The Way We Eat

This is the post I haven't wanted to write. It's just so BIG...too many words, too many resources, too much information. {And not enough pretty pictures!} But today is the day. I can feel it.

It's time to talk about THE WAY WE EAT.

I get asked about this in real life more than anything else. I guess word has gotten out: from meltdowns to learning issues to migraines to moodiness, the way my family eats has changed everything!

In my parenting post, "feed them real food" was one of my words of wisdom. Here's why: because nothing has influenced my ability to enjoy my children more than food...both the food I eat and the food they eat.

I read all the great parenting books {Don't Make Me Count to Three and Age of Opportunity are my favorites}, I disciplined with love and consistency, I loved on them and I prayed lots. But there was still so much frustration in our house...frustration that was relieved when we changed our diet.

{A pretty farmer's market photo to break up
what I know will be a very long post!}

Here's what we eat in a nutshell: real food...food that is a natural part of God's creation. {I agree with Michael Pollan's Food Rules entirely! A simple, sensible place to start if you're new to this.} That's not to say we don't ever eat anything from a package, but if the ingredients aren't ones we can pronounce, identify or potentially produce ourselves {if we were so inclined}, we don't buy it.

But sometimes that isn't enough. Real food is better than processed food, chemically altered food, artificially colored, flavored and preserved food any day of the week. BUT, if your child is reacting to a natural food and you don't know it, delighting in that child will be near impossible! {And if you're reacting to a food and you don't know it...ditto. Been there!}

This is where the Feingold Diet saved our lives.

I've never been a big fan of artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, so that part of the Feingold Diet was a no brainer. We've always shopped at Whole Foods where artificial ingredients aren't even allowed on the shelves.

So I thought we were all good. Yes, we had our meltdowns and temper tantrums and inability to listen and obey, but we were eating healthy, so I thought it was just normal kid stuff {or that I had yet to succeed as a parent}.

Until my first grader showed signs of ADD. She was brilliant, her teachers said, but the lights weren't always on. She looked like a deer in headlights half the time...and spaced out when she needed to be paying attention. A specialist was brought in to observe her and Ritalin was suggested as an option.

You're probably thinking a million things right now. I was, too!

It gets me all worked up that a psychotropic drug is offered as a first line of defense for a child who expresses ADD or ADHD symptoms while diet is ignored. {I'd love to see a revolution in the medical community, but in the mean time, we have a lot of power as parents. Diet is HUGE.}

[Side note: my husband was diagnosed with both ADD and ADHD, so I knew there was a chance it could pop up in our children. But he never took medication and is one of the most amazingly talented, entrepreneurial, ground- breaking doctors in his field. There is hope for success!]

My gut said medicine wasn't the answer.

So we tried lots of other stuff...occupational therapy, morning exercise, afternoon exercise, middle-of-the-day skipping around the track exercises {the school was very cooperative}. Extra encouragement, more hugs and art as a creative outlet...all to boost her spirits {because even at six, she was aware of being slower to catch on that her fast-paced peers and was feeling a little anxious about it}.

All that was good, but it wasn't enough.

So there I was, lying in my sick bed for TWELVE WEEKS with the worst case of mono you've ever seen, and I couldn't get the ADD thing out of my head. What's a bed-bound mama to do? Grab the laptop and research during every waking minute.

For us, it came down to three options:
  1. Go ahead with the full-blown testing at Texas Children's Hospital
  2. Change schools {not easy to do in April!}
  3. Give the Feingold {aka "ADD Diet"} a serious try
The Feingold Diet won. It was cheaper, something we could start right away, do on our own, and definitely less traumatic for my child. So I ordered all the materials, presented it to my family, and we dove in together on May 1, 2008.

Guess what I found out? It's not just the artificial colors, flavors and preservatives that can make your kids crazy, but there are naturally occurring chemicals {called salicylates} in healthy, natural foods that can wreck havoc on a person who's sensitive to them.

Who knew?!?! Dr. Feingold did! Don't let me scare you, but would you ever guess this delicious, all natural snack could send your child off her rocker?

{Fortunately, we can eat these now.}

I was feeding my children things that made them feel crazy inside EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Grapes and raisins sent my youngest through the roof. I had no idea! I thought she was just a moody, impulsive, temper-tantrum throwing child who would challenge me until the day I died. {Sometimes I blamed sugar, which turns out not to be the problem I thought it was.}

After only 48 HOURS of starting the Feingold Diet, she was a different child! {And to think we started this for our oldest daughter...never expecting such a night and day difference with our youngest!}

For the first time, I saw her for who she really was: a sparkling, shining, spirited, imaginative, loving and passionate little girl! {It brings tears to my eyes just thinking of it!}. She looked free!

Yes, she's still moody at times. That's part of who she is. But it's a more predictable, controlled, positive kind of moody.

She's more of her true self today than ever. But give that girl a handful of goldfish {artificial color, flavor and preservative} and she might turn around and spit on you. {No joke. Food makes her do crazy, impulsive things.} Feed her well {and steer clear of grapes and raisins}, and she's a DELIGHT!

