Believe it or not, Christmas has never been my favorite holiday. As a kid, I was always partial to Halloween—not just for the candy, but more for the adventure of venturing out into the black night with your best friends and marauding all over town. As I’ve gotten older, Thanksgiving has enjoyed special prominence in my life for obvious reasons—the food, the gratitude, the family gathering around the table to partake in the county laid before us, the lack of adornment and focus on what truly matters. I wasn’t so into gifts as a kid, instead preferring to mow lawns or paint houses to pay for my own stuff. Or perhaps it was my parents who preferred that I work for my possessions and helped instill that in me. But that’s not to say Christmas wasn’t a big deal. It was.

I have to admit: There’s something special about the Christmas or holiday “spirit,” whatever that is. You can feel it in the air, and I’m not quite sure what’s behind it. All I know is that it exists.

A lot of you have asked what I’m doing for Christmas.

What I’m Giving

First of all, we’re not really doing gifts.* Certainly nothing big. In an age where you can hop on Amazon and have almost anything delivered to your door within a day’s time, doing so for someone else isn’t very exciting for anyone. Chances are, the person you’re giving the gift to does the same thing for himself or herself on a regular basis.

*Except for my granddaughter, of course. It is my responsibility to spoil her even before she’s all that aware of the concept of a “gift.”

If we are doing gifts, we’re trying to stick to smaller, local stuff you can’t easily get elsewhere. Or meaningful books. If you can’t tell, I haven’t done any shopping yet.** Always wait til the last minute. I do.

**Except for my granddaughter.

If you’re interested in some gift ideas, I have a post for you.

What I’m Eating

The food. It always comes back to the food, the dinners, the feasts. This is a human constant across culture and epoch. People love getting together over a good meal.

I’m cooking a goose my friend shot and saved for me. This is something I’ve always wanted to attempt in the kitchen. I’ve had goose before, and duck plenty of times, but I’ve never roasted a goose.

We have a goose recipe on the blog that’s great. Never done it myself, but did eat it when employees were trialing the recipe. Since the weather isn’t exactly conducive to blasting the oven up to 450 degrees, I’m going to do a hybrid method using most of the same spices in the recipe.

First, I’ll brine the goose for a day or two. Basic salt water brine, probably with a few orange peels thrown in.

Next, I’ll steam the bird to render some of the fat out, making sure to save it for later (there’s nothing like roasted potatoes or vegetables in waterfowl fat). Otherwise, you either lose the fat or it explodes all over the place. Plus the method I’m using to roast the goose would be disastrous without rendering some of the fat.

Next, I spatchcock the bird, removing the back bone and splaying the bird out flat for easier, faster cooking.

Then I grill it over coals. I start with the bird skin facing up with the coals piled up on the opposite side of the grill. Put the cover on and let it roast indirectly. This doesn’t just cook the bird but also dries out the skin.

After the bird is just about done (which I confirm by grabbing a drumstick and gently jostling it; when the leg is loose and the juices run clear it’s about ready), I flip it over, skin-side down, directly over the coals to crisp up for a few minutes. This is my basic method for grilling chickens and turkeys. I haven’t confirmed that it will work for a goose but I don’t see why it wouldn’t. (If I’m making a fatal mistake, let me know in the comments.)

Besides, just in case, I’ll have something else waiting in the wings: a lamb leg. Sometimes I do bone-in, but this time will be boneless.

This is always a hit. It’s really hard to mess up.

I get the lamb leg out on the cutting board. I butterfly the leg, so it’s all laid out flat. This involves slicing into some of the muscle tissue and also slamming it flat with the palm of my hand to get everything as flat as I can. It’s not going to be smooth, but the general trend will be a big flat roast.

Coat it with garlic, lemon zest, chili flakes, pepper, salt, avocado oil or olive oil, fresh thyme, rosemary, bay leaves on all sides. Be liberal with your seasonings. Then squeeze some lemon juice all over it. Allow to rest in fridge for at least two hours.

Then I grill it like a big steak over coals. I sear it on all sides and then cook it on indirect heat until I’m happy with the temperature. You can even grill it to start and transfer to the oven to finish, if you need the room on the grill.

What I’m Doing

The normal urge during the holidays is to sit, to vegetate, to do nothing. It’s cold, you’ve eaten too much and drank even more. Let’s just sit around, right?

Hell no.

Christmas is my cue to move. To take walks, to exercise, to explore my surroundings, to swim, to paddle-board, to play Ultimate frisbee, to ride my fat tire bike over the sand. And the beauty of Miami is that I can do all these things no matter the season.

So that’s what I’m doing.

Part of the reason is because I’m eating more than usual. Not because I need to “burn those calories,” but because I need to do something with all that excess energy. When I eat extra calories, my body turns that into energy. Energy that I can actually use. Energy that I must use. That’s actually the mark of good metabolic flexibility: Turning extra calories into subjectively potent energy that must be burned. Of course, not all energy is fungible. The same thing wouldn’t be happening if I were eating tons of seed oils and refined sugar. That would just make be bloated and sluggish.

We’ll have family coming in — my son Kyle from Germany, my daughter Devyn, her husband Jerry, and their daughter (and our granddaughter) JJ, plus my wife’s parents and sister — and her husband and daughter (my granddaughter), so we’ll be getting lots of walks, lots of beach time. I may even try to convince my daughter to let me take JJ out on a paddle-board or at least kayak.

I’ve been thinking about the winter solstice. Apparently it’s going to be a special one this year, where Saturn and Jupiter align and appear to form an incredibly bright and prominent “star” in the sky. So, what is the solstice?

