to prevent disorders and illnesses like asthma that are exacerbated by toxins in their neighborhoods. From lead paint to secondhand smoke to cheap toys to factories/pollution that wealthier communities can contest, these kids are definitely exposed to more. Children can become obese and malnourished and they can’t concentrate.
K4K: How do you ease children into a clean diet from one that is heavy in refined carbohydrates and sugars? How do we make such food appealing to them? Do we ban junk food altogether?
Amie Valpone: Banning things at home just causes children to binge and leads to cravings for these processed foods. It doesn’t teach anything and costs money. Have kids help more in the preparation of their food. They’re more likely to try it. Don’t go cold turkey. Transition. Allow treats. Talk about it, and make it fun but not an obsession. Arm them with the tools to make their own healthy decisions because the real world isn’t devoid of junk, but kids can make the right choices if you give them the opportunity.
K4K: How much should we regulate a child’s diet?
Amie Valpone: I think that exposure is a better word than regulate. Expose children to more and they’ll want more. Regulate them and they’ll binge on junk food as soon as they’re out of their parents’ sight or develop food-related hang-ups (I’ve seen both). Just be mindful that they are always thinking and watching and so lead by example. Teach them how to take care of themselves through food –through exposure. Make it a positive thing versus a negative thing.
Amie Valpone, HHC, AADP is the Editor-in-Chief of www.TheHealthyApple.com; she is a Manhattan based Personal Chef, Culinary Nutritionist, Professional Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Writer and Motivational Speaker specializing in simple gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free ‘Clean’ recipes. Amie recently healed herself from a decade of chronic pain including Lyme Disease, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Hypothyroidism, Heavy Metals and much more exhausting every doctor in the country and Mayo Clinic; she shares her story of how Clean Eating and Detox saved her life and inspires you to Clean up your food, too. Amie lives in Manhattan, NYC where she cooks for a variety of clients including celebrities and people with busy lifestyles who enjoy healthy, organic, whole foods. Amie’s work appears on Martha Stewart, Fox News Health, WebMD, The Huffington Post, The Food Network, Glamour Magazine, Clean Eating Magazine, SHAPE Magazine, Prevention Magazine, PBS and many others. Visit Amie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus and Pinterest @TheHealthyApple.