{My youngest literally sparkles these days!}

And my oldest: she's creative, compassionate, observant and sensitive...without the daily brain fog. Yes, she still likes to daydream and stare into space, but that's part of her songwriting, poetry-writing self. I love those creative gifts of hers!

Oh, and in case you're wondering, she's doing great in school! We changed schools last year for all kinds of reasons, but focus and attention had nothing to do with it...and haven't been brought up since! {In addition to diet, Irlen lenses have made all the difference in school! Talk about something we'd never heard of!}

When my kids eat things they know they shouldn't, they feel it. They can generally identify the culprit and decide for themselves that it wasn't worth it. Such an empowering thing for a child!

Here's my promise: give the diet a dedicated, whole-hearted try and your WHOLE FAMILY will benefit in ways you can't imagine. {I discovered a key migraine trigger: black pepper! I had too much of it in a cooking class this week and paid the price yesterday!} Your kids can absolutely do this. YOU can do this. I promise!

The good news: you don't have to avoid all the foods on the Feingold list forever. As you add foods back into your diet, you'll be able to tell which are the culprits and which are fine for your family. {The Feingold Association will guide you every step of the way.}

{We're enjoying tomatoes again...when they're in season!}

It breaks my heart to see families struggling through behavior, learning and health issues with no idea that diet can change things...sometimes dramatically, but always for the best. It breaks my heart to see children get in trouble for behavior that's triggered by the food they eat. {I've seen kids change in front of my very eyes based on what they eat. It's wild!} And it breaks my heart to see moms feel frustrated and defeated because no amount of discipline, love and patience seems to be working.

I know you want to delight in your children. I know you want to look in their eyes and see them for who they really are. {To this day, I can tell if my children have eaten something they shouldn't have by their eyes. They really are the windows to the soul!}

I hope there will be a day when we don't have to choose between fake food and real food, but until that day comes, I'm thankful for the research, materials and support provided through The Feingold Association.

I wish I could be everyone's personal shopper, cheerleader and helper. But The Feingold Association does that far better than I can. If anything I've said resonates with you, please join. It's the best money I've ever spent. {I ordered this packet to get started.}

Dive in. Cold turkey. It's the best way to do it! And if you get stuck along the way and need a friend to encourage you, I'm here.

Eating has never been so good. What looks like a sacrifice up front turned out to be a huge blessing to our family. The hard things in life usually work that way, don't you think?

I think I set a record for the number of words in one post, but if this has been helpful to even one of you, then I'm glad I sacrificed my House Beautiful post for this today! Beauty can wait!

*Read Part Two HERE and more on the Feingold Diet HERE.* 

Happy Weekend, Sweet Friends!

P.S. I'll never forget the impact this book had on me: Why Can't My Child Behave? {Read Part One here.} I just wanted to help my oldest daughter, but this book nailed my youngest daughter...and addressed my own fear of failure as a parent. Thank you, Jane. You are one of my heroes!

P.P.S. My oldest daughter and I are also gluten free {for intestinal and brain fog reasons}. That's not part of the Feingold Diet, but it was easy to figure out after all of our Feingold experience. So freeing to be able to discover these things on your own!
***UPDATED to answer a few questions I've received via email: 
  1. You don't have to shop at Whole Foods to make the Feingold Diet work for you. When you join, you'll receive a Food List that will take the guess work out of shopping. You'll be amazed at how many options there are, and most of them are found in your regular grocery store. I just happen to be a Whole Foods junkie!
  2. You don't have to make everything from scratch and spend hours in the kitchen. My family has become passionate about fresh food {and my husband loves to cook}, but the Feingold Diet can be as store bought or market fresh as you'd like it to be!
  3. The Feingold Diet isn't limiting forever. Phase One requires discipline and oversight {this is critical for giving your child a fresh start}, but during Phase Two, many foods are reintroduced without a problem. Now that we know how to recognize a food reaction, we can venture "off the list" and enjoy all sorts of yummy things.
  4. In the end, you gain far more than you give up.  I could write an entire post to explain this one! In the beginning, we let our kids enjoy more treats than usual, as long as they were "Feingold approved." That way, they felt like they were gaining something, not just giving up. Today, my girls will tell you that what they eat is far tastier than what their peers eat. They love good food!


  1. Linsey - I am so into food I can't wait to get home and read about this. We drove up to Omaha NE today for Grace's dance so I am not going to spend much time on the computer but wanted to visit you! I will be talking to you when I get home! Haven't forgot about the prayer email.
    I've got so much to share with you:) So you all eat this way? hope your doing well
    talk soon

  2. The Feingold diet has been making a difference for some for a lot of years. I first heard of it when you were about 7, and it's interesting to know that it can still make a difference. Kudos to you for believing in what you do.xox

  3. Thank you! Having a child with ADD is a very different experience. CREATIVE.....it is out of this world but staying focused during Math or Science?forget it! This child, as is yours, incredible! I appreciate your open spirit, I will be giving this a try. ~ M

  4. this is exactly what I've been praying for....