The shortest day and longest night of the year. It’s the bottom. The pits. No where else to go but up. From dark to less dark and eventually light. And for a society like ours immersed in artificial light and modern technology, that might not register or matter. Heck, most people don’t even notice it anymore other than to complain about time changes. But just imagine what that must have meant for an ancient society. For every ancient society — and it was just about all of them, because most ancient populations had and still have winter solstice celebrations. It meant the days would finally start trending longer. The chickens would start laying more eggs. It meant the growing season was approaching. It meant you could spend more time outdoors without things turning pitch black. You wouldn’t have to burn as much fuel to stay warm and keep light. All in all, the winter solstice meant the “worst” was over and better times were ahead.

I’m not sure if you can replicate the effect it had on ancient populations. You can never quite go back, right?

But I wouldn’t be surprised if the significance of the solstice is somehow ingrained in our DNA, even if we don’t intellectually consider it or even think of it. It still matters. So this year, I’m gathering everyone around a fire. Most of the ancient solstice celebrations involved a bonfire of some sort. I’ll just sit there and contemplate the sky, the world, my relationships, and life itself. This has been a wild year for most people on this planet, and things are looking up from here.

What are you doing for the holidays? What are you eating? What are you gifting? What are you thinking about?

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mom and daughter making christmas cookies togetherLet’s not beat around the holly bush: the holiday season just isn’t the same this year. You could get down in the dumps about it OR you could get creative about finding ways to celebrate with friends and family. Honestly, it’s ok to do both. Grieve the ambiguous losses we’re all experiencing this season while also looking for ways to make the best of what we have.

We might be apart from loved ones, but we can still be together in spirit. One thing I’ve realized this year is how often physical closeness is used as a proxy for bonding. That is to say, people get together in the same physical space and call that “bonding,” when all they’re really doing is being near one another. Being in the same room is great—oh, how I miss it—but by itself, it doesn’t generate emotional closeness or deep connection. Nobody is making lasting memories simply by virtue of watching a football game and eating turkey together.

This year, we have an opportunity to get out of old holiday ruts and try something different, maybe even start new traditions. Somebody needs to put the ho-ho-ho back in the holidays, and I nominate you. Here are some ideas you can put into action:

Things You and Your Loved Ones Can Create Together

Family members or friends all contribute, and the final project is something special to keep for years to come. You’ll learn more about your family members and end up with a record of special memories or family favorites. As a bonus, these ideas are all free!

Shared photo album

Set up a shared album in any of the many online photo album tools. Invite family members to submit their favorite family photos from years past, or ask for old holiday photos specifically.

Level up: Optionally, arrange the photos chronologically. Do a family Zoom session and view the slideshow together, pausing to reminisce and tell stories about the scenes from the images.

Family cookbook

Everyone submits their favorite recipes. A shared Google doc will do the trick, but it’s even better if someone collects the recipes and arranges them in a pdf. Free tools like Canva make it simple to lay out a basic cookbook, which everyone then gets as a holiday gift. You could even have them spiral bound and sent to folks who prefer hard copies.

Level up: Host a Zoom party where everyone cooks a special family recipe together or a virtual dinner party where everyone prepares recipes from the cookbook at home.

Memory book

Same idea as the cookbook, but everyone submits their favorite memories of holidays past or recounts the wildest family legends.

Level up: Have one person collect the memories and put the stories in a slideshow to be shared during a virtual get-together.

Music playlist

Nominate an “emcee” to collect everyone’s favorite songs (holiday or otherwise) and create a family playlist in Spotify, for example.

Level up: Everyone agrees to play the playlist at the same time—maybe while opening presents or during a specific meal—so that you’re sharing an experience even if you’re not together.

2020 time capsule

You might think you won’t want to remember 2020, but when enough time passes, you may feel differently. Anyway, future generations will be fascinated by what we went through. Create a family time capsule with items that are emblematic of this year. Masks, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper are a given, but what else sticks out for your family? Did you play a specific game over and over, or maybe you binge-watched certain shows together? Perhaps you took memorable hikes or did a special staycation. Put in items that remind you of those. Have each family member write down their memories, positive and negative, and seal them in an envelope to be opened later.

Other Things You Can Do Over Zoom

Happy hour

Pajama party

Ugly sweater party

Sing-along, karaoke (yes, you can do Zoom karaoke!)

Virtual painting party: Many of the “paint and sip” establishments are closed in person but host virtual events.

Virtual cookie or gingerbread house decorating: Everyone gets their own supplies. Have prizes for most creative, most festive, or most decorations on one cookie.

Get thee to Etsy! Etsy has loads of downloadable virtual holiday-themed games (like this) or other games designed to play over Zoom. There are also a variety of online games that you can play remotely. Maybe Great-Grandma wants to learn how to play Among Us?

Other Ideas

Cookie exchange, ornament exchange, or secret Santa. If you’re local, leave goodies on the porch, or do secret Santa by mail if you’re separated geographically. Maybe this year you instead do “letters from Santa” where everyone writes a heartfelt letter of appreciation to someone else in the family or friend circle.

Family walk or 5k. If you can get together safely with local friends and family members, that’s one option, but most races have gone virtual this year anyway. You can “host” an event where everyone goes out and completes a 5k on their own one morning. Convene on Zoom for celebratory post-race cocoa. If you want to go all-out, create print-at-home race bibs, custom shirts, and/or medals.

