Babies/Kids - Aviva Allen's Blog - Page 2


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Encouraging Kids to Drink Water

Are you having a hard time getting your kids to drink water?  Some children love drinking water from the start, while others need a little extra encouragement to hydrate with water. 

If drinking more water is a new initiative for your family, try explaining to your kids about why you are making this change together.  b2ap3_thumbnail_20130603_132052.jpgSimply explain, in an age-appropriate way, how water is so important for our bodies and why it is a healthy choice to make every day.  Creating a water-friendly environment is also key, so make sure water is always accessible, whether your kids are indoor, outdoors or on the go.

Make drinking water a life-long habit for your kids by starting with these 5 tips:

1. Limit other beverages: Avoid pop and other sweetened beverages and limit milk/milk alternatives and fruit juice.  There is only so much liquid your child will be able to drink in a day and you want the focus to be on water.

2. How does your water taste? Children generally have more sensitive taste buds than adults and may not enjoy the taste of tap water.  I know I can certainly taste the difference.  If this is the case, you can try purchasing a water filter or having filtered or spring water delivered by companies such as Cedar Springs.  They are even available in glass jugs and can be used with or without a cooler dispenser.

Another option is to add fresh fruit to your water.  Slice up any combination of lemons, limes, oranges, cucumbers or fresh mint and place into a pitcher of water.  Frozen berries are also great in place of ice cubes.  This will enhance the taste of the water and also make it more appealing to drink with the addition of vibrant colours. 

3. Set an example: Have you ever noticed that you feel thirsty when you see someone else taking a sip of their water?  It's a great subtle reminder for them to take a drink, and great way to keep yourself hydrated at the same time.  So make sure to your kids see YOU drinking water (and not pop or alcoholic beverages) whenever possible.  Spoken reminders are important too, as long as it doesn't start to feel like nagging.

4. Travel with water: Take water with you on the go.  It is cost-effective and eco-friendly to carry a reusable water bottle, rather than purchasing bottled water.  I prefer insulated stainless steel bottles such as these bottles from S'well or Klean Kanteen as they will keep your water cool for up to 24 hours.  I  prefer drinking room temperature water and with this bottle, I can keep it in my car during the winter and it doesn't get too cold and in the summer it prevents my water from heating up.

5. Make it fun! Let your child choose the colour of their water bottle.  At home, try offering water in a glass with a straw as this can often help kids (and grown ups) drink more.  Try a reusable straw such as this one from Strawesome.  If your child needs some extra motivation, keep a chart on the fridge so that they can track how much water they drink.  You can have a reward system, or even start a water drinking contest for the competitive members of the family.

b2ap3_thumbnail_crib-mattress.jpgAs adults, we spend about 30% of our lives in our beds, but your baby will spend about 70% of their time sleeping, so you want to make sure that they are sleeping and resting in mattresses of only the highest materials and best quality. Because babies spend much of their time in their cribs and in the nursery, focusing on creating the healthiest environment possible is of great importance to many parents.  Babies also have more sensitive skin than adults and are more sensitive to chemicals. Organic products provide a safer alternative for your baby and your home.

Even though organic mattresses are often more expensive, avoiding all the chemicals was very important to me when I was pregnant with my first child.  So we ended up decided to buy a used crib and put the money we saved towards the purchase of a new organic crib mattress from Organic Lifestyle.

I recently had a conversation with Dihan Chandra, owner of Organic Lifestyle - an online green boutique that specializes in creating a healthy indoor environment for the home.  I have been shopping at Organic Lifestyle for the last 5 years and love the quality products they carry as well as the expertise they have to offer.  Dihan always does his research before offering any new products to his customers so I know I can trust every item I purchase from Organic Lifestyle.  I had a few questions for Dihan about organic mattresses and wanted to share his responses with you.

