Leaders and Chefs in Training

The students at Marian Hope Academy are on a mission to share truth about what we are eating and encourage other teens to learn the importance of:

  • God-made foods
  • How to cook with them
  • And all the benefits of eating whole foods.  

Their desire comes from a place of compassion and concern. “We care about the health of our friends and see too many of them that are sick, tired all the time or suffering with chronic illnesses at way too young of an age,” one student expressed after realizing how many of her friends were taking medication.  

It only makes sense that what we put in our body is going to affect how we feel and function. Our organs need necessary nutrients to function optimally. Sadly, our food culture has evolved down a concerning path – one of more processed foods and less foods from the earth.  Our food, along with all of the other toxins in our environment, is making us sick.

So we decided to start our own cooking show called Chefs In Training. What’s even more exciting is we are partnering with Robin Cook, nutrition coach and author of Cook 2 Flourish. It is our hope to bring in some humor and fun while educating other teens on the value of nutrition-rich foods while sharing some yummy recipes.

It is hard when you are a young teen desiring to treat your body well and eat healthy—but it is more doable with friends who aspire to live the same way. “I used to be embarrassed about my healthy lunches,” a student shared, “but now I’m thankful for them and thankful for having friends who want to encourage others to make healthy choices too!”

We believe God designed each one of us with a special plan and purpose and it is much easier to do all God calls us to do when we are living in optimal health, physically, mentally and spiritually. So we believe that eating healthy glorifies God. And we should glorify God in all things—and that includes what we put into our bodies.

Check out our Chefs in Training Episode One video here .  Please share with others and subscribe to the channel so you don’t miss a video!

Can Food Change Your Child’s Life? One Family’s Journey to Yes

A really typical family.

That’s how Christi describes what their daily nutrition looked like a few years ago. “Food is a place you can cut costs,” Christi says, “so we were trying to see just how cheaply we could eat.” This meant a lot of bread, pasta, quesadillas and frozen pizza. But what Christi found is there was an expense for that cost cutting. An expense they didn’t even realize until they decided to make a change. But embracing that change took a little time.

Christi’s daughter Hanalei was receiving services from Marian Hope. She experienced development delays that CEO Angie Knight thought could be improved through diet. Angie suggested Hanalei go gluten-free but as Christi describes that felt “really alternative.” It did get Christi thinking and researching more about food. She was set down a path that led to a cookbook by Nigella Lawson. As she began reading the recipes, she realized all of them were from scratch, used fresh ingredients and called for eliminating high fructose corn syrup and canola oil. The more she read and the more she researched, the more she realized her family was not eating real nutrient dense food.

It occurred to her that Hanalei, who was struggling to gain weight, was not getting what her body needed from the food they were consuming. Christi was even giving her Pediasure every day but still wasn’t experiencing any gains. This new knowledge was encouragement enough for Christi to start attending a Marian Hope Nutritional Management Support Group. There she met others who were starting to incorporate nutritional changes. It felt less overwhelming because they were learning together. And overwhelmed was what Christi had been feeling with other approaches.

“We tried everything a doctor told us,” Christi shares, “and we were seeing so many specialists that kept telling us the same thing and nothing was changing.”

So with Angie continuing to encourage the diet changes, Christi started to open up to the idea. She decided any changes they made, they would make as a family. They began by taking out dairy. And something happened that Christi wasn’t expecting. Their other daughter had suffered from eczema and was taking prescription medications to help keep it under control.

When the family stopped eating dairy, the eczema started to clear up, so much so she discontinued the medications. Then they removed gluten and began eating more ‘real’ food and less processed foods. The benefits were widespread. Hanalei began processing language better and she had significant increases in speech. All this time. All these doctors. And finally they were seeing progress. There were other benefits too. “It made a huge difference for my whole family,” Christi says. Christi suffered from severe migraines and suffered from medication side effects.

