Challenge #2 Update: My Still Spirited but Much Healthier Kids

May 5, 2012 in Categories: , by

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Over the past 6 months, I have successfully transitioned my daughters to a lacto-paleo diet.  I tackled this transition by finding great paleo substitutes for their favorites, gradually introducing new foods, and slowly phasing out the foods that we don’t eat anymore.  You can read about various aspects of my children’s transition to paleo in these posts:

and also about my general approach to the transition in this post:

How has going paleo improved their health?  Both girls had small patches of eczema that cleared up once their diet was gluten-free.  My youngest still gets very mild rashes from time to time, which I think might indicate a dairy sensitivity and I am also growing suspicious of strawberries (she got a very obvious rash after eating birthday cake so we know she is for sure gluten-sensitive).  I love that I don’t have to slather my girls in cortisone cream anymore!  I have also noticed that, since going gluten-free, both my daughters’ immune systems seem to be much stronger.  The last few colds that passed through our house were so minor as to be barely noticed.  We used to be sick all the time and catch absolutely everything that was going around.  Now, I’ve even started to not worry about exposure to other sick kids because for I finally have some confidence in their immune systems actually doing their job!  The most amazing accomplishment is that we were able to wean my oldest off of Miralax, which she had been on for the last three years (since she was 2!) for chronic constipation.  And this is saving a noticeable amount of money!  My oldest also seems to be sleeping a bit better and has better energy, but still seems lower energy than other kids her age.  We’ve had her tested for various deficiencies, all of which she doesn’t have, so it seems to be simply caused by not eating enough, or at least, not regulating her blood sugar well with what she is eating. 

Unfortunately, my youngest still has nighttime breathing issues which continue to be not fully diagnosed (and actually even less clear than they were before because now they continue after she awakes, so it doesn’t look like sleep apnea anymore).  We have taken her off the acid reflux medicine (it never did anything anyway!), which I think is progress in terms of ruling that out as a potential cause (I also disliked that she was on proton-pump inhibitors at all, so I am very pleased to have her off of them!).  We do know that she still has a laryngomalacia (a floppy epiglottis) and that her vocal cord bands are tight.  This may be the root cause of her breathing issues (in which case, she may grow out of it, but surgery is an option), which would be unrelated to diet.  We have another sleep study booked (her third!) to see whether or not she is still experiencing any obstructive sleep apnea and will proceed from there.

So, what are my goals with my kids?  I am proud of my girls (and myself) for making and accepting so many changes to their diets.  However, I have decided that I want to remove dairy products from their diet after all.  For my youngest, I am hoping it will fix whatever is causing her to gasp for air at night and hopefully put an end to the occasional rashes she gets.  For my oldest, I am hoping that removing these insulinogenic foods from her diet will help balance her blood sugar and hence her energy levels during the day.  I have actually already started the process.  We got my youngest used to drinking water instead of milk throughout the day (this was never an issue with my oldest who never did like to drink straight milk).  We no longer have cow’s milk in the house so that if they do want milk, it’s coconut milk.  And I have been experimenting with flavoring my own homemade coconut milk yogurt so that the girls will eat it.  I haven’t quite figured out what to do about cheese, except try to get used to not eating it.  My youngest doesn’t eat much, so this is mostly an issue for my oldest. 

When I think back to how my kids ate just 6 months ago, I am completely amazed at how much progress we have made.  I still have challenges ahead of me; but I can now say that I feel confident that I am feeding my children optimal nutrition and teaching them how to eat to stay healthy for their entire lives.  And that feels pretty good!


🙂 Very inspiring! Just a word of encouragement to you – I transitioned my kids off dairy when my youngest showed an extreme intolerance to it (bloody rashes on her bottom and screaming during a bm – no question there). We were a cheese eating family – and yogurt, and milk, etc. But, they got use to it 🙂 And we pretty much didn’t find replacements for it because, really, there isn’t any good sub for dairy products. They have found other favorites and don’t ask for it anymore. Thank you for sharing your journey – including your questions, doubts, and uncertainties. It is so obvious you are living in the “real world”

I think the most important thing I can do with my blog is be honest about our struggles, which can be hard sometimes to “put out there”. Thank you for recognizing that! And thank you too for the words of encouragement!

Perhaps you could wean them off dairy for a few months – see if they are sensitive to it at all… and then re-introduce certain things, like goat cheese or whole fat yogurts to see if they react?