1. What are the problems with conventional mattresses?

Dihan: Essentially, it's the number of chemicals like formaldehyde, polyurethane foam and fire retardant chemicals that are included in products we sleep on.  Fire retardant chemicals are from a by gone era when people used to fall asleep with cigarettes in bed. Formaldehyde (common use is in embalming human bodies) is used to help preserve the wood / bed materials so that your bed & mattress lasts longer.  Polyurethane foam is from a petrochemical base which is known to off-gas VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which in turn, some have been shown to be carcinogenic.  Today, what this amounts to is that we inhale this chemical concoction as we sleep. To make matters worse, we re-introduce ourselves to this every 7-10 years when we replace our mattress.

2. What makes organic mattresses different?

Dihan: Organic Mattresses are associated with being expensive - that's because the cost to make it without short cuts are expensive.
For example, the cost to grow, feed & maintain sheep over years to sheer its wool versus cost of making chemicals in a lab.  However,  price-wise organic mattresses are comparable to mid-high quality conventional mattresses available at big box stores like Sleep Country & The Brick (queen mattresses range from $2000-$2500).  So why wouldn't you spend the money on something that you know is certified organic and have Peace of mind?

Organic mattresses contain no synthetic materials so no off-gassing.  Instead, materials like organic cotton and chemically untreated stainless steel innerspring coils or natural rubber are used.  There is also no off-gassing of fire retardant chemicals as wool acts as a natural fire retardant.

•    NO synthetic pesticides
•    NO synthetic fertilizers
•    NO genetically modified organisms
•    NO carcinogenic, mutagenic, teratogenic chemicals
•    NO endocrine disruptors
•    NO non-biodegradable detergents, degreasers, or surfactants
•    NO chlorine bleach
•    NO plastisols
•    NO other synthetic chemicals

If concerned about potential wool allergy, there are other inert fire retardant substances like baking soda & hydrated silica that is consider safe by the FDA.  Just ask the question from your mattress manufacturer - What are they using as a fire retardant - even some of the so called "green" mattress companies use kevlar based fire retardants - Would you feel safe knowing you are inhaling this as you sleep?

3. What should we look for in an organic mattress?  Are there any differences between them?


  1. There is a lot of greenwashing, especially for products carried in bigger box stores, or example organic cotton cover but filled with polyurethane filling - so ask what's inside.  Safer materials for mattresses include organic cotton cover, natural rubber made using the Dunlop process or chemically untreated stainless steel innerspring.
  2. Type of fire retardant options - Look for wool or baking soda & hydrated silica.
  3. Have the mattresses been tested for potential off-gassing or presence/concentration of toxic chemicals?

Organic Lifestyle provides material contents as well as its certification online:

If you have allergy concerns, there are options - latex, wool free, dust mite resistant options.

Here is a good comparison chart:


Organic Lifestyle store is a green boutique that specializes in creating a healthy indoor environment for the home.  They carry natural bedding and mattresses, baby products, clothing and more.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to know more, visit or check out their Facebook page at




Enter this contest for a chance to win a natural wool or shredded rubber youth-size pillow from Organic Lifestyle!

Contest is open to North American residents only.  Free shipping of the pillow - winner can choose either the toddler-size wool pillow or the dust mite resistant shredded rubber pillow.  Prize value is approx $75. Contest ends Monday, August 12, 2013 at 11:59pm.  Winner will be randomly chosen and notified on Tuesday, August 13, 2013.

How to enter:

Send an email to with the words "contest entry" in the subject line and in the body of the email, please include your full name, email address and phone number.

* The winner will be announced on my Facebook page so be sure to "like" the page if you would like an update to show up in your newsfeed.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Digestive-issues.jpgConstipation in children is, unfortunately, a very common problem.  When a child is not having a bowel movement often enough, when they do go, it is typically hard and dry and this can cause them to strain and experience pain.  The anticipation of this can further aggravate the situation as children tend to "hold it in" in an attempt to avoid the pain.  Your child may start to experience bloating, smelly gas and complain of tummy aches.  Constipation can cause a great deal of anxiety for a child and is a stressful time for both the child and the parents.

If left untreated, long-term constipation can lead to more serious health concerns, so it is best dealt with as soon as possible.

