Friday, April 20, 2018

Picky Eaters? Healthy Lunch Ideas for Kids

How Do You Get a Child to Eat Healthy?

As a mom of three, I went through many years of the lunch nightmare. It goes something like this: 

“Why didn’t you eat your lunch sweetie?” 
“I didn’t like it – it was yucky.” 

“But last week you said you loved it when I made the exact same thing.” 
“I don’t know. I just don’t like it.” 

Does that sound familiar?

Despite the fact that my children are now grown, that conversation feels like it happened yesterday. You want to feed your children well. You want them to eat what you feed them. And you want them to be healthy so that they can learn and do well in school. That can be a tall order. Add with a food sensitivity such as gluten, dairy, corn, soy... it can be, well, a nightmare. Hopefully this article will help. Over the years, I came up with several good ideas that got my kids through school with few illnesses, zero antibiotics, excellent GPAs, and they are now healthy adults who eat well.

Be Honest About Good Nutrition

Before we get started I wanted to share a philosophy I utilize when dealing with children and changing their lifestyle and diet. I used this with my own children and those whom I have had the privilege to care for over the years. Treat them like adults. What I mean is that you should be honest and talk to children as you would talk to a close friend – don’t talk down to them. As an example, if you change from pepperoni to sliced organic chicken slices, let them know why. 

Tell your child that the pepperoni has lots of chemicals and preservatives that will actually make his/her body sick. Obviously you don’t want that—and neither does he/she—so you are changing over to a cold cut that won’t create damage. If your child asks why his friend’s mother feeds his friend pepperoni (or other junk food), let your child know that his friend’s mom just might not know better. And of course, set a good example by eating well yourself. 

Work with your child to slowly change his/her taste buds until they enjoy fresh fruit and good food. Yes, this will take time. Yes, there will be some periods of frustration. Yes, you do need to be tenacious. But it’s so very worth it. If you ask my children if they appreciated all my efforts to keep them healthy, they will respond with a resounding and grateful “yes”.

Don't Discuss Your Own Dislikes of Food

Another suggestion is to try to avoid mentioning your own food dislikes. If you ‘hate’ certain vegetables that you know are healthy, don’t mention that to your children. Just purchase the healthiest vegetables, lightly cook them and serve them with a smile. Who knows? You might start to find some that you like! I can't tell you how many adults who rarely eat vegetables have told me that they don't eat them because their mother or father didn't like them. This is a shame and something we don't need to perpetuate.

Experiment: Try new things, especially ones involving healthy fruits and veggies. Good quality fruits and vegetables are delicious. Plus, your tastes change as you get older and as you get healthier. Something you didn’t like before you may find is quite tasty now. Keep trying new things!

10 Tips for Healthy Lunches

1. When it comes to beverages stick with water.
I know that may be difficult at first, but it’s worth it to make the transition. If your child is stuck on juice, try the trick of diluting it more and more with purified water. If you’re subtle, they won’t notice. Concurrently let them know that you’ve learned that fruit is best eaten, rather than drunk, and you’ll be adding delicious organic sweet fruit to their lunch box along with water that is more hydrating. Further, as a clinical nutritionist, I should note that a vast majority of our population is dehydrated—children included. The body works much better when properly hydrated. 

Hint: Make sure that the fruit you include is tasty. There’s no faster way of turning a child off from a fruit or vegetable than by giving them one that tastes bad.

2. Make extra dinner from the night before that can be used for lunch. Whether it’s a pasta meal with meat and veggies, or a stir fry, or soup or chili, heat it in the morning and put it in a thermos that will keep it warm. If they liked it for dinner, they’ll like it for 
lunch. Just don’t serve it AGAIN for dinner—you’ll have a mutiny! 

Hint: Take organic kale and chop it very finely. Add it to soups, chili, tomato sauce, stir fry—everything. It’s so small that they won’t taste it, but it’s in there and very healthy 
for them.

