Start Where You Are – Not Where You’re Not

Start Where You Are – Not Where You’re Not.

I cannot remember where I heard that quote, but it often serves as a good reminder for me to be where I am and take the next step toward change without the expectation of doing it all at once.  Usually the experts to which I am comparing myself have been honing their craft for years. It can seem overwhelming to begin to move from the standard foods your family/kids love to a real food diet or gluten/dairy-free diet to support the development of your child.


I truly and wholeheartedly believe that nutrition is central to resiliency in development for children with special needs. We also know that different ways of eating have to become the culture of a family. A small step approach generally is more sustainable than a massive overhaul. However, we have to start somewhere, right?


Here are some steps that in my experience, can be implemented each month to truly reshape your pantry, your kitchen, and your food culture in about 6 months. You may feel an urgent need to make changes, but important, lasting, well-understood changes are going to be more beneficial in the long run than hasty, urgent changes made out of fear or pressure. These steps can be done in any order. Really. Pick the one that seems easiest to you and start there.


  1. Switch breakfast from carb loaded cereal, oatmeal and baked goods to protein, fat, and fruit/veggies. Ex: 1. Pastured eggs, bacon, and 1/2c fruit serving; 2. Scrambled eggs with spinach and breakfast sausage with 3/4c berries; 3. Egg cup, ½ c fruit, leftover dinner veggies.
  2. Begin baking with coconut/almond flour for more nutrient dense baking. Here is a favorite in our family. Straight out of the freezer, this tastes just like Starbucks blueberry coffee cake to me. For lower carb, replace honey with Zsweet.  Or bake without flours at all! Delicious chocolate cookies. Substitute Zsweet for coconut sugar and Lily’s chocolate chips for the Enjoy Life for a very low carb cookie.
  3. Use real food for snacks instead of prepackaged foods (i.e cheez-it, goldfish, granola bar) and increase vegetables and meats/protein offered as snacks. See list below for snack ideas!
  4. Change the types of fats you buy, eat, and cook with. Cook and bake with coconut oil or real grass-fed butter, which is widely available now. Organic Valley and Kerrygold are most widely distributed. I also love Kalona brand. Use olive oil for cold foods and salad dressings. Save fat from high-quality/pastured/grass-fed meats. Chicken = schmaltz, beef = tallow, pork = lard. Yes I said lard. The quality of the meat/animal is important when saving fat. Don’t save fat from conventionally produced meat/animals. You don’t ever need vegetable oil again. Nope, not ever. Really. If a recipe calls for it, melt butter or coconut oil. Voila.
  5. Take all the processed sugar out of the picture. Although not low in carbohydrate, honey, maple syrup, and blackstrap molasses are nutrient dense foods providing great minerals. Did you know molasses is a good source of Iron? It’s also a good source of calcium, potassium, B6, selenium, and manganese. Organic and unsulfured is the way to go here. Raw honey and grade B organic maple syrup are best, if you were wondering…
  6. Celebrate with people and experiences, not with food. If good grades or good behavior results in ice cream or candy rewards, find a less-loaded (on many levels) way to positively reward like: dollar store toys, “points” toward a bigger toy, time alone w/ mom/dad or for the savvy tween/teens…. straight up cash. This is a lively discussion in schools and this gives teachers ideas from which parents can also draw, but what motivates/encourages YOUR child is the best option.


Snack foods:

In closing, make changes based on the capacity you have and just take one step at a time. As the parent, if you become exhausted, cranky, stressed and unable to connect with your children because you’re trying to get them healthy, you’ve created a different type of deficit by not being present. But, I find most families are surprised at how making 2 or 3 changes like the ones above puts them on a road to a new way that is life-giving and includes the whole family. Start somewhere and be gracious to yourself.




Holiday Recipe Round Up… And Some Other Thoughts

The holidays are upon us. Next week is Thanksgiving! I can’t believe it. Although these recipes may not find you in time for you uber-planners out there, they can be a great addition to your December holiday parties.