Attitude is Everything

None of these options will suffice if you go into the holidays with the attitude that they are already ruined. No question, it’s disappointing that we can’t have our normal holidays this year. However, we can choose to embrace the opportunities we do have. Just as many of us found unexpected silver linings with the lockdowns (No commute! More quality time with our kids!), there may be silver linings here too. For example, you may “get together” with more family members than usual since everyone’s calling in virtually.

Keep an open mind, and don’t expect this year to be subpar. I guarantee that focusing on the negatives will ruin your holiday spirit. Make a conscious effort to get excited about trying something new. Don’t be surprised if these turn into some of your most precious holiday memories!

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The post How to Really Bond with Your Family This Holiday Season appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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gift guide 2020People rag on the holiday season for being too commercial. You can certainly go too far in that direction, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with giving meaningful gifts to people you care about. In fact, that’s one of the kindest acts a person can do. Today’s Primal gift guide does not consist of pointless consumerist pap that your giftees will enjoy for a day or two until the newness wears off and they move on to the next thing to spend their money on. These are useful gifts. Gifts that enhance life, that further our relationships, that expand our culinary horizons, that compel us to go out and experience the world. There’s no shame in celebrating the holidays in this manner, because these are good gifts given out of love, fellowship, and friendship—all of which embody the true meaning of the season.


That said, let’s get to the gifts!

Note: I’ve broken these down into Gifts for Men, Gifts for Women, and Gifts for Kids, but don’t let that tie you down. I happen to personally enjoy many of the gifts mentioned below in the “women” and “kids” sections.

Gifts for Men

Camp Chef Lumberjack Over the Fire Grill 

A large sturdy steel grill with folding legs, so you can place it directly over the fire to cook right on the grill or use the grill as a stand for your pan or griddle. I’ve used these types of grills to cook fresh fish in the sand over a bed of coals as the sun dips down below the horizon, and there’s nothing like it. Anyone who loves to grill or cook in the great outdoors needs this.

Ken Onion Knife Sharpener

Ever go to farmer’s market and there’s the knife sharpener with a Honda generator going and his belt sander cranking out razor edges on santoku blades that haven’t been sharpened in 5 years? There’s a smaller, consumer version available known as the Ken Onion knife sharpener. I don’t have one myself but know a few people who swear by them. They don’t provide the meditative effects of spending 45 minutes on the sharpening stone, but the learning curve is quite moderate. You get in with a dull knife and out with a sharp one in a couple minutes.

Butcher Box Free Steak Pack

In case you aren’t aware, Butcher Box delivers grass-fed beef, pasture-raised pork and chicken, and wild caught fish to your doorstep. This is meat and fish whose provenance you can be assured of. What could be better than that? I for one am a huge fan of high quality meat appearing at my house.

It’s also the perfect gift for any meat lover. And if you use this link, you get to add on 2 NY strips and 4 top sirloin steaks for free to whatever package you order.

Adaptogenic Calm

Men, you need this. If you’re anything like I was—a driven, type A personality, someone who accepts stress even when objectively I shouldn’t be involved and certainly aren’t culpable—you need to get a handle on your stress. You need to learn how. And that’s what Adaptogenic Calm does: it trains your body to adapt to the stress. It helps calm down your stress response system so you’re not overreacting to the little things that don’t matter. This allows you to respond to the stressors that do matter. Adaptogenic Calm is not a blanket snuffing out stress no matter the source. It helps you adapt in either direction.

Gifts for Women

Pique Ode to Tea gift box

Pique tea crystals distill the essence of tea leaves through a unique proprietary process known as “cold brew crystallization” that maximizes the extraction of antioxidant compounds and makes your job as tea quaffer easier. Because let’s face it: actual tea is a fickle, finicky beast. Each tea requires specific temperatures and steeping times to extract the good stuff while preserving the taste. The beauty of this product is that you don’t have mess around with all that if you don’t want to.

Included with the broad selection of tea crystals is a music box that plays Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” every time you open it, along with a guide containing ancient and hidden secrets for unlocking your full potential as a human.

Breville Control Grip Immersion Blender 

I’m sure better, stronger immersion blenders exist for more money, but I have never met this blender’s equal in the home kitchen. It’s not inexpensive by any means. It is effective, though, and well worth the money. Cheaper immersion blenders require liquid to start. This does not. You can make some incredible whipped butternut squash, for example, just by adding a touch of cream and butter to steamed squash and putting the blender to work.

Earthing or Grounding Sandals 

groundingGrounding is legit. I don’t know exactly what’s happening, but there’s something special about connecting yourself to the earth—ideally barefoot on bare ground. However, going barefoot isn’t always in the cards. Sometimes you need shoes. Sometimes society expects you to wear them. And so the Grounded Athlete, a one-man operation, has created a Tarahumara-style sandal with a piece of copper in the sole that interfaces with the earth and connects to silver threading that runs through the strap attached to your foot. You can hike and run and train in these things while staying connected.

Support a small business doing something important and meaningful. Connect to the earth even when you’re shod. Try Gaia Grounding Sandals.

Primal Connection book

primal connection book coverOf all the books I’ve written, this one sold the least. And yet it’s my favorite one of all time, and it’s the one that generates the most heart-felt responses from readers. Those who did buy it and read it were almost all affected. It helped them re-evaluate the way they’re living (not just eating and exercising). The way they practice self-care and gratitude. The way they form and maintain relationships, professional and romantic alike. Most importantly, it has helped thousands have a better relationship with themselves—because that’s the relationship modernity has fractured more than anything else.