After making the dietary changes, Christi stopped getting migraines and then stopped needing the medication altogether. Now their family is a 180 degree shift from their diet a few years ago. They eat only grass-fed meat, wild caught fish and organic fruit. Food has ignited a whole shift in approaching health. Christi shares this didn’t happen overnight. To get where they are now, it took a couple years of transitioning from the modern American diet and the idea that only medicine can fix an issue. Christi admits there have been some challenges but believes it is not as restrictive as people think. “People think taking out gluten or dairy limits your choices,” Christi shares, “but it really just takes a little creativity.”

She doesn’t try to replace gluten items with ‘gluten-free’ alternatives. She chooses whole foods rich with nutrients and the natural ‘medicine’ her family needs.

Some family favorites include Korean beef bowl, roasted vegetables, potato and leek soup and nut butter muffins. She believes the road to now was all worth it. “We were at the point where nothing was working and it felt so hopeless,” Christi remembers, “and then you turn to something you think is so on the fringe and that’s what ends up working.”

At Marian Hope, we support nutrition for our children and families in three main ways – education, application and intervention. The American diet has changed. We consume a higher amount of processed foods. There are increased toxins in our environment and our food sources are depleted of vital nutrients. All of these factors are affecting the health and well-being of our children. Not only does better nutrition help improve development and behavior but kids learn better when they feel better. Marian Hope is here to support every family find solutions and hope. If you would like more information, please reach out to one of our therapists or click on the below resources.

If a Sports Star Can Do It… I Can Too!

Brody is not just a picky eater.  With only three foods in his repertoire, he has never eaten fruit or vegetables.   He also has strong sensory aversions to food meaning he does not like to touch or even be around food.  His anxiety affects his mealtimes at school, in restaurants and at home. As you can imagine, this makes it difficult not just for Brody but for his family, friends and classmates.  His parents enrolled him in a picky eating class at Marian Hope.

But Brody loves baseball!  And he’s good at it too. A month ago he was asked to play on the youth 8 baseball even though he is only 7.    At the therapy session after joining the team, he asked his therapist Ms. Sara what types of foods athletes eat.  Together they researched. They found that athletes eat fruit and vegetables, not something Brody was super excited about.  

This sparked an idea.   

Ms. Sara, known for being innovative in her therapy approach, made some phone calls and was able to connect with former Major League Baseball player David Segui.   And what an all-star he was. He agreed to FaceTime with Ms. Sara and Brody during one of their therapy sessions but only if Brody worked hard on trying new foods at home.    

This incentive really motivated Brody and he made the necessary progress for the FaceTime opportunity, so Ms. Sara organized the call.  

Lights, camera, action…Brody’s superstar moment was everything both Ms. Sara and Brody hoped it would be.  David brought his A-game encouraging Brody, sharing how food is fuel and giving him lots of food ideas to help make him a great athlete.  Brody ate it all up AND ate 6 bites of an orange following the conversation… A true HOME RUN for Brody!

Brody’s mom couldn’t believe it.  It was the progress she thought might never come.  Understanding that therapy is more often a ‘small ball’ game, Ms. Sara is hoping this is a springboard for more new food moments.  Therapists draw up the game strategy but real progress requires all the team players to do their part. Given his major league effort in this experience, Ms. Sara has confidence Brody has what it takes to continue achieving success.  

At Marian Hope, we are so grateful to have therapists like Ms. Sara who truly individualize treatment and use their creativity to accelerate progress towards goals.   And we greatly appreciate David’s time, energy and enthusiasm in the therapy session. But the real MVP… Brody! We are so proud of him for taking this huge stride in overcoming his fears.  

Four Reasons to Plant a Garden

Healthy eating is not easy in our society – well, at least not at first.  Everyone wants to be healthy and happy, but might not always feel like we have the time or money to spend.  The key to eating healthy is to have healthy foods readily available to you to replace those convenient fast food drive-thrus. What better place than in your own backyard?  Here are four reasons you should plant a garden with your family this year.