Here are just a few tips to help get things moving:

1. WATER: Staying hydrated is very important for digestion and is the first thing to address when dealing with constipation.  There is only so much fluid a child is going to drink in a day, so often water ends up being replaced by beverages such as juice or milk.  If your child does not drink enough water, try reducing or diluting other beverages to increase their water intake. 

2. FIBRE: If your child's diet does not contain enough fibre, this could be contributing to the problem.  But simply loading up on fibre is not always the answer.  Increasing intake of fibre without a sufficient intake of water can further aggravate the situation.  Everyday foods that contain fibre include fruits and vegetables, whole grain, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes.  If your child is a picky eater, it can often be challenging for them to include enough fibre-rich foods.  "Sneaking" these fibre-rich foods into their diets is an option, however, it is not a long-term solution.

3. PROBIOTICS: Beneficial bacteria in the form of probiotics can help tremendously for children with digestive issues.  There are many differences between the strains of probiotics on the market so choosing the most effective probiotic for your child's individual situation is important.  Many people think that yogurt is a good way to increase beneficial bacteria but this is not always the case.  There is a huge difference in quantities of bacteria found in therapeutic forms of probiotics compared to those found in most commercial yogurts. 

4. ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS: Omega 3 fats in the form of fish oil or flaxseed oil can help by lubricating the stool.  Including these healthy fats on a daily basis can get things moving more easily.  They can be given right off the spoon, or added into smoothies or a bit of applesauce, but they should not be heated. 

5. POSSIBLE FOOD SENSITIVITIES: If you have tried many of these suggestions and your child is still having difficulties, you may want to explore the possibility of a food sensitivity.  Common foods such dairy or wheat can cause constipation in sensitive individuals, however, traditional allergy testing would not necessarily pick up on this.  A supervised elimination diet can often help get to the bottom of it. 

Constipation, whether it occurs in children or adults, can be a complicated issue.  Almost always there will be nutritional factors, but emotions and stress also play a large role.  Each one of us has a unique situation so there is not one solution that will resolve the issue for everyone. If after your best efforts, the constipation still does not improve, please consult with a healthcare practitioner. 

Aviva Allen is a Toronto Nutritionist specializing in prenatal, infant and child nutrition
. For more information, or to book an appointment, visit

Posted by on in Babies/Kids

Have you chosen to live a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle and want your children to be a part of that?  Or perhaps you are not a vegetarian, but your child has declared themselves to be one.

Some children decide to become vegetarians when they are old enough to make the connection between the cute face of a cow they see and the piece of meat sitting on their plates that they are told to eat and enjoy.  The idea of this can be troubling for many children.  Then there are of course some children who just do not enjoy the texture or taste of meat, poultry or fish. Regardless of what brought your child to the point of vegetarianism, common questions tend to come up for parents in each of these situations:  Is a vegetarian or vegan diet healthy for a child?  Will my child grow and develop properly on a vegetarian or vegan diet?  How can I ensure my child is getting all of the right nutrients?

Click here to read more


Posted by on in Babies/Kids

Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional problems in children.  Do you know if your child is getting enough?

Those with a higher risk for iron deficiency include:

  • Premature babies
  • Babies born with a low birth weight
  • Babies who drink cow's milk before the age of one
  • Children who drink an excessive amount of milk
  • Children with vegetarian/vegan diets
  • Children with gastrointestinal disorders such as celiac disease, Crohn's/colitis
  • Adolescent girls due to blood loss during menstruation
  • Family history of anemia

Click here to read the full article and find out more


We all strive for the healthiest pregnancy possible and do our best to eat a nutritious diet.

There are many factors, however, that can make this a challenge including lack of time, nausea and vomiting in pregnancy and food aversions, to name

a few.  Nutritional supplements can often help fill the gaps but making sure you are taking the right ones at the right times is essential.  As a nutritionist, I recommend that my clients try to get their nutrients from food as much as possible, but there are certain nutrients that can be more difficult to get from diet alone.

Click here to learn about 5 important nutrients that you (and your baby) may benefit from supplementing with.