Gifts for Kids

Stock Tank

Growing up my friend had a giant stock tank at his house that his dad used to wash the dogs and we used as a “pool.” Hey, when you’re six years old a stock tank feels like a swimming pool in the summer. This is one of the weirdest gifts, and no kid will probably ask Santa for one, but if you have the room for it the stock tank will quickly become a favorite. Don’t ask me why. It just works. Get as big as you can handle.

Amber Reading Lights

I have fond memories of sneaking books and a flashlight under the covers after lights out, reading adventure stories late into the night. But man, I look back and shudder at what that was doing to my circadian rhythm. Luckily, there are better options for kids who want to trade sleep for trips to the world of literature: Amber clip-on reading lights. These clip on to the book and emit a warm, amber-colored candle-like glow that is easy on your circadian rhythm and has minimal impacts to melatonin production. Kids need to read but they also need to sleep. This let’s them do both.

Paleo Girl book

I’ve raised a boy and a girl up from childhood through adolescence and on into adulthood. I have to say, the teen years for my daughter Devyn was probably the toughest bit of parenting I’ve ever had. It wasn’t bad, it turned out great, but it wasn’t easy. There’s a lot going on during those years. I wish I’d had this book, Leslie Klenke’s Paleo Girl, on hand to at the very least hand it over to her to read. I consider it an invaluable resource.

Oh, and they’re great for adults, too.

What about you, folks? What Primal gifts are you currently coveting? What are you giving out this year? Let us know in the comment section!

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keto snacks busy momBefore I had kids, I thought I’d be that mom who cooks and bakes endlessly with her kids. After all, I enjoy being in the kitchen, so why wouldn’t I want my sweet offspring by my side as I lovingly prepare meals for the family.

Ah, to be that young and idealistic again. Every year we get busier and more pressed for time, and—in my experience, at least—cooking with your kids makes everything take three to eleven times longer. Gone are my ideas of being Betty-Crocker-meets-Mary-Poppins in the kitchen. I have new priorities now:

  • I need to be time-efficient.
  • I want to feed myself and my kids nutritious foods.
  • I refuse to prepare separate meals or snacks for kids and adults.
  • My kids should learn their way around the kitchen, which means giving them age-appropriate tasks.

Most days we manage dinner together, but the rest of the day is a whirlwind. Snacking is something of a contentious topic in the ancestral community. Sincere kudos if your family can stick to set meal times with perhaps one planned snack interlude. Realistically, though, snacking happens here. Rather than fight it, I try to have quick, healthy options that check my four boxes above.

These are some of my top picks. Add yours in the comments section.


Instantly download your free Guide to Cooking Fats and Oils


Dips & Spreads

Veggies with ranch dressing. Use raw vegetables like celery, carrots, snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower, and mini sweet bell peppers, or leftover roasted asparagus or Brussels sprouts. To make a thicker dip, mix the ranch with sour cream to get the consistency you want.

Frozen chicken skewers (I get mine at Costco) dipped in barbecue sauce or a quick peanut sauce. This one uses tahini, or you can use almond butter instead.

Guacamole with raw vegetables or pork rinds. To uplevel the experience, try this recipe for Bacon Guacamole with Cheddar Chips.

Apples, pears, or celery with nut butter.

Hummus with veggies. Classic hummus is easy to make or buy pre-made if you eat chickpeas, but you can also make delicious legume-free versions like this Roasted Cauliflower & Macadamia Nut Hummus.

How kids can help:

  • Wash and cut raw vegetables and fruit with supervision and depending on age.
  • Pour dipping sauces into ramekins.
  • Smash avocados for guacamole.
  • Run the food processor for hummus.
  • Arrange the food on plates.

Stuff You Can Eat with Toothpicks

Cubed melon wrapped in prosciutto.

Caprese skewers: cherry tomato + pearl mozzarella + basil leaf. Optional Italian or balsamic dressing to dip.

Meatballs, like these kid-approved Teriyaki Meatballs.

Steak “salad” bites. Leftover cubed steak topped with a few leaves of baby spinach and cheddar or blue cheese. Dip in BBQ sauce or dressing of choice. For the grown-ups, add Quick Pickled Onions.

How kids can help:

  • Cube melon or steak.
  • Wrap prosciutto around melon.
  • Assist with cooking meatballs. The steps are easy enough for even young kids, supervised.
  • Assemble the skewers.
  • Pour dipping sauces into ramekins.

Charcuterie Plates

Charcuterie plates are just meat, crackers, cheese, produce —stuff you eat every day, but it’s the presentation that counts. There’s a reason the charcuterie plates were trending all over social media this year. Artfully piling a bunch of food on a platter or cutting board feels fancy and abundant. The nice thing about charcuterie plates is that you can put them out, and everyone can help themselves to the parts they like. It’s a great way to introduce new foods in a non-pressuring way.

All you need is any combination of the following:

  • Crunchy stuff: grain-free crackers, cheese crisps, pork rinds.
  • Cheese: any kind, sliced or cubed.
  • Meats: cured meats, smoked salmon, sliced leftover steak or chicken.
  • Nuts.
  • Vegetables: any raw, pickled, or roasted.
  • Fruits: olives, berries, cubed melon, grapes, apples, pears, persimmons, figs, dried fruits.
  • Dips: guacamole, chutney, etc.

How kids can help:

  • Slice/cut cheese.
  • Wash and cut vegetables and fruit.
  • Spoon dips into ramekins.
  • Arrange food on platter.