But before we get into recipes, I want to say a few words about Thanksgiving and Christmas Day meals. When you eat differently than your extended family or are navigating gluten free/dairy free kiddos, having all the family together can bring new challenges. I want to encourage you to keep it simple and keep it easy. If your family is gluten-free and dairy-free, then you need to stick to that for the holidays. However, the quality of your ingredients or using pre-made ingredients for the big meals of Thanksgiving and Christmas day, can be a life-saver and not really impact the health of your family significantly.

The difference is keeping the processed foods prioritized to the most important times, not letting it be a free-for-all for the whole month of December. Here are a few “balancing tricks” I’ve learned over the years.

  1. Pies: Buy gluten-free pie crust and make traditional pies using less expensive, standard ingredients. It’s 1 day. It’s 1 pie. It’s 1-2 pieces total for each person most likely. So, rather than stressing over if a new recipe will work, use the regular recipe (pumpkin and pecan pie standard fillings are naturally gluten-free), make them ahead and freeze pies so it’s done.
  2. Christmas cookies: this one depends on how big of a deal this is to your family. If they will hang around for days, and your kids will eat many cookies… I suggest making a sugar-free frosting using Swerve and a gluten-free sugar cookie using quality ingredients. The payoff can be huge when kids are loving life and you’re not stressed about how many cookies they are eating! Pure Pantry has quality ingredients and fabulous mixes. I would suggest their all purpose flour for a recipe like this. Here is a truly low carb sugar cookie recipe that is sure to keep blood sugars stable. I would use Swerve instead of Truvia.Now, the other option for cookie decorating is the one where you’re doing a one-time shot at cookies and your children won’t eat that many. Here’s where you grab slice and bake gluten-free dough and make some regular frosting. None of it is quality, it’s all sugar, and it isn’t helping our bodies at all, but sometimes, those things aren’t the goal, so have fun and let it go.
  3. On cookie decorating days or the day after big holiday meals, go ahead and serve some lighter fare with more veggies and meat to give the body a break and add some nutrient density.

 The bottom line for the holidays is to keep the foods that aren’t part of your everyday fare limited to specific events, not just sitting around for a whole month. But, even if it does… it’s 1 of 12 months. There are 11 whole months where you can be really tuned in to quality ingredients and balanced meals. The caveat to that last statement is if it will disrupt your child’s rhythms and “home base” of balance and mood by letting some extras in. You’re the parent. You make that call. Don’t let food be the main event…. ever. And, don’t throw out the window the way of living/eating that help your child thrive and enjoy the holiday!

Stuffed Acorn Squash:

Serves 6

  • 3 Acorn Squash, halved and deseeded

    stuffed acorn squash

    Photo Credit:

  • 6 TBSP Butter
  • 1 lb. Ground Turkey
  • 3 TBSP Butter or oil
  • 1 Small Onion, diced
  • ½ tsp. Garlic Powder
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • ¼ tsp. Pepper
  • ¼ tsp. Nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. Dried Thyme6-8 Fresh Sage Leaves, chopped
  • ¼ Cup Pecans
  • ¼ Cup Dried Cranberries
  • 2 TBSP Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Place the squash halves cut side up onto a baking sheet. Place 1 TBSP of butter into each of the halves, making 6 total.
  3. Place in oven and bake for 60-70 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  4. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the turkey and break up with a wooden spatula and let brown, about 6 minutes.
  5. Add the onion, garlic powder, salt, pepper, nutmeg and thyme. Incorporate well and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  6. Turn off the heat and add the remaining ingredients. Stir well to combine.
  7. Fill the centers of each acorn squash half with the meat filling. Sprinkle additional pepitas on top before serving.


