My guest this week is Autumn Smith, the co-founder of Paleovalley and Wild Pastures. Autumn holds a Masters in Holistic Nutrition, she’s a Certified Eating Psychology Coach and a Certified FDN Practitioner. Her passion for health began with her own struggles with IBS and anxiety: despite a career as a professional dancer and celebrity fitness trainer, Autumn’s own health was in shambles. Desperate for a cure, she and her husband Chas stumbled upon the paleo diet in 2011 and within a month of beginning it, her health was completely transformed. Autumn then made it her mission to share the information she had learned with as many people as possible: that’s when she co-founded Paleovalley, an organic whole-food supplement and paleo snack food company that prioritizes nutrient density and food quality.
In this episode, Autumn and I discuss the nature of kids’ diets today and how parents can make small shifts to improve the quality and nutrient density of the food they take in. Kids can certainly survive on a diet of carbs and high-sugar dairy products but they can’t necessarily thrive on that diet. Growing brains need good-quality protein, fats, and greens in order to function and grow to their potential. Paleovalley has made it really easy to incorporate these small shifts. Their beef and turkey sticks are packed with nutrition and protein, their bars are delicious and full of healthy fats and just one serving per day of their kid-friendly greens powder has enough nutrients to hit your daily intake of greens.
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- This is common in kids because their diets are made up of a lot of empty calories like …
- Bread, crackers, cookies, cakes
- Dairy products that aren’t nutrient-dense like Mac and cheese, high sugar yogurt, chocolate milk
- Cronometer is a tool that can help parents understand where the nutrition gaps are
- Tracking just three days of your kid’s diet on cronometer can help you learn where you can fill in the nutrition gaps
- Before you try an elimination diet or supplements or any protocol, make sure your child is getting nutrient-dense foods first
- Nutrient-dense foods are foods that deliver multiple nutrient benefits like avocado, high-quality meat sticks, dark chocolate, salmon, berries, etc.
- These foods also help to stabilize blood sugar
High-quality meat and fats
- B vitamins (like B12), Iron, zinc are important for learning
- Start the morning with protein and healthy fat (vs carbs)
- Sausage and avocado
- Almond butter on toast and a side of scrambled eggs
- Homemade smoothies made with high-quality protein powder
- Paleovalley beef and turkey sticks are a convenient way to add a nutrient-dense snack to your child’s day
- If your kids don’t eat meat, spirulina is high in protein and is rich in many nutrients
Omega 3 fatty acids are critical for supporting developing brains
- Especially for a child struggling with learning challenges, ADHD kinds of issues, autism spectrum disorder, or mood issues
An easy way to eat more greens
- Incorporate green powder into your kids daily diet
- Kids find the PaleoValley green powder yummy
How to eat more iron
- Iron deficiency is common with kids who display ADHD-like symptoms
- Ask your doctor about checking your child’s iron levels
Follow Autumn Smith
Episode intro … 00:00:30
About Autumn … 00:01:30
Mental health and nutrition … 00:08:45
Nutrient deficiency … 00:10:40
Quality protein … 00:21:16
Paleovalley beef sticks … 00:26:00
High-quality meat is important … 00:33:00
Easy way to eat more greens … 00:40:30
How to get more Iron … 00:45:00
Episode wrap up … 00:46:30
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Hi everyone, welcome to the show, I am Dr. Nicole, and on today’s episode, we’re talking about the importance of giving our kids quality, nutrient-dense foods to support their physical and mental health. It can be really confusing as parents to figure out what foods are best.
What do the ingredients and labels mean? What are these things that are in a lot of the foods that we are feeding our kids. It is also important to know that nutrient deficiency is an issue that we need to be aware of, especially for our kids because they are in such an important period of physical and neurological growth and development. It’s entirely possible for a child to be eating enough calories or enough food everyday but still not getting the level of nutrients that they really need. And that is especially true if you have a child who has a medical or a neurological or brain-based type of challenge. So to talk with us about this, I’ve invited Autumn Smith on the show today, let me tell you a bit about her.
She is the co-founder of Paleovalley and Wild Pastures. She holds a Masters in Holistic Nutrition, is a Certified Eating Psychology Coach, and a Certified Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner. Her passion for health began with her own struggles with IBS and anxiety, despite a career as a professional dancer and celebrity fitness trainer, Autumn’s own health was in shambles. Desperate for a cure, she and her husband Chas stumbled upon the paleo diet in 2011 and within a month of beginning it, her health was completely transformed.