NOTE: You can also adapt this idea into bento boxes. Have your kids help you fill compartments with these same types of ingredients. Put them in the fridge to grab for snacks or on-the-go mini-meals throughout the week.

Greek Yogurt Parfaits & Smoothie Bowls

These are filling options that older kids can make themselves—really more a small meal than a snack. All you need is Greek yogurt, protein or collagen powder if making smoothies, and toppings. Some of our favorites are:

  • Grain-free granola
  • Hemp or chia seeds
  • Cacao nibs
  • Shredded coconut
  • Fresh or frozen berries
  • Pomegranate seeds

How kids can help:

  • Assist with making homemade granola.
  • Putting ingredients in the blender and pushing the buttons.
  • Adding toppings.

Prepare-ahead Options

With a little bit of work at the beginning of the week, you can stock your fridge with feel-good snacks to which your kids can help themselves.

  • Egg muffins, customized with whatever ingredients each family member prefers.
  • Hard-boiled eggs.
  • Chia pudding.
  • Primal-friendly muffins, either sweet like these Keto Blueberry Muffins or savory like these Bacon & Cheddar Keto Muffins.
  • Paleo pancakes or waffles can be frozen then heated up in a toaster oven or microwave. Add protein powder to the batter for extra protein.

How kids can help:

  • Chop vegetables for egg muffins.
  • Assemble and stir chia pudding, and put lids on jars.
  • Stir muffin and pancake batter.
  • Crack eggs.

Ready in Less Than A Minute

  • Sliced meat wrapped around string cheese
  • Can of sardines, optionally mashed with avocado. Maybe a hard sell for older kids, but you’d be surprised how younger kids will gobble them up.
  • Jerky, pemmican.
  • Primal kitchen keto bars.
  • Handful of nuts + dark chocolate.
  • Half an avocado with Tajín or everything bagel seasoning.
  • Pickles.

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when to start eating baby foodBabies can’t live off milk forever. Eventually they must join the rest of us in eating solid food. But how should it happen?

The baby food industry has everyone fooled. You don’t need them. There’s actually more research that goes into commercial pet food than commercial baby food. For all its faults, dog and cat kibble at least has to adhere to certain nutrient standards. Commercial baby food is just random stuff blended up with enough pear or banana to taste sweet. And I’m not saying there’s something wrong with pears or bananas or green beans or whatever else they blend up and throw in those pouches. I’m just saying it’s not enough. You can do so much better with a little thought and innovation.

It’s not as hard as people think. I mean, these are people we’re feeding. Small people, but people. If you can feed yourself, you can feed a kid. If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably feeding yourself nutrient-dense whole foods. Well, do the same thing for your baby only in smaller portions and using different textures. Because there are limitations:

Babies starting solids generally don’t have teeth.

Babies starting solids are only used to drinking fluids. They have to get used to an entirely different state of matter.

Babies starting solids have yet to fulfill their genetic intelligence potential. In other words, they are completely useless.

So you can’t just throw a steak down in front of your seven month old and be done with it. You need a little more care. Here’s when and how to do it:

When to Start Solids

A good rule of thumb is to start a baby on solids when he or she begins showing interest in solid food. Don’t force it on them. Let it develop organically. However, don’t offer any solids before six months regardless of interest. Exclusive breast milk (or formula, if that’s what you’re doing) is that vital.

Some people will recommend that you supplement a “slow-growing” breastfed infant with solid food at four months or so, but I think that’s a mistake. According to the WHO’s birth charts, breastfed babies grow more “slowly” but this is normal. They grow as they’re supposed to grow, not as the solid foods are dictating. In its own FAQ, the CDC recommends against using the CDC growth chart for breastfed babies and admits that the WHO chart shows how “infants should grow rather than simply do grow.”

6 Developmental Signs of Readiness for Solids

Your baby may be ready for solids if she:

  1. Is at least six months of age
  2. Can sit up in a high chair unassisted
  3. Has doubled her birth weight
  4. Has lost the tongue-thrust reflex (if she doesn’t automatically spit out food placed on her tongue)
  5. Shows interest in what you’re eating
  6. Opens her mouth when food comes near her face

Tip: don’t start solids if your baby has a cold. Stuffy noses can make it hard to coordinate breathing and moving food around the mouth, and it may alter the taste of foods, turning your baby off to something she might otherwise like.

She’ll Have What You’re Having

You can drop a few hundred bucks on the infant food machine and refillable pouches and spend hours each week manufacturing your own goops and purees, or you could let your kid nibble on what you’re having for dinner. After all, you’re eating good, nutrient-dense food yourself, right? It’s probably perfect for your baby.

Don’t let me dissuade you from making your own goop. That works for many parents and it’s a great way to fine-tune exactly what your baby is getting. But it’s not the only way.

Start Small

Early solids are complementary, they cannot replace breast milk. Always nurse or feed milk before offering solids; that way your baby doesn’t fill up on food and reject the milk he needs. This also auto-regulates how much food the baby will eat.

Keep Nursing

Breastmilk isn’t just food. It’s also rich in immunoregulatory components that shape and guide the infant’s immune system. Feeding breastmilk as you introduce solid foods (in the same meal) will help your baby learn to tolerate the foods and reduce the risk of allergies.

The Perfect First Food

Here’s the official line:

Give rice cereal as the first complementary food. Make sure it’s fortified with iron, because iron-fortified rice cereal is the only way for an infant human to obtain the iron he desperately needs to grow and thrive.