Crispy Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1 Egg
  • ½ TBSP Water


    Photo Credit:

Dry Ingredients:

  • ¼ packed cup Almond Flour
  • ¼ packed cup Tapioca Starch
  • 1 tsp. Black Pepper
  • ½ tsp. Kosher Salt
  • ¼ tsp. Cayenne
  • ¼ tsp. Paprika
  • ½ tsp. Garlic Powder
  • ½ tsp. Onion Powder


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a bowl combine the egg with the water; set aside
  3. In a separate bowl combine the almond flour, tapioca, black pepper, salt, cayenne, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder.
  4. Drop Shrimp into wet mixture and then heavily dredge in breading mixture. You may need to go back and re-drop shrimp back into the dry ingredients to get a good breaded coating.
  5. Place on baking sheet, and drizzle liberally with oil.
  6. Cook shrimp 20 minutes or until lightly golden and crispy.
  7. Once slightly cooled serve with your favorite gluten free cocktail sauce.


Faux Thins (Wheat Thins)

faux thins

Photo Credit:

  • 1 packed cup Almond Flour (137g)
  • ¾ cup Tapioca Starch (91g)
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 3 tsp. Xanthan or guar gum
  • ¾ tsp. Kosher Salt
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 TBSP Shortening
  • 2 TBSP Oil
  • 2 TBSP Water


  1. Preheat oven to 315 degrees.
  2. In a stand mixer combine all ingredients.
  3. Place dough in between two sheets of parchment paper.
  4. Roll out dough to be paper thin. Take off top sheet of parchment paper carefully.
  5. Cut into squares using a pizza cutter.
  6. Place on parchment lined baking sheet.
  7. Place in oven for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden on bottom, and edge are ever so

slightly brown.


Mashed Cauliflower

  • 2 heads of cauliflower chopped.

    mashed cauliflower

    Photo Credit:

  • 2 ½ tablespoons of Tapioca, Arrowroot or Potato Starch (optional- omit for lower carb)
  • ¼ cup of Heavy Cream or Heavy Coconut Milk
  • 6 tablespoons of salted butter or Ghee (or bacon fat)
  • 1 ½ – 2 teaspoons of garlic powder (to taste)
  • 3 teaspoons of salt (use more of less to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper


  1. Fill a stock pot ½ with water (enough to cover two heads of cauliflower) Bring the water to a boil. Add the cauliflower and boil until fork tender.
  1. Strain the water and place the cooked cauli back into the pot. Whisk together the heavy cream and starch. Then add the cream and starch mixture to the plot along with the butter, garlic powder, salt and black pepper.
  1. Using an immersion blender – blend together all the ingredients. Turn the stove back on low for about 2 minutes to reheat it if the cauliflower has gotten cool. This will activate the starch to thicken the mashed cauliflower.
  1. Serve warm, or store in the fridge covered for up to 3 days.


“Pillsbury” Gluten Free Pie Crust

  • 3/4 packed cup Almond Flour
  • 1 1/4 cup of Tapioca starch
  • 4 Tbsp. of Salted Butter
  • 4 Tbsp. of Palm Shortening
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of xanthan or guar gum
  • 4 Tbsp. of Applesauce
  • Reserve for later:  ¼ cup of Extra Tapioca Starch


  1. In a large food processor (I use a 14 cup) add the almond flour, starch, butter, shortening, salt and xanthan or guy gum. Process until the dough begins to come together. Add the applesauce and process until a smooth dough forms.
  1. Place the dough into a sealed Tupperware and place into the fridge 2 hours.
  2. After the dough has chilled- mix in the last 1/4 cup of starch and roll out between two sheets of parchment paper (dusting with extra starch as needed to prevent sticking) NOTE: If you chill the dough for 24 hours you will only need a LITTLE extra starch to roll the dough out. You won’t need to mix in the full 1/4 cup.
  1. Quickly place the rolled out crust into the pie pan using the parchment as your guide. It should hold its shape without breaking.
  1. At this point you can fill the crust with filling of choice and follow the directions for that pie. OR Bake the crust in a 350-degree oven 16-20 minutes until lightly golden.

 To make this crust totally dairy free you can double the shortening and leave out the butter. The flavor of the crust won’t be as good.


ADD/ADHD and Nutrition

Almost all of the nutrition-related information provided on this blog is beneficial for anyone with any type of developmental delay from Sensory Disorders, Apraxia, ADD/ADHD, Autism and usually even Down’s Syndrome. However, I wanted to highlight a couple of key factors in ADHD and diet that I think are important to keep in mind.