Autumn then made it her mission to share the information she had learned with as many people as possible so she co-founded Paleovalley, which is an organic whole-food supplement and paleo snack food company that prioritizes nutrient density and food quality. I’m such a big fan, we’re going to talk about that. And then in 2018, she actually took things a step further and launched a second business with her husband, Wild Pastures, which is a regenerative pasture-based meat delivery service, and we’ll talk about why the quality of that, and why regenerative agriculture and regenerative pasture-based meat is so important. Autumn currently lives in Boulder, CO with her husband and their son, Maverick. Welcome to the show!
Thank you so much, Dr. Nicole! I can’t even tell you how excited I am to be here. As a mom, I know exactly what this can mean when you get your child the food that they need to feel their best, so I’m happy to be here.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
So great, and I think I talk a lot about different topics related to nutrition on the show, and have different guests on, but what I’m excited to do today is really delve into what I consider to be some of the real foundations of nutrition for our kids and why it makes such a big difference.
In the intro in your bio, it said a little bit about your history and how you got involved in this, but I’d love to have you flesh that out just before we get into the nitty-gritty of all this. So talk a little bit more about your own experience of how you got to this point of really thinking about and valuing quality food and nutrition so much, both for yourself and for your son and your family.
Oh, I’m so excited. Yeah, I was a child who didn’t understand this. You know what, at that time, no one really understood that. As you said, I grew up as a ballerina, and we learned some pretty bad habits around diet, that a calorie is a calorie, and if you manage your weight then that means you’re healthy. So my young brain decided, wow! If all calories are equal, I’m just going to have a lot of candy and a lot of soda. My mom tried to intervene, of course, but once I was of the age that I could go to the store by myself before school — basically, I was nutrient-deficient and because of that, I started having digestive issues.
Not only nutrient deficient, but I was eating a lot of inflammatory foods. And then that kind of escalated. We now know there is this profound connection between our gut and our brain. So then I started to manifest symptoms like anxiety and depression. The doctors at the time didn’t really have any answer for me. They definitely were not looking at diet. They were looking at psychiatric meds, did a lot of antidepressants, they were telling me my gut issues were just stress-related.
So I just kind of motored along through life, I felt hopeless at times as a child because I’d have that debilitating digestive stuff that later manifested in skin stuff, really bad acne that led to depression, anxiety about social situations. And you know? As I got older, I just realized, wow! There’s not a lot I can do here, so I should manage my emotions with substances. That was kind of the solution I used, until I met my husband. Luckily, I was able to still maintain a career as a professional dancer. I was smoking, doing all the terrible things, and a professional fitness trainer. I was a celebrity fitness trainer. I looked fit. But I was so far from well, it wasn’t even funny.
So when someone got close enough to really get a good look at what my life looked like on a daily basis, my husband started to say, “Wow, you’re suffering and we’re going to change this.” So he took it upon himself because the doctors down at Los Angeles at the time still didn’t have any answers for me, this was back in 2010, and we tried diet. I was of course thinking, this is so silly, but I’m going to do it because he is my new husband and he cares. And in 30 days my digestive issues went away. And I was so blown away, I called 200 of my friends, I made them go through the same process that I did, and most of them were seeing amazing results as well.
So that’s when I knew, you know what? It’s this wellness piece that I want to give to people rather than the fitness piece. I think they’re both important. This was just my story, this is where my story took me. So what we noticed is people didn’t want to sustain their lifestyles, couldn’t sustain their lifestyle unless they had the tools.
So I have this passion for education, we realized we need to go into food manufacturing even though we have no experience but we’re just going to create the products that I want to eat because for a while there, I was still doing the celebrity fitness trainer thing where I was going around the world, and it just wasn’t sustainable. So then we created those products, and now that I’m a mom, I’m saying “Thank you for doing that, Autumn” because life just got so much harder! But that’s how we got to Paleovalley.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
I love it. The convenience piece, the sustainability piece is so important. It’s such a barrier that so many parents bring up when we start talking about what it would look like to eat a more nutrient-dense diet, what it would look like to radically change their child’s diet, particularly if they are a kid who has got a lot of physiological and neurological things going on, and the first thing is “Oh my gosh, I can’t do this. What are we going to eat?” And so I think providing the resources, not only the education pieces, but also, like “Here is actually convenient, quality food that you can eat.” It’s so huge.
Going back to your story, it would be so nice to think that, “Oh that was back in 2010, 2011. Things have changed so much now!” And sadly, they have not. The reality is whether they’re an adult going in for their own issues or a parent bringing their child in for a mental health or behavioral or developmental kind of issues, still, the main approach that’s being taken is “Well, go get some therapy and take your psychiatric medications.” That would be fine if that actually worked and resolved most peoples’ symptoms except that it doesn’t. So it’s clear that we have to be looking at things like nutrition, like the food that we’re eating.