  1. You’ll have healthy ingredients ready for your favorite foods!  Plant what you love to eat.  I love green smoothies, so I planted lots of greens this year.  My kids love peppers and cucumbers, so they planted those. My husband makes a tasty salsa, so we planted tomatoes too.  Pick what you love – peppers, onions, and tomatoes for salsa, cucumbers for snacks or salads, or just herbs. (The simple step of adding parsley to your eggs in the morning makes them healthier by alkalizing them.)  You’ll be surprised at the difference between the taste of a canned vegetable heated up in the microwave to the fresh, nutritious vegetable you grew with your own hands.
  2. Be in control of what is in your food!  Do you cringe at the sight of some of the prices of organic produce?  Grow your own and reduce the cost of feeding your family nutritious food.  Plant organic seeds or starter plants and use natural fertilizer. Consider starting a compost pile.  Use compost to fertilize the garden while reducing the amount of food that goes to the landfills and emits methane, negatively affecting our environment.
  3. Enjoy the opportunities to spend quality time with your children!  Plan the garden together, pick out the seeds or plants together, dig in the dirt together, weed and water together.  It is so fulfilling to see the looks on the faces of children when they see that a small pepper has grown into a large one or that tomato blossoms appeared overnight!  And, there are so many hands-on lessons about our ecosystem and the life cycle of plants.
  4. Spending time outdoors is good for you!  The time your family spends outside to water and weed your garden is time away from wi-fi, cell phones, and electronics that can cause chaos in your body.  Take off your shoes! The energy from the earth and the sunlight recharges and rebalances us.

If this is your first garden, you can start small.  Don’t be overwhelmed by building a garden; you can always plant in pots.  Enjoy the process. Supplement your small garden with produce grown by local farmers.  You can join a CSA, shop at a farmer’s market, or even find some locally grown organic produce in some grocery stores.  Happy gardening and healthy eating!


~ Theresa Sonderman
Speech-Language Pathologist at Marian Hope

Protein Balls

Looking for a change in the snack routine?


Tired of your kids asking for “sweets” that you don’t want to give them?


Need some REAL FOOD for dessert?

Protein Balls


Try these FUN protein ball and bite recipes that your kids can help you make!!

(I’ve made some notes for each to let you in on how I would adapt the recipe)


  1. Blueberry Vanilla – You can use whatever vanilla flavored protein powder you have on hand. I like pea protein powders and always avoid soy protein powders. For an extra protein boost, add a scoop of Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides from Thrive Market. Switch agave to honey and decrease to 1 tbsp for less sugar. You can sweeten more with Stevia drops if desired.


  1. Cinnamon Bun Bites– use your  vanilla protein powder of choice. Decrease honey by 1/2 and add 1 scoop collagen peptides. Use Stevia drops to increase sweetness and keep sugar down


  1. Cake Batter Balls– can use protein powder instead of coconut flour.


  1. Nut Butter Crisps– be sure to get a gluten free rice cereal if you eat gluten free. Last I checked, Kellogg’s Rice Krispies has Barley Malt which is not gluten free. Substitute almond, cashew, or sunbutter if you need a peanut free version. Use Sunbutter (sunflower seeds) for a nut free version and decrease the honey to taste since Sunbutter is usually sweetened.



Blakely Page, MA, RDN
Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist

Time to Start Packing!

Time to start (1)


It’s time to be packing those school lunches again.  Ready or not, here they come….

It can be easy to fall into the traps of convenient processed foods or lunches that look like everyone else’s. A pre-packaged food isn’t always faster and usually not healthier. Start this school year out with a bang by prepping lunch ingredients ahead of time and involving the kids in the prep-work over the weekend. If your child developmentally or socially isn’t able to “cook” with you, you can use the time together in the kitchen to work on other skills like counting, colors, filling up bags, learning names of foods, and getting familiar with how school lunches will look for them if it is a new thing for your child.