    I tried to go mostly organic 6 years ago....but, I have to say, my family was not on board...lots of complaints and grumblings.

    Just like with homeschooling, this food thing KEEPS coming up in my life. It's such a narrow road if you are the only one in your family that "gets" it.

    My husband is DEAR and wonderful, but he eats whatever he wants and likes it that way.....

    Is the only expense really just the program you started with for $107? Is it a monthly cost to be part of their program or is the initial program all I'll need?

    thank you linsey.....for helping to educate us!

  5. Tara, good question. It's a one-time joining fee, but I renewed my membership for several years (at a lesser cost since you only need the intro stuff once). I suggested the $107 as a good starting packet because I liked the book "Why Can't My Children Behave?", but you can also join without that. Their monthly newlestters are full of good stuff. I've learned a ton!

    I think Feingold has some suggestions and support for what to do when your spouse isn't on board. My experience with family that wasn't on board: once they saw the difference food made in my children, they started to slowly and quietly get on board. :)

    You can do it. I promise it will be easier than you think if you go into it with a whole-hearted effort. Half-way doesn't work. I tried it. :)


  6. this is fascinating. i think there is a lot to say about the foods we put into our bodies and how that makes us act. i often wonder with my kids if something they've eaten has set them off.

    it's also overwhelming for me, though, to think about 1. learning about all of this and 2. actually implementing it! thanks for sharing and putting it out there. now to find the time to actually give it a try...

  7. Would love to read what a typical menu is like for you and your girls. What are you favorite items, etc.
    Love your blog!!

  8. Anon, thanks for asking! I just posted a "part deux" with pictures of a sample meal. It's really very simple. The fewer the ingredients, the better!

    Alston, I know what you mean about feeling overwhelmed. I felt that way the first time I looked at Feingold, but then I became desperate to help my oldest daughter with ADD. Little did I know that food would make a night and day difference in my crazy younger daughter! :)


  9. Hi Lindsey - I have been following your blog and have to tell you I love it! I have also been working with Holly Mathis and she is the one that directed me to you b/c our kitchens are very similar. Anyway, I feel like I was led to you because of the Feingold diet. It was great to read about and I had been looking for something for my daughter who is struggling (6 1/2 years old). I ordered the Feingold diet plan and am just one week into it. I am struggling a little just planning meals, etc. and on what to eat. I live in Houston (Cypress actually) and the Whole Foods is pretty far away. Anyway, I wanted to see if you have any words of wisdom or things you did at the beginning to make it easier. Kids meals your girls like, etc. If you have a moment, I would love to chat (via email) Thanks so much!

  10. Jenny, I'd be happy to chat, but don't have your email. Mine is llh(at)llhdesigns(dot)com.

    You definitely don't have to shop at Whole Foods. Lots of options at every grocery store. The main thing we do is keep it simple and fresh around here.

    We didn't use special "Feingold" recipes (though you can find lots on their website if you'd like). We just adapted our usual recipes (leaving out ingredients that aren't a part of Feingold's Stage One). My girls eat what we eat. Our typical dinners look like this:

    * PROTEIN - no fancy sauces, but usually olive oil, sea salt and Herbes de Provence or fresh herbs
    * VEGGIE - roasted or grilled
    * GRAIN - rice, risotto, quinoa OR...
    * SALAD - tossed with olive oil, fresh lemon and sea salt (my youngest doesn't do well with vinegar, pepper or mystery spices)


    We try to save dessert for weekends and special occasions. The Food List will give you plenty of options. Hope this helps you!

  11. I would love to met for lunch sometime to discuss this! I am pouring over the Feingold site now. My son has ADHD that is controlled with meds. He is 7. There has to be a better way.

    Thank you for sharing your story & as soon as your "holiday" season is over...let's meet up!!


  12. Linsey,
    My husband and I just learned of the Feingold diet yesterday and can't believe the amount of dyes in everything! We want to start it immediately for our daughter but we don't have any of the materials. We went shopping today and stayed clear of the dyes, vanillin, and the main preservatives. I'm curious, is stage 1 meant to be a complete body cleanse?

    1. Not really a cleanse diet, but an elimination diet so that you can have a clean slate with the most common reaction causing foods. During stage 2, you add the foods you eliminated back in one at a time, but of course you never add back in the artificial chemicals. Go for it!!!

  13. Hi Linsey,
    Our family has adopted the paleo lifestyle and have seen such a difference in our lives! It's very similar to how you eat. My daughter was also having meltdowns, etc. I feel your pain on that! When I had her tested for food allergies and she came back gluten intolerant, it was the grandest day! I was so happy for an answer. Now with gluten out of her system and ALMOST no processed foods, I have a new child. She also knows how she feels when she indulges and chooses most of the time to abstain at friends' homes. She's six.
    Happy Easter! The weather here in Houston is glorious but I think I would trade a week of your drizzling days to hang out on a farm.



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