And what’s so frustrating to me as a practitioner and as a parent and a person, there is so much research now showing us that nutrition is fundamental for these physical symptoms, for these neurological and mental health symptoms. It’s not even a question, the research is so clear. And yet, the majority of our healthcare providers, at least in this country really are unaware of that and are not providing people tools in that realm, and it’s just so frustrating to me.
Absolutely. They say it takes 15 years for information to trickle down from the research into private practice, and like you said, moms, our heads are like — sometimes we’re drowning, we’re just barely keeping ourselves above water. I think a lot of times that’s what our doctors are doing, they’re just so inundated and they just have this one kind of script that they’re used to and they don’t have time to read through the research, but that’s why I’m excited, because people like I do, and you do, and then we can help the parents feel empowered around that. I’m really glad, because I was that kid who was on an endless stream of psychiatric meds, my head would be on the desk, I remember barely being able to stay awake at school, or with the other ones, I felt like I had one thought an hour, I was gone and it just didn’t work for me.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
And that’s so often what parents report and actually what kids who can communicate about that, what they will report. It’s like yeah, I might be sitting still longer but my brain is not working, or yeah, I’m not feeling depressed or anxious anymore. I’m not feeling anything. I’m just sort of there and I’m numb and that sort of trying to think through mud, that having one thought an hour, these things take a toll for most kids and the thing that’s so important for families to understand is that we have alternative, high quality, effective research-based options, many of which fall in the realm of nutrition, and that’s the message that I am so passionate about people in the mainstream public understanding.
Yeah, absolutely. Before when I was younger, we didn’t have it, now we do and it’s really exciting. I have a kid, I have a kindergarten pod out here, I work with kids, so yeah! The difference can be dramatic with really simple changes, that’s why I don’t — I know parents sometimes feel overwhelmed like “I couldn’t possibly…” But just know there are 3 simple steps you can take and it will make a dramatic difference.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
So let’s talk about this issue of nutrient deficiency because so often, I’ll have parents come into the clinic, and they’ll be like, “Hey, you know, my kid eats fine. I’m not concerned about it, he eats enough food”, or whatever, and then when we actually start delving into what the child is eating, it’s like yeah, they are eating enough food, so physically, they’re growing, their pediatrician is tracking their growth on the growth chart and going, “Yup, still growing, doing fine.” And yet, there are all of these signs and symptoms that point to these nutrient deficiencies. So let’s dive into that again.
Yeah, that’s a wonderful place to start. And like you said, calories need to be high quality. Just because you’re eating calories doesn’t mean that your body is getting the nutrients it needs. And guess what? When you don’t have vitamin A or your Omega 3 fatty acids or your zinc and your iron, these are not negotiable. If you don’t have these, processes do not occur, and a lot of times, our brain is the biggest organ to suffer, right? Because it requires 30% of our energy.
So when it is negatively impacted, it is a big end result. So what I like to do is — remember, when I found the paleo diet, I could not believe that I could eat a diet that was going to sustain me without bread, without refined carbohydrates, and guess what? In America, we have been led to believe we have been marketed to – to think that we need these refined carbohydrates and other processed foods and that they are just part of a normal life.
But the thing is, if you look — and when I work with kids and I bring their diets in and I have them write 3 days of their diet down, that’s where I always have parents start — and this is not a shamey-shamey thing. It’s like, let’s drop a pin. We don’t know where we’re going unless we know where we’re at. And I will see that the majority of their calories are coming from refined carbohydrates: Breads, cookies, cakes, crackers. And these are, again, made from gluten. You know, wheat, corn, all of these staple crops that are subsidized today. But they’re not going to contain the more nutrient-dense foods like seafood or organ meats.
Actually, the most important food, they did a study in 2018, for the prevention of mental health issues are organ meats. No one is eating them. I’m going to tell you a simple way you can do it: Clams, mussels, goat, tuna. And then your greens, your Swiss chard, your mustard greens, your watercress, and then things like your cruciferous vegetables: Your broccoli, your cabbage, all of those.
