Banish the Beige Food Diet (please)

Even though we’re told to eat a rainbow, in my role as a Nutritional Therapist, I often see babies, toddlers and children on a beige food diet suffering with many different and often easily reversible health conditions.

The beige food diet tends to look like this:

Breakfast – toast or cereal
Snack – crackers, breadsticks, blueberries
Lunch – pizza, pitta or sandwich, cucumber
Dinner – pasta with cheese, tomatoes

Although there may be a smattering of fruit and veg offered on the side, if you take a closer look, you can see that the main ingredient in this style of diet is wheat.

Over the last ten years ‘wheat’ or rather the protein ‘gluten’ in wheat has got a very bad press, and the emergence of ‘gluten free’ craze has taken over many food magazines, recipe books, online blogs and supermarket aisles. (More on why I hate this craze here soon).

Why might this be?

For over 10,000 years we’ve cultivated wheat, stored it, milled it and eaten it in the form of bread. The traditional fermented sourdough preparation was nutritious, a staple food that kept generations from going hungry.

Then hit the Industrial Revolution.

Wheat needed to be stored for the millions of workers in the cities.

To do this, technologies were invented to turn healthful whole wheat into refined flour.

Milling removed the nutritious wheat kernel before bleaching and chemicals made it resistant to pests. 

As farming methods progressed, wheat was modified to grow quicker, dramatically increasing its yield.

In the last 50 years advances in genetics have given a boost to the gluten content of flour to create lighter fluffier bread.

Finally, in the 70’s an ingenious but infamous baking method known as the Chorleywood Bread process went mainstream.

This technique, which is still used today, allows flour to be transformed into the many deliciously soft baked items commonly found in supermarkets in just three and half hours.

However, instead of using the only three ingredients needed to make real bread (flour, water and salt), this method uses a chemical concoction of enzymes, additives, processing aids and fat that is now being proven to turn wheat protein (gluten) toxic.

Not only that, but due to a loophole in the system, the supermarkets don’t have to advertise the ingredients on the label.

This means many people are unwittingly eating bread they cannot digest. 

“How can a nation be called great if its bread tastes like kleenex?”

― Julia Child, Cook, Author & TV Personality.

Case Study (Frankie) – A Baby with Constipation

Challenge: Baby Frankie was a ten-month-old baby suffering with constipation. He would only poo every 3-4 days, and visibly strained in pain during the process.

On taking a detailed case history, I discovered that Frankie’s constipation had only really begun when he’d been weaned at five months old. I asked what foods Tina had started weaning with and what Frankie liked to eat. It turned out that Frankie was quite a fussy baby and his diet mainly consisted of what I would call the ‘beige food diet’, including toast, crackers, rice cakes, bread sticks, corn puffs, pasta, croissants, crumpets and cereal. Tina told me that Frankie loved finger food and just wouldn’t take to fruit and vegetable purees.

I explained that at five months old moving from easily digestible breastmilk to such dense, dry and hard foods would surely put a strain on Frankie’s immature digestive system and it was really no surprise that he was struggling to poo. Teaching him to eat a varied diet would not only improve his constipation but support his constantly maturing immune system so that he could grow into a robust and well child. (More on natural solutions for kids with constipation here)

Solution: Together we devised some yummy finger food recipes to increase the fibre, fruit and vegetable content of Frankie’s meals. These included pancakes made with whole grain oat flour, sweet potato and spinach. Lentil and brown rice pasta. Oatcakes and hummus. Mashed avocado on wholegrain rice cakes. Apple, ground almond and flaxseed muffins. Prune and pear smoothie (see recipe here).

I also encouraged Tina to try Frankie on a little chamomile tea; the mild bitter properties help move the gut, and increased fluids soften poo and lubricate the bowel. She could make ice lollies or fruit jellies if Frankie preferred to use his fingers. I also showed her how to do a tummy massage to help him ‘go’ and recommended the usual multivitamin and mineral, healthy omega-3 fat, and probiotic to help increase gut motility and his overall health.

It took a few weeks before Frankie began to accept some of the new foods, but mum Tina persisted, and his constipation soon resolved.

Years later I met Frankie as a schoolboy. He was a healthy five-year-old by then, and Tina told me he’d continued to enjoy a varied diet and never suffered any more digestive problems.

Not everyone needs to give up wheat completely

Simply being aware of how much you are giving your family and offering a variety of other foods will do everyone’s health a lot of good.

For most, consuming small amounts in the occasional slice of sourdough bread or bowl of wholemeal pasta won’t do any harm.

It’s when we eat the refined and processed product every day that the problems start.

However, if anyone in your family suffers from one or more of the following; eczema or another itchy blistering rash, tummy trouble, constipation, diarrhoea, constant irritability or fussiness, failure to thrive or to meet developmental milestones, I would seriously consider looking at their wheat intake and speaking to a qualified Nutritional Therapist to find ways to broaden their diet.

After all, variety is the spice of life, and your health will thank you for it.

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