A letter to my second born

Dear my second born,

I was nervous to meet you. I was more nervous to meet you than I was to meet your big sister. With her, I was naive about what life with a baby would be like. I mostly felt excitement. With you, I was excited too, but I also felt very nervous.

I felt nervous about doing it all again – the breastfeeding, the sleepless nights, the postpartum recovery, the shift in family dynamic, the responsibility of raising and nurturing another human. But more than that, I felt nervous about the love.

I couldn’t begin to imagine being able to love another child as much as I loved your big sister – she was my world. That fear was hard to admit. I was terrified that I wouldn’t feel connected to you in the same way. I was scared that I wouldn’t know how to divide myself between you two. With all of that fear came extreme guilt and shame. I was expecting my second healthy baby and I was incredibly grateful for that. And still, I felt guilty that I wasn’t more excited. I felt so scared of failing you. I felt scared that I wouldn’t be able to fulfil the needs of two kids and that I’d let you down. I really didn’t want to let you down. I wanted to be a Mom you would be proud of.

And then you were born.

Eight pounds of new existence. The moment I saw you, it was as if I’d known you my whole life. It felt like I had been living as an incomplete being until that moment, and it was you I’d been waiting for to complete my world. You were the puzzle piece I didn’t know was missing.

You looked up at me with those foggy newborn eyes, and they felt comfortably familiar. Moments after arriving earthside, you began to nurse with this confidence that relaxed me. It melted everything into place. It assured me that you and I were going to be ok.

The love was there.

The love was there even more than my heart could handle. As I held you in my arms, memorizing your new features, I couldn’t believe I had ever doubted my ability to love you. I loved you with every fibre of my being. You were perfect.

My sweet boy – you and your big sister are the light of my life and my love for you both knows no bounds.

There will be a lot of things I’ll struggle with in motherhood, but loving you will never be one of them.

Love, Mom

Featured Image by The Robins Nest


Red Lentil Veggie Soup

These cold, winter days call for comfort foods that warm my tummy. This soup is so jam packed with nourishing ingredients. I can’t decide which one is the all-star here, so I’ll highlight a few!

Let’s start with bone broth. The bone broth I use in this recipe is homemade from chicken bones (see notes below if you want to use an alternate liquid). Bone broth is one of the most healing foods you can consume. It’s full of collagen and minerals that help to repair the gut, boost the immune system, reduce inflammation and encourage liver detoxification from the glycine and potassium it contains.

Carrots are one of my favourite vegetables. They contain high levels of vitamin A, and are a great source of vitamin K, fibre, and biotin. Next we have sweet potatoes which are loaded with carotenes, vitamin C and vitamin B6.

Lentils are high in fibre and protein, but relatively low in calories. They help to balance the body’s pH level because they are a very alkaline source of protein. I love cooking with red lentils because I find them to be so adaptable. They cook quickly and blend in well with other flavours. The garlic, ginger, onions and turmeric combine to make this soup an anti-inflammatory powerhouse!

My whole family enjoys this dish. My toddler and baby gobble it right up! My baby is nearly one and has had each of these ingredients separately prior to having this soup, so I feel comfortable feeding it to him knowing he won’t have a reaction. I add more salt to the servings that I give to myself and my husband. I also add one or two Thai green chillies to the recipe if I don’t plan on giving it to my kids.

Red Lentil Veggie Soup

This dish is so nourishing and warming during the winter months, I can’t stop making it. The combination of red lentils, carrots, sweet potatoes and bone broth make this soup a complete meal. 
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Dinner, Main Course, Soup
Keyword: Dinner, Main Course, Soup
Servings: 6
Author: andreagracewellness

Ingredients

  • 1 cup red lentils soaked and rinsed well
  • 1 medium sweet potato peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium carrots peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup red onion diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped finely
  • 1 cube fresh ginger root peeled and chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp dried coriander
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp pink or sea salt add more to taste
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley chopped
  • 4 cups bone broth or water or vegetable stock I like to do 3 cups of bone broth and 1 cup of water
  • 1-2 Thai green chilies, chopped if you like some spice!