3. Serve hummus.
It's a protein-rich dip that can be dipped into with celery sticks, carrot sticks, pieces of cucumber—or really any raw veggies of choice. Hummus is filling too.

4. Another option on celery sticks or apple and pear slices is almond butter or peanut butter. (I know that some schools "outlaw" peanuts if a child has a serious allergy, so consider other butters such as almond or cashew.)

5. For salad lovers: Some kids love salad, bless them, and you can just put the undressed salad in a Tupperware container and send the dressing separately. Salads are a great way to get a lot of veggies into your kids. Ours typically consists of organic spring green mix, arugula, celery, green or red onion, avocado, red cabbage, cucumber and tomatoes. You could add shredded carrot, zucchini, sunflower seeds, and more—have fun with it and change up the ingredients to keep it interesting. 

  6. Egg salad is a nice main course.
Just ensure that your container keeps it cold within their lunch box. I don’t recommend canned tuna, or much of any tuna, since the fish tends to have high mercury content. Definitely not good for developed nervous systems. 

7. Cold cuts that have no chemicals or preservatives are good as "roll-ups"or on a sandwich.
Personally the only place I ever found "clean" cold cuts was Whole Foods, but check around and see what you find at your local grocer. The ingredients of the ones we used were only these 3: chicken/turkey, salt, water—that’s it! The only liability of these was that they would go bad within about 5 days due to the lack of preservatives. They're a good thing health-wise, but important to keep track of so you’re not throwing good food away. 

Hint: If your child is addicted to bologna or salami, for example, Whole Foods likely has a healthier version you can switch to while you’re weaning to healthier options. The chemicals and preservatives in standard cold cuts put them squarely in the category of a Frankenfood—too far from the real thing to be ingested by a body that wants to be healthy.

8.Serve fresh nuts and fruit, or raisins (or other dried fruit). Make sure all are organic and the nuts are raw or freshly dry roasted. Nuts roasted in oil are frequently rancid which is a bad fat; something you want to avoid.

9. There are some very healthy desserts you can make that are easy, raw (in many cases), and fun to make with your children.
Go online and search “fruit and nut balls” and you’ll find many, many options. They typically involve dates, a nut butter, dried fruit, coconut, fresh nuts, cocoa powder, etc. What makes them fun is that you can change up the ingredients to make them taste different so you don’t get bored. Try to avoid the ones with sugar or lots of chocolate. Believe me, the dates and other dried fruit will make it sweet enough, and these are very satisfying. We are trying to decrease the size of the sweet tooth—these healthy desserts will help.

10. Read labels—please!
It's so easy to grab the heavily processed, chemical filled, artificial "something" that your child wants because his friend has it or he saw it advertised on TV. Don't do it! Read the ingredients. If it's more than 5 ingredients, it's likely too heavily processed to be healthy. If it contains words that you don't have in your own pantry, such as "red dye" or "sodium benzoate", don't buy it—it's a Frankenfood. Such foods are addictive, fattening and inflammatory.—all things you want to avoid if you want a healthy body. 

I hope this was helpful. Please write me back with any great ideas you have that we can share with other parents.

Is Your Child Gluten Sensitive?

It is better to find out sooner than later—contact us at If you have questions or need any help, I’m here for you! Call 408-733-0400.

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN, CFMP
IFM Certified Practitioner

Founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”

Author of the eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You!”

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Is Quinoa ALWAYS Gluten Free?

Is Quinoa ALWAYS Gluten Free?

Quinoa is grown in the Andes and is typically thought of as a grain. But that is a misnomer. Despite cooking up as a grain-like substance, quinoa is factually a seed from a plant similar to spinach and Swiss chard. Considering how healthy those two vegetables are, it is not then surprising that quinoa has a high protein content and contains all the necessary amino acids – making it one of those ‘near perfect’ foods that is nutritious, economical and easy to make. AND it’s gluten-free… or is it?

Hold on, before you stop reading because you think this is going to be depressing and you’re going to lose another of your ‘go to’ gluten-free staples, let me explain. The data that I’m about to present was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in August 2012. And I think that it’s important that you know.