And so we need to crowd out just the processed foods. It doesn’t mean you need to do it right away or all the time in all — like totally do it. You can just do it in stages, right? Just one snack, one meal a day. But yeah, when we don’t eat those nutrient-dense foods and we’re just eating the overly processed foods, our children are going to suffer, our brains are going to suffer. And we do not need them! that was my big hang up, “Oh, but I need this stuff, I need all of these calories and all of these carbohydrates.” But you don’t. I’m not saying you don’t need any, but you definitely don’t need the refined ones.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
It’s so true, really the two food groups, there are two types of food that show up in kids’ food diaries, almost without fail are the processed, refined carbohydrates, as you mentioned, and cow’s milk, dairy products. So we see the pizzas, we see the hotdogs, we see the macaroni and cheese, we see the high sugar yoghurts, all of those things, and it’s so important for parents to understand that yes, your child can live on those, clearly.
Your kid can live and physically grow on those. However, if we are really invested in getting to the root of why a child might be having struggles with anxiety, with mood regulation, with behavior regulation, with focus and attention, with all of those kinds of things, we’ve got to be looking at what is actually intros foods they are eating that is usable by their brains. You mentioned all of those key nutrients.
Those processed, refined kinds of products don’t have those nutrients. So yeah, you’re giving the body the basic building blocks to function and grow, but you are not giving those micronutrients that are needed for all of those processes in the brain, and I think that’s the piece that so many parents are missing, the connection there between what is in the food and what the brain can use to function.
Absolutely. And a little exercise I love to have people do is there is this software called Cronometer, have you heard of it?
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yes, I use Cronometer, sure, yeah!
Yeah! So you just go and you just take 3 days out of your life, everything that goes into your mouth or your child’s mouth, you just write it down, and that software tells you where your nutrient gaps are, essentially. So making sure one small tip is when you choose the entry, like say you’re going to do a salad, sometimes it’s better if you enter each food individually because sometimes those are incomplete and you won’t always get a really accurate reading. But if you just do that, then you could say, “Oh wow, protein levels are really low”.
That’s something I find all the time in kids. “Oh they don’t need a lot of protein, they don’t want to eat the protein, it’s not that big a deal. Carbohydrates are great for kids”. But yeah, like you are saying, carbohydrates — fat! Fat, high-quality proteins, are absolutely essential for the little developing brains. So if you’re seeing, “Oh, whoops, it is predominantly refined carbohydrates or sugar diet”, like you said, sugar is hidden in all of the kids’ foods, and it makes me crazy. It makes me crazy.
You’re just going to the soccer games, and after the game, literally, there are no snacks for kids that don’t have sugar, and that is why we are actually moving into the child space because we are like, “This is a travesty, we really have to.”
And then another thing I have parents just do is go ahead and one day out of the week, or one day, write down everything your child eats, how much sugar are they actually taking in a day? It’s just an interesting exercise and I think you will be very surprised, and it will definitely open your eyes to “Oh my gosh, that yoghurt has as much sugar as a candy bar.” It’s just like these little insights that can really kind of change and make your behavior change a lot easier.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
It’s so true, and the thing about sugar for people to understand is it is devoid of nutrients. So yes, it gives you energy. Your body uses it as energy, however, it does not — it literally does not have any of the nutrients that are needed for our brain and body to function. And when we look at the research on how much sugar is in a child’s diet, it’s often 3 or more times the amount that is recommended for kids.
So what’s happening there is not only are you not getting nutrients in your kid from those foods, but also the fact that they’re eating a lot of that is crowding out opportunities for them to eat more nutrient-dense foods. So I just think it’s so important. So often, especially when we are talking in the realm of maybe specific conditions like autism spectrum disorders or ADHD or bipolar, anxiety, whatever, there is a lot of talk about specific types of protocols, elimination diets, all of those things, and those can and do play an important role for some kids, no doubt. But my theory about it, my philosophy and approach clinically and in the education I do with families is: Before we look at any of that, we’ve got to be starting from a foundation of just good, quality nutrient-dense foods.
Because putting your child on some complicated elimination diet protocol, which may really be important and benefit them, but when you do that in the absence of having a foundation of good quality nutrient-dense foods, you’re going to still have problems. So to me, this is really where we start, it’s looking at nutrient-density, looking at pushing in more of these unrefined nutrient-dense whole foods into our kids’ diets. Do you feel the same way?
100%! And you’ll know as a psychologist, when we’re told that we can’t have things, what do we want? That’s all we want to eat! From a psychological perspective, adding things in, adding those really nutrient-dense, high quality animal products, adding in those greens — and all you have to do is, say they have a food they like to eat.
You just have them eat the vegetables first. Oh yeah, my little guy, and you know — his treat is applesauce with cinnamon. “When can I have it, mom?” “After a little bit of broccoli and some carrots here.” It seems like it’s very easy for them to change and you can just do one little thing at a time.