Does that sound ridiculous to anyone else?

You know what else has iron? Meat. Sardines. Egg yolks. Liver. There are hundreds of foods with more and better iron than rice cereal. If a food has to be fortified with certain nutrients to become suitable in an infant’s early complementary diet, it’s not the perfect first food. Turns out that if you had to choose just one, meat is probably the most important early complementary food in an infant’s diet. In one landmark study, meat-eating breastfed infants had larger heads, better zinc statuses, and better behavior at 12 months than cereal-eating breastfed infants.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22624294/‘>2https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17592956/‘>1 Fat adults experience street harassment and job discrimination.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6311448/‘>3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4381543/‘>5

Of course we want our children to grow up healthy and happy, liked by their peers, and accepted by society. We’ll jump at the chance to help them avoid pain whenever possible. Parents who operate from a place of fear usually try to fit their kids to the cultural ideal, which is just as unrealistic for most kids as it is for adults. The better, more sustainable option is to operate from a place of love and acceptance, helping your kid feel good in their current body.

What if I am Really Concerned About My Child’s Health?

If you are genuinely concerned that your child is developing unhealthy habits, please seek out expert guidance from childhood nutrition and movement experts who are also versed in childhood eating disorders. A lot of eating disorders start in childhood when well-intentioned parents put their kids on diet and exercise programs in the name of health.

Body Image is Always a Work in Progress

Prepare yourself for many bumps in the road. As kids grow and their bodies change, they will come up against new challenges. Their peers’ bodies will change at different rates and in different ways than theirs. Even if you try to innoculate them early, they will confront unreasonable beauty standards and diet talk as they engage more with media and as their friends do the same.

You’ll be working on “body stuff” for as long as you parent. Keeping the lines of communication open is one of the best ways to help your kid navigate their way through tricky body image issues. Let them know they can come to you with their insecurities and fears, confident that you will listen without judgment.

Give Yourself the Same Gift of Working on a Healthy Body Image

No parent looks down at their precious newborn and thinks, “I can’t wait to pass all my hang-ups and insecurities on to you.” Somehow, we believe we can instill a healthy body image in our kids, then turn around and hate on our own bodies. That’s some magical thinking right there.

You have to walk the talk. Do you trust your body’s signals and allow yourself to respond with food, rest, or movement as needed? Do you move for pleasure or punishment? Do you speak to yourself with kind words or harsh criticism?

Put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else, right?

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parental burnout parent overwhelmLast year, an article in the New York Times described “The Relentlessness of Modern Parenting.” That word struck me at the time and has stuck with me ever since. Speaking as a mom of two, the expectations and pressures weighing on parents can indeed feel relentless.

It’s not enough to keep our children clothed and fed, get them to school, and take the occasional family vacation. Parents today should provide optimal nutrition from birth and ensure that kids have the best educational opportunities. We’re told to enroll them in sports, extracurriculars, and tutoring to give them a competitive edge for college, then we’re obliged to volunteer as assistant coach, snack mom, and classroom parent. By the way, you’re already saving money for college, right?

Don’t forget, we’re also in charge of arranging playdates, monitoring screen time, and searching Pinterest for unique birthday party ideas and fun hijinks for the Elf on the Shelf.

No wonder parents are succumbing to burnout.


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What is Parental Burnout?

For academics, the term parental burnout has a specific meaning. In 2018, Belgian researchers developed the Parental Burnout Assessment, which comprises four factors:https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/2167702619858430‘>2


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Risk Factors for Parental Burnout

Some of the factors that make a parent more vulnerable to burnout are:

  • Holding themselves to unrealistic standards
  • Difficult family situations due to socioeconomic pressures, strain with co-parents, or children with special health or developmental challenges, for example
  • Not wanting to be a parent in the first place
  • Lack of social support, not having a “village”
  • Personality traits like neuroticism, general lack of coping skills

Is Parental Burnout an Especially Modern Phenomenon?

Since research into parental burnout is fairly new, there’s no longitudinal data that speaks directly to this. Intuitively, though, it feels like parents today must experience more burnout than previous generations.

Parenting is continually evolving. Both mothers and fathers spend considerably more time interacting with their kids than they did 50 years ago.https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/parenting-in-america/‘>4 The financial cost of raising a child continues to rise. Social media presents a host of new challenges—cyberbullying, mommy wars, and FOMO, oh my!

More to the point, parents face social pressure to be constantly “on” like never before. Sociologists refer to this as intensive parenting, so named by Sharon Hays in her 1996 book The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood. Parents, especially mothers, are expected to invest heavily in their children, devoting nearly unlimited time, emotional energy, and money to parenting. Intensive parenting holds that parents are responsible for managing every aspect of kids’ lives, preventing all manner of potential harm, and ensuring the best possible outcomes for their children.

Clearly, these standards are unattainable for many—perhaps most—parents. In particular, wealth heavily impacts the types of opportunities parents can access for their kids and the amount of time they can devote to parenting. Yet parents across the spectrum endorse intensive parenting ideals.https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10826-019-01607-1‘>6 Not surprisingly, intensive parenting beliefs are associated with greater stress, depression, anxiety, and guilt for mothers.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5298986/‘>8 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6019475/‘>10 That doesn’t take into account extenuating circumstances such as having a child with chronic illness, which is known to increase parental stress.https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/9781137304612_2‘>12 https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/parenting-in-america/‘>14 At least one study found that mothers and fathers experience parental burnout at the same rate.https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11199-020-01121-5‘>16

Are Primal Parents Especially at Risk?