The researchers, from Kings College in London, designed their study to analyze quinoa since little experimental data existed to support its safety as part of a gluten-free diet.

One of the reasons that quinoa has been on the gluten-free list is based on its protein content. Remember it is the protein in a food that tends to be problematic – gluten, more correctly gliadin, is a protein, as is casein, the problematic portion of dairy products. When someone ‘reacts’ or is allergic to a food, it is typically a reaction to the protein portion.

Wheat, barley, rye as well as non-glutinous corn, sorghum and oats, fall into the category of being high in something called prolamins.

What are prolamins? 

They are storage proteins that contain high amounts of the amino acids proline and glutamine – and are found standard in glutinous grains. It is known that prolamins may induce celiac disease and gluten sensitivity in susceptible individuals.

Quinoa is known to be low in prolamins, therefore it is little wonder that quinoa, with its low prolamin content, seemed a quite safe alternative on a gluten-free diet.

In this study the scientists looked at different cultivars of quinoa, 15 of them in all. A cultivar is a cultivated variety of a plant that is produced from a naturally occurring species and then maintained by cultivation. It turns out that different regions of the Andes produce different cultivars and it was the goal of this research to see if any of these cultivars had varying amounts of prolamin, enough that the immune system of a celiac-prone patient might react to it.

As mentioned, it is the protein portion of foods that can cause reactions to occur. When a substance such as gluten is causing a reaction, it’s called an antigen (think of it as a toxin to the body). The immune system tries to attack the toxin or antigen by making an antibody (it works against the toxin). The region on the antigen where the antibody attaches itself is called an epitope. Okay, done with all the new words!

In this study the researchers’ aim was to determine if any of the 15 cultivars contained prolamin epitopes (so it’s acting as a toxin and the body’s immune system has to attack it) in enough quantity to be deemed on par with a gluten-containing food.

Here are their results:

Of the 15 quinoa cultivars tested, 4 had measurable concentrations of toxic epitopes, but they were below the maximum permitted for a gluten-free food. In other words, the 20 parts per million (ppm) threshold of gluten that by definition allows a food to be deemed ‘gluten-free’, was not exceeded.
However, two cultivars, Ayacuchana and Pasankalla, did stimulate the immune system to react in a way that is comparable to a gluten-containing food.

What’s our take-away from this research?

1.      In the main, quinoa seems to be a safe food, with most of its cultivars not causing the immune system reaction consistent with a gluten-containing food.
2.      Four cultivars fell below the 20 ppm of gluten, but they still did contain enough of the protein to cause a reaction, albeit a mild one.
3.      Two cultivars were downright bad – they causes a gluten response that was above the 20 ppm threshold and unfortunately acted upon the immune system consistent with someone who was eating gluten.

Here is what I tell my patients about quinoa:

First of all, I ensure that they have been gluten-free for long enough that we have mostly healed their gut. Then we do a trial with quinoa to see how they feel. Most people do fine, but not all. If someone has a reaction, we wait until they have ‘healed’ from the assault and then attempt it one more time. If they react again, we deem them sensitive to quinoa and recommend abstinence.

Finally, if someone is very suspicious and wants to know for sure, we can run a cross-reactivity blood test that tests for a quinoa reaction along with many other such foods whose protein structure can mimic gluten. It’s an excellent test and a great tool to be able to take someone to their desired next level of health. 

While writing this piece I was curious to see if one could easily find out what cultivar a quinoa company used. An online search didn't yield any data, but I think it would be worthwhile to contact a company to see if they utilized either of the two cultivars mentioned above that caused a reaction.

It is possible that if those cultivars were avoided, a seemingly reactive individual might be able to tolerate quinoa quite well.

Do you react to quinoa, or do you enjoy it as a part of your gluten-free diet?
If anyone wants to do a little research and find out if any companies are forthcoming regarding the cultivars they use, please let me know. It’s definitely information I’d like to pass along.