I am generating most of my practical applications from the scientific basis given by a Psychiatrist who believes that nutrition is one of the most important factors in treating neurological issues. Did you catch that? A psychiatrist advocating for food first for mental health. Yes! Her name is Georgia Ede, MD and you can bask in her passion and intelligence at I must give the disclaimer here that although I have read and learned from many of her posts here I have not ready everything she has written, but so far, everything she writes, I agree with and she does an amazing job at giving the science/biochemistry behind what she discusses.

The main point I want to make in this post is the importance of animal foods for the brain. One of the primary factors in ADD/ADHD is the poor production and assimilation of DHA which requires EPA (both of which are fatty acids) and minerals (primarily Zinc). Animal foods, when chosen wisely, can provide both EPA/DHA and Zinc in forms very bioavailable to the body.

Many will tout the need for whole grains because of their mineral content. But, also present in whole grains are phytates which are the plant’s natural mechanism for survival as a plant species. This means that when we eat grains, we also eat phytates. Phytates decrease mineral absorption of that food in the body. So, whole grains may start with a good mineral count, but they are highly depleted in the processing to get it to the form we eat, and our body does not absorb minerals well from grains. So, at the end of the day, grains are a very poor source of minerals.

Animal sources, however are a great mineral source and very bioavailable in the body. Furthermore, grass-fed beef, pastured chicken, and wild fish offer forms of minerals, EPA/DHA (Omega 3 Fatty Acids) in forms the body can utilize very well.

This means animal fats and proteins are powerful foods to be eating for ADD/ADHD and whole grains in large amounts (particularly gluten-containing grains) can be problematic for ADD/ADHD.

To read a great series on ADD/ADHD check out Part 1 by Dr. Ede

If you need more support with how nutrition can aid in ADD/ADHD, Autism, Apraxia or Down’s Syndrome, individual nutrition consults are available. Email if you have questions or email Sue to schedule at

Digestive Enzymes + Nutrition Support Group = Better Digestion

If you’ve been around the Marian Hope nutrition blogging you know that I believe that digestion is one of the primary components to good health. Everything depends on digestion and every single system in our body is affected by digestion. That’s why I often focus on food, supplements, and lifestyle changes that aid digestion.


One powerful weapon in the digestion arsenal is digestive enzymes. Our bodies make enzymes starting from the thought of food, all the way through the whole digestive process. However many different conditions including inflammation, leaky gut, food sensitivities, emotional stress, and environmental stress can affect the body’s ability to make enough enzymes to get the job done.


That’s where supplemental digestive photo (2)enzymes can be a major player in digestive health. There are various, trustworthy companies making potent and effective digestive enzymes. I happen to be most familiar with Enzymedica brand which conveniently enough is easy to pick up right down the road at Nature’s Pantry.


You have the opportunity to learn more about how digestive enzymes can play a roll in all diagnosis along the autism spectrum, food sensitivities, memory, blood sugar control, and even weight loss by coming to the Nutrition Support Management Group at Marian Hope Center on the first Wednesday of each month at 6:30 pm. The next two months (August 6 and September 3) I will be answering questions regarding enzyme use and will have lots of information to send home with you including ways to take home books and samples of enzymes.


Join us to learn more at this free place of support for improving the diet of your family offered by Marian Hope Center each month.  I look forward to seeing you there!


Blakely Page RD,LD
Registered Dietitian, Marian Hope Center



Feeling overwhelmed in the kitchen? We can help!

In my almost 10 years as a dietitian I can say one thing with absolute certainty: those who have support are more successful.

Making changes to the way our families eat is difficult. It takes time, energy and resources that you may feel like you simply don’t have. It is because change is hard that I believe it should be done with a balance of support and challenge.


Image courtesy of marin/”.

Marian Hope believes so wholeheartedly in the necessity of good nutrition for the developing child that we offer a monthly support group for our families. We offer a fabulous place for you to start making the changes you need, one step at a time, in a supportive environment of other moms and dads in the trenches just like you. Our Nutritional Management Support Group meets monthly as a place to help families make and maintain the changes to the way their family eats.