I’ve been going back and forth on this. On the one hand, isolation and lack of social support are huge risk factors for burnout, and parenting outside the norm can feel lonely. Repeatedly explaining—and defending—your choices to family members, pediatricians, teachers, and fellow parents can be exhausting, especially when they challenge you and call your parenting into question.

On the other hand, Primal parents may be more comfortable with the idea of free-range parenting—exempting ourselves from the pressures of intensive parenting and opting instead for a more relaxed, less “helicopter-y” style. For these parents, I’d expect burnout to be considerably lower.

Pandemic Burnout

Not to ignore the elephant in the room, parenting through a pandemic takes the notion of parental burnout to a whole other level. It’s terribly hard to rely on our villages while adhering to social distancing guidelines. The stress of trying to keep everyone safe, working from home, and carving out time for ourselves can become overwhelming.

Ironically, though, the pandemic and lockdowns probably alleviated burnout for some parents. We’ve been forced—or rather, given the opportunity—to slow down and spend more time with our kids. In a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association at the end of May, 82 percent of parents said they were grateful for this extra time.https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2014-35159-001‘>18 So, how about we all try to stop holding ourselves, and each other, to unrealistic standards that make us miserable, okay?

Stop parenting on social media

Another big one. Don’t spend valuable time and energy curating a parenting facade on social media. More importantly, stop following people who make you feel “less than” in comparison. You don’t need to compete with other parents to see whose kid is having the most magical childhood. Keep your eyes on your own paper.

Get help

You deserve to feel good about yourself as a parent, period. If you don’t, whether it’s because you are overwhelmed or need help developing effective parenting tools, don’t wait until you’re totally underwater. Ask for help now.

Burnout isn’t an inevitable consequence of modern parenting. Many parents shield themselves from the weight of the expectations and find everyday joy in raising their small humans. It’s not easy… but nothing about parenting is, is it?

I usually end by asking for feedback, but today I’d just like to offer a virtual high-five, fist bump, or hug to my fellow parents out there. Parenting is tough, but you’re tougher! You’ve got this.

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The post Parental Burnout: What to Do If You Feel Overwhelmed as a Parent appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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kids nature schoolAlmost no one’s happy with school these days. Kindergarteners are sitting in front of devices for 4-5 hours a day. Teens are dreading daily online meetings and getting prescriptions for “Zoom fatigue.” Some of this is growing pains—kids, teachers, and parents are being asked to completely change the way they do school on a moment’s notice, and change like that doesn’t come easily. But that’s not the only reason.

There just aren’t many great options left. Parents don’t want their kids stuck on the computer all day, nor do they want them in class masked up and unable to touch or play with their peers. There are big problems in every direction.

Change is in the air. People are fed up with the new way of doing things and realizing they don’t like the old way all that much either. I don’t have kids in school anymore, but I do have a grandkid who will be in school soon. Besides, everyone who lives in a country has a stake in the school system of that country. The schools shape the people who become the adults who shape the nation. That affects everyone. Something needs to change.

If I could wave a wand, how would I change school?

Here’s what I’d like to see:

Later start times

8:30, 9 AM. This would give kids extra sleep. Everyone needs sleep, but kids need it more than anyone. It helps them consolidate memories and recently learned skills.http://www.cdc.gov/features/school-start-times/‘>2 for schools. as kids especially need a lot of sleep. Kids are staying up later and later than ever before. Particularly in studies using teen subjects, delaying school start times by 25-60 minutes can increase total sleep duration by 25-75 minutes per weeknight.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23834604‘>4 This is a travesty, not only because recess (and PE) increase physical activity and step count, but because physical activity improves learning and reduces acting out. In one Texas grade school, implementing four 15-minute recesses a day reduced bullying and tattling, improved focus and eye-contact, and even stopped the neurotic pencil chewing teachers were noticing among their students. The kids are testing ahead of schedule despite less actual classroom time and test prep. Recess improves academic performance, and physical play improves subsequent learning capacity. Give a kid a 15 minute play break for every 45 minutes of book learning and he’ll learn more than the kid who studies an hour straight.

Recess needs to be longer. The absolute daily minimum is 45 minutes (spread across 1-3 sessions including lunch), though I’d like to see the entire day spent outside with movement interlaced with learning/lessons.

Hold classes outdoors

The benefits are immense and irrefutable:

  • Kids with ADHD can focus better after exposure to green spaces.
  • Kids who frequently spend time outdoors get sick less often and show better motor skills and physical coordination.http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272494401902415‘>6
  • For kids dealing with stress at home (who isn’t?), nature can act as a buffer.http://rer.sagepub.com/content/76/1/1.abstract‘>8 Instead of giving five year olds an hour of paperwork to complete or 15 year olds four hours of work, give them open-ended suggestions.

    “Read a book with your parents and tell the class about your favorite part of the story.”

    “Find 7 leaves, each from a different tree, and bring them to class.”

    “Start a business. Come up with a business plan, a product, and marketing materials.”

    Enabling deep work and deep learning during the school day would make most “busy” homework pointless.

    Bring back “tracks”

    Only don’t limit these tracks to “academics.” It’s not that you split the kids up by “smart” or “dumb” or “advanced” and “behind.” You allow the kids to establish their own track based on interest and aptitude. You get more specific with the tracks.

    Someone wants to just do math all day? Let them focus on that.

    Someone shows promise as an artist? Let them draw and paint to their heart’s content.

    Someone’s obsessed with video games? Let them learn to make their own.