  • Choose from at least 3 categories.
  • Always choose something from protein category
  • For older children, let them pack their own lunch 2-3 days a week and don’t bother them if they don’t pick veggies :). Stick to the 3 category rule with no commentary on how the do it.
  • Make lunch options ahead of time for the week so all categories are ready to pack
  • Pack lunches at night to make mornings less hectic
  • Include kids in making their lunch “treats” ahead on the weekends and encourage them to experiment and come up with new ideas


Protein/Main Course

  • Meat roll ups with mustard (or condiment of choice)
  • Egg cups or egg pancakes
  • black bean quesadilla with corn tortilla (spread mild salsa or enchilada sauce on inside of tortilla for added flavor instead of cheese)
  • Organic, grass-fed beef hot dog
  • Tuna salad and gluten free crackers
  • Salmon patty with dip of choice
  • Hard boiled egg
  • Turkey or beef sticks


  • mandarin oranges
  • apple slices (toss with lemon juice to prevent browning)
  • grapes
  • dried fruit
  • peach or nectarine slices
  • watermelon
  • orange segments
  • ½ banana


  • cucumbers and hummus
  • carrots and sunbutter or hummus
  • grape tomatoes
  • celery sticks with hummus or sunbutter
  • raw broccoli with dairy free “ranch” dip
  • leftover cooked veggies from dinner
  • bell pepper slices
  • pickles


  • water
  • fruit water
  • Zevia


  • Jackson’s Honest potato chips
  • Mary’s Gone Nuts crackers
  • Popcorn popped with butter or coconut oil sprinkled with nutritional yeast flakes


  • Trail mix (nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, coconut flakes)
  • Grain free cookie
  • Fruit leather
  • Dark chocolate squares
  • Sunbutter cookie with chocolate square on top
  • Gluten free cookie or brownie
  • Gluten free granola or Paleonola
  • Lara Bars


  • Nut butters are not included in lists since many schools are “nut free zones.” If your child can have them, feel free to substitute sunbutter
  • Remember protein and fat help boost the brain and keep mood/blood sugar more stable


Happy Packing!

– Blakely Page, R.D.
Registered Dietitian

Three Ways to Get your Pantry Ready for School

3 Ways to Get your Pantry

Can you believe it’s time to start thinking about school?

As the dietitian supporting Marian Hope, I wanted to share with you not only a fab back to school deal on real food products, but also an upcoming event to get your brain back in the school lunch game. Oh, and a super easy and REAL FOOD peanut butter cookie recipe for fun at the end.

First, let me introduce to you Thrive Market. This place is blowing my socks off. We are all working hard to give our kids real food that isn’t full of chemicals, hormone deregulators, and extra gunk we can’t even pronounce. That’s why I am so proud to be able to offer Marian Hope families a free 2-month membership AND 25% off at Thrive Market. By using THIS LINK you will get to check out all the great foods they have available.

Now, are you already dreading thinking up new ideas for breakfast and lunch when school kicks into gear? Well, there is a FREE event coming up at the Shawnee Natural Grocers. Here I will be giving you recipes, tastes, and tips for all your back to school eating needs. All recipes and demos will be gluten and dairy free. One of the main issues we will address is the need for neurotransmitter support through amino acids, via quality protein to keep kids going all the way until the homework is done. It is crucial that we nourish kids brains. Functional medicine practitioner Dr. Corey Priest will be joining me to get down and dirty about brain support for children.

Now for the fun part – the recipe!

Peanut Butter Cookies (from The Plant Power Way)


1 teaspoon coconut oil

2 tablespoon ground flaxseeds

1/4 cup filtered water

1 cup organic, natural-style crunchy peanut butter

1 1/4 cups organic sugar

2 teaspoons high-quality vanilla extract

1 bar high quality dark chocolate

1 teaspoon large-grain sea salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease a cookie sheet with the coconut oil using a paper towel
  2. To make a flaxseed egg, mix the ground flaxseed and the filtered water. Let stand for 2 minutes and then whisk until the mixture has an egg-like texture. Add more filtered water as needed to get the consistency of an egg
  3. In a medium bowl, mix the peanut butter and sugar, flaxseed “egg” and vanilla with clean hands until well combined
  4. Roll 1 1/2 tablespoons of the mixture into smooth balls and place about 1” apart on the prepared baking sheet.
  5. Press flat using a fork, making a lined pattern on the cookies.
  6. Press on square of dark chocolate into the center of each cookie. Place large sea salt crystals on top of cookies.
  7. Bake until golden around the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool until they are slightly warm. Carefully transfer to serving plate using a spatula.