As a nutrition professional, I attend these meetings to offer support and guidance, but the real value and power is in the support one mom gives to another when simply getting dinner on the table seems like a monumental task. The Nutrition Management Support Group that Marian Hope offers is invaluable. It is the place for support in our challenging food environment. There will always be a mom there who will assure you that you can do it and that it is worth it. If you’re considering going gluten free/dairy free, or desire to decrease processed foods we want you to know:


You CAN do it and it IS worth it.


But, take my advice, you can’t do it alone, and the glorious part is, you don’t have to! We are here ready to help you in the journey of your family’s “nutrition makeover” at whatever place that begins. The amazing journey to health that many of our Marian Hope families have embarked on has literally changed the lives of their children. Several of our families have stories that exemplify the positive influences the nutrition support group can have on a whole family. Read below to learn what one mom has gained from the monthly meetings at Marian Hope Center. Christi is evidence that as moms doing our best to feed our families, we are better together than we are apart.

~ Blakely Page, Registered Dietitian


My name is Christi and my family has been involved with Marian Hope Center for the past seven years. For the past three years I have been attending the Nutritional Management Support Group. Our journey to understanding nutrition was a slow one. Our family was happy with our doctor’s advice that all calories are the same, and that Pediasure would take care of my malnourished daughter. After dragging my feet for a while, I finally decided to try the meetings out and see what they were like.

 It was such a wonderful experience; Angie and Theresa were there to provide a guiding hand. All of the moms that attended had walked down the exact same path that I was starting down. I found a wonderfully encouraging group of moms – all with their own challenges at home, but always there and available to share their stories, their tricks, and their advice.


I have been attending the Nutritional Management Support Group meetings ever since. This group has given me incredible insight and taught me so much on this road to better health. I now have a network of people that help me feel like I am not the only one. We share recipes, tips on where to get the best deal on products, and even the day-to-day stuff like packing healthy lunches and snacks to bring to school.


If you are interested in replacing processed foods with whole foods in your diet, wanting to try going gluten- free, or just interested in nutrition and feeding your family well, this group is for you! I encourage you to give it a try. We meet on the first Wednesday of every month at 6:30 pm at Marian Hope Center.


Nutrition Management Support Group

Who:          Anyone!

What:        Support for making nutrition changes

When:       The 1st Wednesday of every month; 6:30 PM

Where:      Marian Hope Center (14820 E. 42nd St, Independence, MO)


4 Easy “Real Food” Dinners

We all live with the reality of weekday meals. Sometimes old favorites need the dust shaken off of them and other times we’re ready for something new but simple. My hope is you will find some of both here. Add your family’s flare to these simple, straight-forward, gluten- and casein-free meals.  Each of them (or at least the main parts) will freeze really well.  So don’t hesitate to double it up and get ahead for next time.

1. Spaghetti squash and meatballs

This crockpot recipe is one of our favorite meals. The recipe in the link is a basic one, but it is so simple to adapt with your own style of meatballs.  Here are a few other adaptation ideas:   

  • Cook your spaghetti squash in the oven the night before while making the meatballs.  In the morning, put meatballs and sauce in the crockpot. At meal time, scrape your spaghetti squash out and heat up on the stove in a skillet (a good way to heat up leftovers).  I’ve found it heats up nicely for leftovers too!

  • Skip the meatballs and  just use a meat sauce by browning 1lb ground beef and adding 1 jar tomato sauce. I often add 1 onion while browning the meat before adding the sauce. Adding extra fresh garlic to a jar sauce always helps it. Of course, if you have a tomato sauce recipe you love, by all means… go for it. Lately, I’ve been buying the organic tomato sauce at Costco and dressing it up a bit with fresh garlic and onion.

  • Double the meatball recipe and freeze half of them by putting the raw meatballs on a cookie sheet in the freezer.  Once they are frozen, dump them into a zip lock bag and put them back in the freezer. Now you’ve got meatballs ready to go for next time!