Contact us for a Free Consultation - Call (408) 733-0400. 

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We help the world's busiest people regain, retain and reclaim their health, energy and resilience. 

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To reclaiming your best health,

Dr. Vikki Petersen DC, CCN
Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner
Founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic
Author of "The Gluten Effect"
Author of eBook: "Gluten: What You Don't Know May Be Killing You"

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012 Aug;96(2):337-44. Variable activation of immune response by quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) prolamins in celiac disease.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

New video on gluten by Dr. Vikki Petersen. 

For more information visit our website: or call 408-733-0400. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hidden infections and gluten intolerances

As a doctor who has written a book on the subject of gluten, I am writing about this very important, although often overlooked consequence of celiac and gluten intolerance - hidden infections.

The mechanism revolves around the inflammation that is created in the small intestine with the ingestion of gluten for many years. This inflammatory response weakens the immune system of the intestine thereby allowing pathogenic (disease causing) organisms to gain a foothold. Every 10 minutes our small intestines are exposed to pathogenic organisms. A healthy immune system destroys them but a compromised immune system can't defend itself adequately.

These organism can cause a myriad of health problems including gastrointestinal symptoms, arthritis and joint inflammation, obesity, hormone imbalance - just to name a few.

Anyone with celiac or gluten intolerance is at risk for these infections which can be bacterial, parasitic, amoeba or yeast. I find a stool test to be the most accurate way to detect them but there are some labs I prefer over others due to their sensitivity and accuracy.

To find out more information and to schedule a free consultation, call 408-733-0400.

Hope this helps anyone curious.

Dr Vikki Petersen

Also, if an infection is found it is critical to retest to ensure that it's been eradicated. And lastly, since the immune system of a celiac or gluten intolerant individual can take a few years to reestablish once gluten and any offending organisms have been removed, annual testing is probably a good idea for a couple of years.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Sometimes a Gluten-free Diet Isn't Enough...

A lot of patients find themselves in the position of having removed gluten from their diet, but they are still suffering health problems. These patients have made the Herculean effort to remove gluten entirely from their diet and while they improved - their health is still not where they would have hoped.

So what’s the problem?

In my clinical experience, I find that patients who are either Celiac or gluten intolerant are highly susceptible to intestinal infections. The damage which gluten causes to the lining of the small intestine also damages the integrity of the immune system within the intestines. Considering that it is estimated that every 10 minutes our intestines are exposed to a pathogenic (able to cause infection) organism, it is critical to good health that our immune systems are strong enough to destroy these organisms. Gluten intolerant individuals don’t have a strong immune system and thereby tend to contract infections.

You may think that if you had an intestinal infection you would have a fever, severe diarrhea or abdominal pain. While this can occur, more often than not, these infections are less extreme in their presentation. But they are not silent. A patient with an intestinal infection will not enjoy optimal health and, unfortunately, will not get the entire benefit of removing the offending gluten from their diet. When an infection is not present, the removal of gluten results in the healing of the intestines and the improved health and well being of the patient. In the presence of infection, the healing does not take place because the infectious organism continues to irritate the lining of the intestine and the patient does not improve markedly.

Most doctors who diagnose celiac disease or gluten intolerance only focus on the change of diet that is necessary. They don’t go the next step and rule out any hidden infection. Many times patients have been diagnosed with an infection and stated that they felt they had had an infection but were told that because they didn’t have a fever or acute diarrhea it was not possible.

If you have been avoiding gluten but haven’t seen all the benefits to your health which you had hoped, consider getting evaluated for hidden infection. We see this problem all the time in our patients and are happy to help you. Don't give up on your gluten-free diet! If you aren't seeing all the results you want, come see us to get evaluated.

Visit us at If you have questions or need any help, I’m here for you! Call 408-733-0400.

I look forward to hearing from you.

To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN, CFMP

IFM Certified Practitioner

Founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”

Author of the eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You!”