In my quest to transition my oldest, I have run across stumbling blocks such as: after school care (with whom I shall have a sit down with). They provide free-for-all ‘healthy’ snacks. I picked her up the other day – around 5pm, and she was on her 4th bowl of cheerios. 🙁 It’s a nutritional Lord of the Flies in there. She’s 8.. I think she has the brain power to understand what I consider to be healthy…. but hasn’t put two and two together to make her own decisions yet. I really think grain-free with help her with her own skin issues.

My bad though. I need to more proactive and send her in with snacks from home. Honestly, I’m still working out the logistics of this… ie the right lunch boxes. I’m thinking I should go into lunch box design. There mad money in that, I can feel it.

That is essentially the plan. You should TOTALLY make some lunch boxes. I can’t believe how expensive all the good bento-style kid’s lunch boxes are. Needless to say, my husband is NOT on board with me spending $60 on a lunch box. Sigh.

I am just writing to suggest a few good bento boxes
I have been researching bentos and boxes. Right now my 2 year old goes to preschool and I use a good $2 plastic box from Daiso

For good ones (ofcourse expensive, but have good points: lasts longer, good material, BPA free etc)

1) Laptop lunch box
2) Easylunchboxes (set of 3)
3) LunchBlox
4) Fit and fresh kits
5) Thermos funtainer (for hot foods)
6) Stainless lunch tiffin boxes (common in India but sold here in amazon etc)
5) Mr.Bento


I bought the easylunchboxes for my daughter who is about to start kindergarten. I will definitely be reporting on how they work (the couple of times she’s used them, they’ve been great).

I may try goat’s dairy after a month or two of no dairy to see how that goes, but I’m getting eager to just get the casein out of their diets and see what happens. Thanks!

I think if you really research specific cheeses, and I may be wrong in this, but I believe there is little if no casein in aged quality cheese and no lactose. Mark’s Daily Apple explored this a few times. It is expensive but if they only eat a little it might be a way to keep this favorite in their diet. I’m trying to phase out dairy so I was glad to see your success. My older two love milk so that is my struggle. I’ve started by limiting it. My daughter hates water so I’ve been buying juice. I buy organic with no added sugar but I’m still not sure if this is the right choice.
Your husband sounds like mine with the bento boxes. Let me say this though, we bought cheaper plastic alternatives and they are falling apart. I’ve bought so many lunch boxes because they get bacteria in them or fall apart. I think I could have spent the $60 on these and equaled my cost in containers and lunch bags. I recently went with metal lunch boxes (Old Navy $10) and they seem better but I’m saving my swagbuck points to buy at least one of the bento boxes for school next year.

We actually just got rid of cheese (the last of the dairy) about a week ago. So far so good. We’ve replaced it with some lunch meats, grass-fed hot dogs, omelets, hard-boiled eggs, and paleo bread. It’s hard to tell if it’s making a difference to her energy though, because it’s soccer camp week which is wiping her out! 🙂

Is your metal lunch box from Old Navy bento style?

Hi, I am writing to give a few thoughts on your youngest child (with laryngomalacia).

From my experience, (with a 2 year old son), she will outgrow it as she grows old without any intervention (unless it is dangerous with the breathing)

My son was born in May 2010, 5 days after birth, we saw that he was constantly breathing with a labored sound (like snoring and gasping for air type sound). the regular doctors could not give a clear diagnosis and made us use Nebulizer thinking it is some blockage with his lungs, and this was of no use. Feeling frustrated and worried we rushed him to the ER worried that he was not breathing well. After frustrating 4 hours at ER, a wonderful doctor diagnosed it saying it is classic Laryngo malacia (epiglottis tissue being floppy and not strong so it collapses as every breathe is drawn in).

Our options were to put him under sedative and send a camera down his throat to take pictures. We could not bear to do that and decided “NO intervention”. We kept him under close monitoring and as he grew older, he has outgrown it. (He still has labored breathing ,only if he has a cold/cough that blocks his nostrils etc).

It is also related that the same (floppy epiglottis) not so strong development of the valve tissues, is also related to acid reflux (my son had this as well but he was a happy spitter, who spitted out a lot of breastmilk but grew happily at 99% percentile). We did not give him medication for reflux but at 6 mmonths when he rolled over and was on his belly, he coughed a lot (clear lungs, so it was the acid irritating his throat, so we put him on reflux medication for only 2 months and took him off and that was enough to help him)

It was a tough road but we did not want to mess with his proton pump for too long (their systems are growing and adapting) and also no treatment for laryngo malacia (camera down his throat was not an option for us)

Kids are growing tissues and getting stronger as they age. So they outgrow most conditions. Hope this helps. I am also a stay at home PhD (microbiology) mama who reads a lot and shares with fellow community.