2. Chicken Fajitas

Most of you probably know how to do chicken fajitas, but I post it mainly as a reminder of how easy and quick this delicious, satisfying, real food meal really is!

Ingredients: (I’m estimating for 3-4 people)

– chicken breast (3-4 should leave enough for leftovers)

– frozen onion/pepper mix (2 bags) or fresh onion/bell pepper sliced in thin strips.

– 1 can black beans or pinto beans

– tortilla chips and salsa (optional)

– cheese and sour cream if not avoiding dairy (optional)

– avocado


  1. Cut chicken breast in strips.
  2. Season with salt, pepper and 1 tbsp cumin.
  3. Cook chicken in skillet with 2 tbsp coconut oil or butter (or more if needed/desired).
  4. While chicken is cooking, slice avocado, and heat up beans.
  5. Remove chicken from skillet and saute veggies in the same skillet.
  6. Combine chicken and veggies in same pan and check for flavor. Add more salt, pepper, cumin as desired.
  7. Serve with organic corn tortillas or on a bed of romaine lettuce.

Here are a few other adaptation ideas:   

  • Use leftover chicken/veggie mixture on top of lettuce or as filling for lettuce wraps for lunch the next day.

  • Add chopped garlic and fresh cilantro to beans.

  • Use dried beans that have been soaked overnight to reduce phytates (mineral blockers). In a pinch, substitute canned beans, but I would recommend keeping frozen beans on  hand that have already been soaked and cooked.  This way, you just have to heat them up and add salt and garlic.

  • Make a double portion and freeze it in mason jar or zip lock bag for next time.

  • Add spinach to the veggie mixture to get more greens into your diet.


3. Crockpot Turkey Chili

I haven’t personally tried this recipe, but it looks great and who doesn’t love coming home to a crockpot full of goodness?  Like the fajitas, many of you may have your favorite chili recipe. Feel free to substitute beef for turkey.  Get it out and get creative/resourceful with it!

Here are a few other adaptation ideas/tips:   

  • Add more beans to make more chili. This helps stretch your beef if you are buying higher quality grass-fed beef.

  • Freeze leftovers in single servings to use for lunch with a side salad.

  • Serve with gluten-free cornbread and side salad.

  • Serve leftovers over a baked potato with broccoli.


4. Cauliflower Beef Soup

This tastes better than it sounds, and this is coming from someone who generally doesn’t care much for cauliflower. I’ve adapted this recipe from a GAPS diet recipe that is similar. I can just do it all from memory it’s so easy. I recently sent this to a friend who had bowel surgery and generally follows a GAPS/SCD type diet.

She LOVED it. We eat this every couple of weeks at our house.


– 1 head cauliflower

– 1 onion

– 3-4 cups chicken stock – increase if you want more soup! (preferably homemade)

– ½ to 1lb beef (the amount depends on how much soup you make and how much beef you prefer)

– frozen peas (optional)

– frozen broccoli or chopped carrots (optional)

– seasoning: garlic powder, salt, pepper, bay leaf


    1. Coarsely chop the onion and cauliflower and cook in broth in a large pot our dutch oven until tender.
    2. While above mixture is cooking, season beef with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. (So sorry, I’ve never measured this… My guess is for 1lb beef probably 2 tsp garlic and salt and 1 tsp pepper.) Roll into small balls (like meatballs), about the size of a quarter.
    3. Puree cauliflower, onion, and broth mixture until smooth (An immersion blender works best, but if you don’t have one, puree in food processor or blender in 2-3 batches.)
    4. Return the puree to the pot and drop uncooked meatballs into the puree.  Add 1 bay leaf and simmer until meat is cooked (about 20 minutes).
    5. If adding broccoli or chopped carrots, add this when you add the beef.
    6. If adding peas (my favorite), add this right at the end.
    7. A frozen bag of peas and carrots would also work well and I would add these for the last 10 minutes.