Instructions

  • Start by measuring out 1 cup of red lentils and let them soak in cold water. By the time you’ve prepped the rest of the recipe, it’s usually enough time for them to soak (about 20 minutes).
  • Peel the sweet potato and carrots, then chop them into cubes. Dice the red onion and finely chop the garlic and ginger. Make sure to remove the skin from the ginger first. 
  • The lentils will have expanded quite a bit after being soaked.
  • Using a fine-mesh strainer, rinse the lentils well with cold water, until the water runs clear. 
  • In a medium sauce pan, add the coconut oil, onion, garlic and ginger, on medium heat. Stir them around frequently until the onions run clear and begin to brown.
  • Add the bone broth (or liquid combination of your choice) to the saucepan. Then add the rinsed lentils, sweet potato, carrots, dried coriander, turmeric, sea salt and fresh parsley. Give it all a good stir.
  • Turn the heat up to high and bring the liquid to a boil.
  • Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer/low and cover with a lid. Let it simmer for 20-25 minutes. 
  • Stir the soup occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom. Just be sure to add the lid back on quickly after you’ve finished stirring.
  • After 20ish minutes, the veggies should be quite soft. Use a hand masher to mash up the soup, leaving it slightly chunky. You could also pour the contents of the saucepan into a blender and blend on high for 1 to 2 minutes to make a smoother consistency.
  • Serve immediately and enjoy! Put the leftovers in the fridge to enjoy for a few days. The soup will thicken up quite a bit in the fridge, so I like to add a bit of water to the soup when I reheat it on the stove. 

Did you make this recipe? Let me know what you think of it in the comments below! Any questions about the recipe instructions or ingredients used can also be asked in the comments. Happy cooking folks!


Naturally Boost Milk Supply

One of the topics I get messaged about the most is how to increase milk supply while breastfeeding. Here are a few general tips to keep in mind during your journey!

1. Stay well hydrated. I’m going to say this again because of how important it is. STAY WELL HYDRATED. You cannot make milk if your body is low on fluids. Drink a glass of water before each time you feed your baby. If you struggle to drink water regularly, try adding some lemon, cucumber or fresh berries to your water to make it more appealing to you. Another option is to drink coconut water. Coconut water is great for hydration because it is full of beneficial minerals that restore electrolyte levels in the body. Look for coconut water that doesn’t contain any artificial flavours or additional ingredients. Herbal teas are a great way to stay hydrated too. Just be sure to check with your primary care provider about which herbal teas to consume and which ones to stay away from. There are many herbs can either reduce milk supply or could potentially harm mom or baby. Just because herbs are ‘natural,’ does not mean they are all safe for everyone!

2. Eat adequate protein. Add protein rich foods to all of your snacks and meals. Some great snack options are: nut butter with apple slices, hummus with fresh veggies, goat’s cheddar cheese with dried fruit, trail mix, hard boiled eggs, rice cake with mashed avocado and hemp hearts, and greek or skyr yogurt with chia seeds and berries. You also may consider taking a collagen powder daily. It is a good source of protein and will also aid in postpartum recovery, by helping to repair damaged tissues. Taking a vegetarian protein powder is another great option. Genuine Health makes a fermented organic vegan protein powder that I like because it is easy to digest.

3. Feed on demand. A lot of people say to only feed the baby every 2-3 hours to get them on a good schedule. I’ve never followed that guideline with either of my kids. I feed my baby whenever he wants to eat, and I did the same with my daughter 2 years ago. Whether it’s been 2 hours, 20 minutes or 2 seconds – if that growing mind and body is showing signs of hunger, then Mama’s milk they will get! Especially in those early days when they are nursing for more than just sustenance. You and baby have to work as a team to make sure hunger and supply form a beautiful harmony. Yes, this can be incredibly draining when it feels like the entire day is spent feeding your baby. This stage will not last forever. Once your supply is well established and your baby’s stomach grows, they will become more efficient eaters, and feeds will naturally shorten in duration and frequency.