– Blakely Page, R.D.
Registered Dietitian

Nutrition Essentials for Every Child

FullSizeRender (3)In working with children with special needs, there are some specific diet and supplement interventions specific to certain issues. However, there are some nutrition recommendations from which all kids would benefit despite a diagnosis or developmental delay.

The first nutrition essential for all kids is REAL FOOD. It may seem basic, but it is the foundation of health for children. Food should be prepared at home as often as possible and come from ingredients closest as possible to their original source. When the food does have a label, it should only have a few ingredients. You should be able to pronounce all the ingredients on the list.

Second in importance is PROBIOTICS. The gastrointestinal tract has both good and bad bacteria. The world we live in, full of chemicals, processed foods, stress and lots of sugar, actually feeds the bad bacteria. That means we have to work extra hard at promoting the good bacteria in our bodies. This good bacteria improves our immunity, helping to fight off sickness. The good bacteria keeps our digestions strong and can play a role in preventing or diminishing acid reflux (heartburn). The bacteria in our body affects literally every part of how our body functions so we need the good guys to be winning!

You have probably heard of fish oil and omega 3 fatty acids. If you haven’t, well… they are awesome. OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS found in fish, play a huge part in decreasing inflammation and giving the brain the fat it needs. Since the brain is mostly fat, and the brain develops most rapidly in childhood, it’s great to support the brain with essential fatty acids. Omega 3’s come from fish most of the time. It can be in the form of fish oil from anchovies, sardines, and other small fish, or cod liver oil from… you guessed it, the liver of cod.

The last essential is a QUALITY MULTIVITAMIN. There are so many different types of multivitamins available, but many are made with poor quality vitamins that aren’t easily absorbed or utilized by the body. If you’re going to spend money on vitamins, it is worth it to choose one that will actually be used in the body. Because of the decreasing quality of our food, our soil, and busy lives, everyone benefits from extra vitamin/mineral support.

One of my favorite places to do when I need something simple and interesting to try is Nom Nom Paleo. Here are some great lunch box ideas!

For help transitioning your families diet away from processed foods, identifying and treating food sensitivities or choosing high quality vitamins, contact Blakely Page, RDN at bpage@marianhope.org.

Consider a Change

Marian Hope believes in treating the WHOLE CHILD.  We believe that what a child eats affects how that child thinks, feels, functions, and behaves.  Over the years, we have recommended special diets to many of the families we work with.  The majority of these families are reluctant to take on such a monumental change, and with understandable reason.  Dietary changes are lifestyle changes – you have to change the way you shop, the way you cook, the way you think about food.   It is a paradigm shift and it can be a lot of work.  However, most of the families who make a commitment to a dietary change see benefits in their child or family that far outweigh the cons.  For example, Morgan’s mom was pleasantly surprised by the results and has been committed to his new diet for nearly a year now.  Read her story below from just a few weeks into their journey.

Morgan has now been gluten free for 5 1/2 weeks. When we decided to do this it was to see if it helped his behavior, his concentration and his stamina. Also, I have Celiac Disease and children with Down Syndrome have a higher rate of Celiac Disease so we thought we would try to get ahead of it with him.

So far the changes have mostly been seen by others. By that I mean he’s still being a typical pre-teen, pre-pubescent, back talking grump at home sometimes. Totally typical, right? But, his home speech & occupational therapists have seen a huge difference. I’ve noticed he answers questions quicker and is less sensitive. A friend’s mother also noticed a big difference during a sleepover.