Spring Into Fitness 2014

Marian Hope believes in treating the “whole” child. Our therapists and educators work with our Registered Dietitian, Blakely Page to help families understand and embrace better nutrition for their child and the whole family. In addition to Blakely Page, Marian Hope also hosts a FREE nutritional support group meeting on the first Wednesday of each month (6:30 pm at Marian Hope Center).

When we begin to talk to parents about making nutritional changes, many families benefit from guidance regarding which products to purchase and which ingredients to avoid. Making a shift in grocery shopping and meal planning can be overwhelming. To ease this transition, Blakely or members of the Nutritional Support group will walk through the aisles of Nature’s Pantry with them to offer suggestions and tips.

Angie Knight, Marian Hope CEO, and I were first introduced to Bob Perkins, co-owner of Nature’s Pantry, four years ago. We had already referred many families to Nature’s Pantry and so many of them were shopping there so often that they had gotten to know many of the Nature’s Pantry staff members on a first-name basis. Nature’s Pantry has supported Marian Hope with sponsorship for our Spring into Hope shopping event. They have hosted and sponsored nutrition and wellness seminars for us when Dr. John and Betsy Hicks have presented. One year, they hosted a Back to School carnival benefiting Marian Hope with fun activities for the kids. The owners and staff were willing participants in the dunk tank. :)

In 2013, Bob came to us with the idea of hosting a 5K run/walk to benefit Marian Hope: Spring into Fitness! It was a huge success for a first year – over 300 runners/walkers participated! I overheard one participant talk about how moved he was by the signs and cheers of sideline supporters as he ran by. We are hopeful to at least double the number of participants this year. The race will be held at Waterfall Park (near Bass Pro) in Independence, MO, on Saturday, April 26. One hundred percent of the proceeds from this event will benefit the children and families that receive services through Marian Hope. spring into fitness

Over the last few years, Nature’s Pantry has become one of Marian Hope’s biggest supporters! Bob Perkins now serves on the Marian Hope Board of Directors and is helping guide the future of our organization. We thank Nature’s Pantry for their past and continued support!

To learn more about the 2014 Spring Into Fitness 5K Run/Walk, please click here.  Sponsorships are still available and participant registration is open.  This is a great way be active while supporting a worthy cause.  We hope to see you at Spring Into Fitness 2014 and in the aisles of Nature’s Pantry!

~ Heather Ruoff, COO of Marian Hope

Immune-Boosting Foods

No one likes to be sick in the winter and the constant nagging of a cold or the flu can really set back kids and adults alike. Although definitely needed and appropriate at times, medicine doesn’t have to be our first defense for winter illnesses. Foods and supplements can also boost the immune system.

1. Bone broth: my “go to” recipe can be found here. Channel your inner great-grandma and make some REAL chicken soup! Here is a helpful article by Dr. Axe explaining the details of why bone broth is SO beneficial. I couldn’t have said it better myself!


2. Vitamin D: In the winter everyone will get less sunlight so even if you are able to maintain your vitamin D levels without supplementation in Spring and Summer, some extra support in the winter can be helpful. I prefer a liquid Vitamin D3 because a few drops is easy to take and cost effective. Here’s what I like from Pure Encapsulation. An appropriate does is 2000-4000 IU daily for adults and 400-2,000 IU daily for children 3-12.


When you’re actually sick, these doses can be increased. I recommend everyone have their Vitamin D checked yearly. I recommend aiming for a level that falls within the middle to upper range of normal Vitamin D levels. In my opinion, the low end of normal is too low.


3. Greens Powder: This is ideal to add to smoothies and gives extra chlorophyll, which aids in digestion and immunity. Overall, most of us could benefit from more greens, so powders of dehydrated greens like kale, spinach, chard, bok choy, etc can really be helpful. There are many quality greens powders out there. I am most familiar with Paleo Greens and Amazing Grass. (Wheat grass is gluten-free despite the title). The Paleo Greens or ½ scoops of the Amazing Grass can be given to children.


Using fresh greens is fabulous too. I often add spinach or bok choy to any type of soup recipe. The flavor is minimal, it wilts quickly in a hot soup, and adds tons of extra nutrition without any fuss.