4. Eat supply boosting foods. Consume foods like oatmeal, fennel, fenugreek seeds, brewers yeast, garlic (unless it bothers baby), carrots, spinach, nuts & seeds. These foods have been shown to increase milk supply based on their own unique characteristics. Try to incorporate these foods into your regular diet. Avoid caffeine because as much as possible. Caffeine is a diuretic which means that it draws fluids out of our body at a faster rate than usual, which could cause dehydration. Some people also find that too much caffeine upsets baby’s tummy or stimulates them. If you do drink caffeinated beverages, drink one glass of water before and after the caffeinated drink. I do not recommend drinking more than 1 cup a day if you are exclusively breastfeeding in the first 6 months.

5. Eat often. Your body requires an additional 500 calories a day to maintain an adequate milk supply in the first few months if you’re exclusively breastfeeding. That’s even more calories than your body requires during pregnancy, which is only about 300 additional calories per day. To put calories into perspective, 100 calories is equal to about 13 almonds, or 1 apple, or 1 tablespoon of peanut butter or 1/3 of an avocado. We are so focused on feeding our baby in the early days, that we sometimes forget to nourish ourselves first. A healthy baby starts with a healthy mama.

6. Relax Mama. Nothing takes a toll on milk supply like stress does. I know that it’s hard to say “don’t stress,” because then you will stress about being stressed out – it’s a vicious cycle. A few things that I found helpful in the early days with both of my kids, was to sit or lay with my baby in a dark, quiet room to nurse (which was much harder to do with my second baby!). I would close my eyes after my baby latched. With my eyes closed, I’d repeat to myself in my head over and over, “milk flows through me like a river to feed my baby; my supply is abundant.” I would also try to take 10 long deep breaths at the beginning of each feed. I was often relaxed and calm before I could even get to 10 breaths. Avoid looking at your phone or other distractions during a feed because it could interrupt the hormonal signalling. Try to look at your baby or close your eyes and focus on your baby.

I don’t think it’s said enough that breastfeeding is very hard for a lot of women. It is physically demanding and can be mentally draining. It’s also beautiful, fascinating and incredible that we can nourish and provide for our baby using just our body! But, it’s OK to think it’s hard and think that it doesn’t feel “natural.” You are not alone. I see you – you are doing great, Mama. I’m sending you strength to work on increasing your milk supply and continue your breastfeeding journey if that’s what you desire and what is best for you and your baby. I’m also sending you courage to know when you’ve tried hard enough and that something needs to change. At the end of the day, all that matters is that baby has a full belly to grow and thrive, and that you are well enough (mentally and physically) to care for your baby.

What helped you increase your milk supply naturally? Let me know in the comments below!

*There are several reasons why a woman may have low milk supply, so it’s important to speak to your midwife, OB or lactation consultant if your baby is not gaining weight on track.


5 Amazing Superfoods

I’m sure you’ve heard the word “superfood” all over town, and seen it plastered on items in the grocery store. But what is a “superfood”? I’m glad you asked! It’s nothing more than a term used to describe a food that is ultra nutrient dense. Below are 5 of my favourites that I use regularly in my house. I’ll tell you how I incorporate them into my meals and snacks to kick the nutrient profile up a notch!