    Obviously, even a math-obsessed whiz kid should also read great literature, but I’m not sure the math whiz kid needs to be writing essays on “Brave New World.” Simply reading it is probably enough.

    More doing and playing

    Humans learn best by doing. Everyone accepts that we learn languages best by speaking it or being thrown into a foreign country, not by reading language lessons. But learning through doing works for everything. Learning the fundamentals matters, but only if you also practice them. I learned to write by reading and aping other writers. This even works in subjects like math. One American educator, Benezet, showed that children who delayed formal math instruction in favor of natural math instruction (doing) until 8th grade quickly caught up to and outperformed kids taught the traditional way.

    You could very well teach simple arithmetic by playing card games like Blackjack or Addition War or Subtraction War.

    You could teach (or reinforce) grammar by playing MadLibs. Or just giving kids cool things to read.

    What else?

    More trades

    Don’t just bring back the old woodshop and metalshop. Introduce full-blown apprenticeship programs. Paid ones.

    • Plumbing
    • Masonry
    • Carpentry
    • Electrician
    • Agriculture
    • Automotive
    • And so on

    Name a profession and you can probably figure out an apprenticeship program. Heck, this already exists in many states. Check out the listings for California apprenticeships for an idea of what’s possible. Many high schools can even set this up. I bet there are guidance counselors who currently do it, or have. But is it the norm? No. It should be.

    Lots of kids would really benefit.

    Teach basic competencies

    There are basic physical skills everyone should learn.

    • Swimming
    • Self defense
    • First aid
    • Physical fitness (running, sprinting, climbing, strength standards)

    And other “non-physical” core competencies:

    • Budgeting
    • Cooking
    • Cleaning
    • Laundry
    • Bill paying/taxes

    Home economics, in other words.

    Mixed ages

    Segregation by age makes little evolutionary sense (until the public school system arose, children had historically hung out with other children of all ages). As a kid, whenever we weren’t in school I’d rove around my neighborhood in age-desegregated packs. It was all very fluid. We’d have the bigger kids leading the way, the smaller ones tagging along, and because everyone pretty much lived in the same place their whole lives, kids would graduate into different roles and new kids would always be coming up in the ranks. Without age mixing children miss out on many benefits:https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevent-type-2/type-2-kids.html‘>2 before they even move out of the house.” I realize that sounds harsh, but honestly, you know all the fake ingredients, sugar, and additives that manufacturers put into overly processed packaged foods. You won’t eat it, so why the heck would you feed it to your kids? Okay, rant over.

    Anatomically speaking, we all have the same taste buds. Unfortunately, if your kiddos have spent most of their days being spoon fed something that comes out of a brightly colored box, how easy is it going to be for them to choose different foods? Not very. It’s kind of like when you first started eating Primally. The cravings. The longing for your old friend, fast food. The preference for salty, sugary, and crunchy snacks. Then, little by little, you started to notice that when you ate better, you felt better. Same goes for your kids.

    Can You Change a Picky Eater’s Preferences?

    There have been a ton of studies on this topic, and you’ll be happy to know that the answer is a definitive YES— you can change a picky eater’s preferences.Research done by Yen Li Chuand Paul Veueglers from the University of Albertahttps://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0195666301904829‘>4 Just some food for thought…

    2. Time it right

    You obviously don’t want to feed your kids when they’re not hungry, but waiting ‘til they’re starving, grumpy, and feeling the effects of a drastic blood sugar dip will make them less receptive to eating what’s on their plate. Time it right and you’ll be more apt to get picky eaters onboard with healthier choices.

    3. Be understanding

    While we all have the same taste buds, some people do have a heightened sensitivity to bitter and sour foods. This could be genetically based or due to years of eating a highly processed diet. Regardless, it’s important to understand that your kids might not jump at the chance to scarf down a plate of wild caught salmon and asparagus. At least not right away.

    4. Pair new foods with familiar flavors

    Studies show that you can trick pickier palates by pairing flavors they prefer with new ones. In one experiment, researchers gave kids sweetened vegetables a number of times. When asked to taste and rate veggies in their natural state afterward, they reported liking the unsweetened versions more than they did originally.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14702019‘>6

    8. Get kids involved

    As I mentioned above, kids who help out in the kitchen have a greater interest in eating healthier foods. So, look through recipes together, chop veggies together, and have them set the table. Being a part of the prep process gets kids’ curiosities piqued, which makes them more interested in participating in the end result — eating dinner.

    9. Keep it simple

    I’m not a fan of fussy meals anyway, so I always recommend keeping things simple regardless of who’s at the table. Remember that sometimes kids aren’t being picky, they just prefer simple and separate foods. Instead of serving up a complex flavor-filled recipe, keep it plain and simply prepared without a lot of sauces or seasonings.

    Wondering what to do with your picky eater?

    The main idea here is to take the stress out of making healthy food choices for your family. That means stop forcing, worrying, controlling, restricting, or walking on eggshells around your kids. Make it less of a battle and more of a fun, engaging experience. After all, no one chooses to be a picky eater. They’re not trying to make dinnertime a daily struggle. You just have to use the right strategies. Keep in mind that your kids’ eating habits won’t change overnight, but they will change. Just remember these 9 tips:

    • Don’t force it
    • Time it right
    • Be understanding
    • Pair new foods with familiar flavors
    • Walk the talk
    • Avoid being too strict
    • Try new things
    • Get kids involved
    • Keep it simple

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    The post How to Get a Picky Eater to Try New Foods appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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