4. Multivitamins:  There are SO many multivitamins out there it makes even my head spin! Some would even say that multivitamins are not needed, but I think they have their place in our stressed and toxic world. For children, I recommend Pure Pals by Pure Encapsulation and Vitaspectrum by Klaire Labs*. For adults, I recommend the Nutrient 950 by Pure Encapsulation. These products can be ordered through Marian Hope Center when a nutrition consult is completed (includes a 20% discount!). These products can also be found at


5. Probiotics: Over 70-80% of our GI tract is made up of bacteria. There are both good and bad bacteria and a big part of our immunity is determined by who is winning… the good guys or bad guys. When there is more good bacteria winning than bad bacteria, then we get sick less often and inflammation is decreased. Probiotics both from foods and from supplements help to increase the good bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract. As a result, we can fight off illness more effectively. Stress, sugar, and processed foods are the biggest culprits that feed the bad bacteria. For more information on getting probiotics from foods, check out these resources:

Cultures for Health

Cultured Food Life

Wise Choice Market


Here’s to a happy and healthy winter season!


Blakely Page RD,LD

Registered Dietitian, Marian Hope Center

For information regarding individual consults contact Sue at


*Supplement recommendations often need to be customized specific to issues with which a person is dealing. These recommendations are general and not intended to serve as medical nutrition therapy.


Product Alert!

Sounds scary huh? Well this one is not scary (for a change) – it’s AMAZIJackson's Honest Potato ChipsNG and I want to make sure you know about it. There’s a great company out of Colorado called Jackson’s Honest Chips. These potato chips are so good that they were selected to be one of the green room snacks at the 2013 Oscars! My hunch is that taste was only part of the selection since the real claim to fame of this product is they are fried in COCONUT OIL. Yep, no more nasty canola, sunflower, or safflower seed oils! We finally have a potato chip we can love! My mom actually found these last year and my dad has been ordering them in bulk ever since. They haven’t been in the Kansas City area…until now! You can buy them at Whole Foods in Overland Park, KS. If that’s too far away, call our friends at Nature’s Pantry in Independence, MO and make a suggestion. Once you try them, you may want to order them by the case online, because they are THAT good.

I hear flavors are coming soon! Happy snacking!

Blakely Page RD,LD

Registered Dietitian, Marian Hope Center



Coconut Whip

Have you been wondering if there is a dairy-free option to put on top of that fabulous gluten free pumpkin pie you made or that decadent pecan pie sweetened with maple syrup instead of corn syrup?

Actually, you may still be looking for that pecan pie recipe that works every time (like I am). If anyone has one… post in comments so we can all be gluten-free pie friends. I tried this last year as a grain-free option and it was good – just not a traditional pecan pie (press the crust thinner too). There are lots of recipes for pecan pie without corn syrup and word on the street is just use your gluten-free flour mix instead of all purpose flour as the thickener and use a gluten-free pie crust. Remember using organic sugar, honey, or maple syrup helps you avoid those nasty GMOs.

But I digress from the point of this blog which is topping! I am all about the whip cream. I love the stuff. I could eat it with a spoon, put in in my coffee, drown berries in it, and of course, the pie dollop is a favorite. However, as many of you are experiencing yourself and/or with your children, dairy isn’t always our friend – be it behaviorally, with skin, or digestively. I’m right there with you.

But we have a backup plan and it’s called coconut whip! It’s super simple, super similar to whipped cream, and super healthy.


Here are a few links to recipes I’ve used- they’re all the same basic deal, just have different tips.

Coconut Whip with pictures – I agree with her. Don’t skip the vanilla extract!

Coconut Whip with fab tips– great info on brands of coconut milk!

Coconut Whip with berries– adding some spices to… ya know… spice things up

Some of our fabulous OT’s are using this in feeding classes to be able to introduce new textures and flavors to kids in an exciting and unobtrusive way. This consistency is also great for food play like finger painting or writing since it doesn’t melt/break down like dairy whipped cream!