Morgan before & after GF
The most noticeable change is his belly! Check out his side by side pictures. His belly is gone! That’s something we didn’t really expect. Morgan has never been overweight but has always had a belly and I’ve always shrugged it off as low muscle tone. Come to find out, it was actually bloated from the gluten (which he was totally addicted to). He hasn’t lost any weight, he’s just no longer bloated.

People will say, of course, he’s not eating carbs. That’s definitely not the case. This isn’t a no carb diet. He eats carbs all day. Just no gluten. What does he eat? Everything he used to love, just gluten free. Pizza, chicken tenders, nuggets, cheeseburgers, turkey sandwiches, pancakes, cookies and fruit (he’s always loved fruit). There’s more preparation and yes, it’s more expensive but if it helps him, I’m up for it.

Marian Hope offers several resources to help families wanting to make dietary changes.  We have a registered dietitian on staff who is available for consultations and we host free Nutritional Management Support Group meetings on the first Wednesday of each month.  We also post helpful links, recipes, and ideas to our website and blog on a regular basis.  Consider it – it might be the key to unlocking new potential in your child!  If you’re feeling overwhelmed, check out our Start Where You Are blog to get ideas for baby steps toward change.

The Amazing Bone Broth

Bone Broth Pic

If I was forced to name a favorite food. I honestly think I would have to say bone broth. Not at all the “cool kid” answer but I never aspired to be that anyway. Bone broth is one of the most versatile, nutrient dense, and cost effective healing foods available to us. When I say bone broth, I mean your basic homemade chicken or beef stock. These homemade stocks deliver powerful minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium as well as necessary amino acids such as glycine and proline and glutamine. I could literally spend hours talking about all the benefits nutritionally of bone broth, but links below will give you more in-depth information if you really want to geek out on why I think this should be a staple food in everyone’s diet. For now, I’m sure you will settle for some basics on the benefits of bone broth:


  1. The bones when simmered for hours release gelatin which is a major player in gut healing. Gelatin helps to seal the gut lining which increases nutrient absorption, and decrease food sensitivity reactions. Overall, the health of the gut is fundamental in the gut/brain connection therefore having significant impact on mood, behavior, and all things associated with autism, ADHD, and general spectrum disorders.
  2. Glycine is a conditionally essential amino acid which means the body makes some but we need more from our foods. There isn’t any part of the body that doesn’t use glycine in some capacity. It’s like glue that supports and holds cells together. It also helps control blood sugar and insulin levels which is way cool and it builds the cells that are the “front line defense” of our immune system.
  3. Bone marrow from simmered bones gives the body extra building blocks for making red blood cells (RBC) and hemoglobin (Hgb) production which can be a massive support in anemia or risk for anemia.
  4. Because of the powerful ways bone broth aids in digestion, it can actually improve digestion of gluten and casein while producing a calming effect. This isn’t a substitute for GF/CF diets when needed, but can sure help to decrease the ongoing threat of cross-contamination.
  5. Bone broth is a legitimate calcium supplement! If you are on a dairy-free diet and wonder if your child is getting enough calcium, bone broth can be a major help. Additionally, it already comes with the magnesium needed to assimilate calcium well. And, believe it or not, when used with grass-fed butter or ghee, Vitamin D and K2 (also necessary for good bone development) are present.


I could literally go one for days about more benefits of bone broth, but above are a few that will hopefully convince you it’s worth trying!


Below are links to recipes. My suggestion is don’t overthink the details. You really can’t mess this up! Bone broth is an amazing food that comes right out of your kitchen!


More resources regarding bone broth:

Dr. Josh Axe – The Healing Power of Bone Broth for Digestion, Arthritis, and Cellulite

Weston A Price – Why Broth is Beautiful

Dr. Allison Siebecker – Traditional Bone Broth in Modern Health & Disease

Complete list of conditions bone broth benefits


Links to recipes/guides to making bone broth:

Complete guide to making, using and storing broth

Quick broth-making basics

Bone Broth 101