Wow! Thank you SO much for sharing your experience! We actually finally have my youngest off all medications and are officially waiting to see if she outgrows it. We don’t know for sure if the breathing issues she has are caused by the laryngomalacia because it doesn’t sounds like strider, but our pulmonologist believe that it may be an asymmetrical closing, which is why it sounds more gaspy in my daughter than what you describe in your son. He also thinks that little things probably trigger it, some swelling or nasal drip from allergies or a cold, a little reflux, sleep position… We find that it’s very unpredictable, but it is typically worse with a cold (she also gets croup alot which is typical with laryngomalacia) and it was really bad when the trees were all blooming this spring. It’s so variable that it’s hard to tell if paleo is helping (it should help with the reflux and allergies part at least). But we’ve nixed the idea of surgery to fix it for now as the chances of outgrowing it are so high.

Oh, and I don’t meet very many other PhD SAHM! Cool! (Don’t suppose you live in the Atlanta area?).


Hi Sarah, It was so good to read your column and share my story. Yes, I agree, when my son has cold, the laryngomalacia seems to make it worse (he is not 100% outgrown as I mentioned but definitely come a long way). First time parenting and never seen this before with other parents/kids etc, so we pretty much bumbled our way through. It is good that you are planning to wait it out (no surgery yet). It gets better over time.

I am just super duper impressed with your organized blog and how you think through stuff in different areas with helping your kids, paleo diet etc.

Oh I live in CA. Yes I agree with you. I do not meet that many SAHM PhD. I have a PhD in Molecular biology and Microbiology. I am sorry I am not near Atlanta area. I would definitely love to keep in touch by email if you have the time. It is so great to see your wonderful efforts in helping your kids and family. Sometimes I think it is a different world (Phd was tough but parenting is even harder. Everything we do matters in structuring and shaping the growth of a little person, a living person. Not just physical but psychological, emotional growth, manners, etc. It is a different life. Trying to enjoy the moments.

As I said, I would love to be in touch.
My email is
Wishing you the very best in life and all your endeavors,


Hello Sarah, I’m new to Paleo Lifestyle. I also have two girls (7 and 5 years old). My husband and I became strictly paleo two weeks ago, so far so good. I am amazed I haven’t had any cravings, I have (or used to have) a very sweet tooth.. so it is very impressing!!! However, with my girls, I’m still working on removing all gluten and grains from their diet. At home, they are 100% gluten free, but they still have pizza on fridays at school… and a occasional sandwich for lunch… which, hopefully soon, won’t be part of their diets anymore. I’m modifying their diet slowly so they don’t even notice it. However, I do not want to remove all dairy from their diets. My oldest one doesn’t like milk, but the little one does, so I was thinking on giving her milk from grass fed cows. My oldest loves yogurt, so I replaced it with kefir. My oldest daughter’s skin gets very dry and itchy during winter months, so I’m hoping her new eating habits help her condition. My question to you is, what dairy products do you recommend for kids. I am looking to find a good quality cheese for them, something to replace the mozzarella sticks and american cheese slices that they love so much.

Thank you so much. I love your blog and the fact that you also have two little girls 🙂 It’s very helpful and supportive to have found someone alike that already went through all these changes!!


We went completely dairy free for a few months and are now starting to reintroduce it. We don’t drink any milk in our house because my kids don’t respond well to pasteurized milk (they get eczema and acid reflux) but I still feel uncomfortable with raw milk. I do buy raw grass-fed cheese from two local farmers, but it’s still a treat for us. US Wellness Meats also sells raw grass-fed cheeses ( including a raw grass-fed mozzarella. I occasionally make my own kefir with grass-fed goat-milk powder from Tropical Traditions. Our biggest source of dairy is the Tropical Traditions goat mineral whey protein powder to make protein bars for my kids and smoothies for my husband. They all do really well with it (link: ). I would recommend trying to track down grass-fed organic sources of dairy. Goat is often tolerated better than cow and is definitely worth a try. If you want to give up all dairy, I don’t think you need to replace with coconut or almond milk (unless your kids just really miss milk, but these often have emulsifiers in them which can be just as bad). I try and incorporate bone broth into all of our diets for the calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. We also eat a fair amount of canned salmon or sardines (bones and all). And I try and get as much variety of veggies into my kids as possible (my most successful strategy is to make spinach popsicles because as long as their is some banana in the mix, they will eat it). I hope this helps!

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