  1. Raw Cacao Nibs
    • These little brown nibs are loaded with magnesium. They are actually one of the highest food sources of magnesium – an essential mineral we could all probably use more of. They may also act as an aphrodisiac. I like to add cacao nibs to my coconut yogurt for a chocolatey, low caffeine crunch. They can also be added on top of a smoothie or used for baking in place of chocolate chips. My favourite brand of raw cacao nibs is Giddy Yoyo (not sponsored or affiliated).
  2. Nutritional Yeast high in B vitamins.
    • The first time I saw nutritional yeast, I thought it was fish food and was hesitant to try it. But, I gave it a chance and quickly became obsessed. It has a nutty, cheesy flavour to it. It’s not really like anything I’ve ever tasted before. Nutritional yeast, or “nooch” for short, is one of the best food sources of vitamin B12 – making it a great addition to a vegan or vegetarian diet! I like to add it to savoury foods, like on my scrambled eggs, mixed into soups, on top of pasta in place of parmesan cheese, or sprinkled on a rice cake on top of hummus. My favourite brand of nutritional yeast is Bragg (not sponsored or affiliated).
  3. Chia seeds
    • Don’t underestimate these tiny warriors – they are small and mighty. Chia seeds are an awesome source of omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and fibre. They are a great way to help keep your digestive tract moving. I often make chia seed pudding, I mix them into yogurt, or I add 1tbsp of chia seeds to my smoothie. I actually don’t have a favourite brand of chia seeds. I’ve been happy with several brands. I just look for ones that are organic ones and non-GMO.
  4. Bee Pollen
    • This superfood is the newest addition to my pantry of the bunch. Bee pollen is a great source of protein and B vitamins. I like to eat them with breakfast to help give me a boost of energy to start my day. They taste great mixed into yogurt with berries, on top of toast with nut butter, or simply sprinkled on to fresh fruit. My favourite brand of bee pollen is Beekeepers Naturals (not sponsored or affiliated).
  5. Hemp Hearts
    • I find hemp hearts to be the most versatile superfood from this group. They pair well with sweet and savoury foods. I use them in a variety of ways. I add them into smoothies, mix them into soups and yogurt, sprinkle them on salads or eggs, or add them to fresh fruit. Hemp hearts are high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They are also an awesome source of non-animal protein, as well as manganese and magnesium. My favourite brand of hemp hearts are Manitoba Harvest (brand ambassador).

There are tons of amazing, nutrient dense foods out there, AKA “superfoods.” What are your favourite superfoods? Tell me below!

Starting from the top going clockwise – nutritional yeast, chia seeds, bee pollen, hemp hearts, cacao nibs.

Twisted Tabouleh Salad

I’m a huge fan of simplicity and efficiency in the kitchen. With 2 young kids at home, I don’t have time to be in the kitchen for hours creating elaborate meals. But, I also don’t cut corners when it comes to creating nourishing meals.

Quinoa is one of my absolute favourite foods to eat. I’m a serious carb lover, and I love that quinoa hits the carb-loving-spot, without the gluten, plus the protein! Quinoa is rich in minerals, such as manganese, copper, phosphorus, and magnesium. It’s also a good source of fibre, folate and zinc. Parsley is the true star of the show here. I don’t feel like it gets enough credit for how nutrient dense it is. It’s loaded with vitamin K, C, A, folate, and iron. It is an antioxidant powerhouse!

Another thing I just love about this salad is that it’s very easy to make adjustments to and it’ll still be delicious. Avoid adding the feta cheese to make it dairy-free. If you don’t like mint – no problem! Swap it for cilantro, dill or another fresh herb. Chickpeas don’t do it for you? Sub in kidney beans, navy beans or black beans instead. You will not be disappointed!

If you’re planning to make this, I recommend making the quinoa the day before or a few hours before to allow it enough time to cool. It doesn’t need to be cold, but room temperature at the least. If you’re in a pinch – cook the quinoa and spread it out on a large plate, then pop it in the fridge or freezer to cool faster.

Please leave a comment below and tell me what you think of it. Happy eating my friends!

Twisted Tabouleh Salad

I love this well-rounded, versatile salad because it can be prepared as an appetizer, side dish or main course.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Recipe, Side Dish
Author: andreagracewellness

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa cooled to room temperature
  • 1 can chickpeas (398mL) rinsed well with cold water
  • 1 cup curly parsley, chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint leave, chopped remove leaves from stems
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 10 grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese I prefer goat’s or sheep’s feta
  • 1 medium lemon, juiced
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fine pink salt or sea salt add more to taste
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, mix lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, sea salt, and ground black pepper to create the dressing.
  • Then add the chickpeas, quinoa, curly parsley, mint, green onions, tomatoes and feta cheese to the bowl with the dressing.
  • Gently mix the salad until dressing is evenly coated.
  • Eat immediately or cover and place in the fridge to consume later. It should last for 2 days in the fridge before getting soggy!