But yes, if you do not have that foundation — I’ve worked with so many families in the beginning of my practice, where they would go from, “Oh, okay, I’m, going to do the elimination diet, I’m going to cut out gluten and dairy and whatever, but I am also going to eat this other gluten-free processed product now”, which we didn’t have at the time that I made the transition. And we don’t want to do that.
We need to go on a whole foods diet first, because that is going to give us that foundation just like you’re talking about. There are three things that I like to ask myself: Are you eating nutrient-dense food? That’s number one. Are you eating something that’s causing inflammation in your body? That’s number two. Number 3 is do we have stable blood sugar? Stable blood sugar begins is a lot harder to not have when we are eating whole foods.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
That’s it. So true. And stable food sugar is so important for kids in terms of their ability to focus and attend and learn and regulate their behavior. When they are on a blood sugar roller coaster, you just watch their behavior. I’ve said it before on other episodes of the show, but a perfect example is what we do with kids in school with the food program.
We send them in, and they get Pop-Tarts and muffins and pancake with syrup and flavored milk that has as much sugar in it as soda pop does, and we give them that for their school breakfast, and then we send them into their classroom and we wonder why they are bouncing off the walls, they can’t focus, they’re on this sugar high, and then they crash 60-90 minutes later and now they’re irritable and they’re putting their head down and they’re not doing things. I look at that and I go, “Well, of course! That makes perfect sense!” Their brains and bodies are responding exactly as we would expect them to when we put them on this blood sugar rollercoaster.
Can you imagine how many kids might not need to be medicated if we could implement that one thing in schools? Stable blood sugar, protect the breakfast, protein, and fat-centric breakfast. I just can’t even imagine. I think the difference would be profound.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
It absolutely would be and I see it on a case-by-case basis in the clinic with just making that switch with what kinds of foods we start the day with. So let’s dive into that because you were talking about the most nutrient-dense foods and you were talking about those quality proteins. Quality animal-based proteins as being so important and I find that as well, that just looking for opportunities, especially earlier in the day to start a kid off with some good high quality protein, it makes a big difference for them.
It makes all the difference. And when I was a kid, I was that one starting with Pop–Tarts and going to school and bouncing off the walls. I think that’s why I got put into dance because I could never relax because I was always eating carbohydrates. But yeah, when we look at what it requires for us to pay attention and nutrients that would allow that, it’s your B vitamins, it’s your iron, it’s your zinc. These are what I call medi-minerals.
While a lot of parents think, “Oh we don’t need how quality animal products” your child does. There’s been irreversible cognitive damage documented for kids who do not get B12 specifically. And that’s in your organ meats and that’s in your high-quality beef products and stuff. So yes, if we can get them to eat that in the morning — and what I do for my son is we still make it delicious. It’s like sometimes we do omelets, and sometimes we do leftover omelets where we have had tacos the night before, “Oh hey, let’s use that taco meat, let’s make that super delicious.”
Sometimes we have our Açai bowls, but we have a really high-quality protein powder. Sometimes we do beef sticks. sometimes we put the beef sticks in the omelets. Sometimes we do crab. We’re very European, it doesn’t have to be a standard American breakfast. And I do know when we go astray and we do the gluten-free waffles or whatever. We do that only on the weekends because we know what’s going to happen midday, and we just expect that.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
It’s so true and it’s not that there isn’t a place for some of those things, but especially on days where their brain needs to be working well when they need to — whether it’s currently doing virtual school on the screen all day, which I think is even harder on a kid’s brain than going to school, or they’re going to school or they’ve got the things that their brain needs to be working for. We need to get them moving in the right direction right out of the gate in the morning by giving them high-quality proteins and the nutrient-dense kinds of things that they need for that.
I want to talk about the meat sticks because to me, your company has so many great products, but to me, this is one, while we’re talking about these protein issues that I really want to highlight because as I mentioned earlier, the convenience factor is a struggle for a lot of families and it is a barrier. Parents go, “Well, I don’t know what they’re going to eat, we’re busy. I can’t do it” So you really created some products that really address that obstacle.
So I want to talk about these beef sticks, and you have the turkey ones too: What makes these different? Because I think one of the other challenges is that parents feel so overwhelmed. They’re in the grocery store or they’re shopping online or whatever they are doing, and they are like, “What do these labels mean?” And now we’ve got a lot of companies doing what we call sort of this “greenwashing”, like using these labels, putting “natural” on things, and parents are like, “I don’t know what’s good, I don’t know what isn’t good. Is a Slim Jim okay? What do I need to do?” So talk to us about that because I think that’s so important for parents.
Yes, and I totally understand how difficult it can be, but what you have to know is food manufacturers are prioritizing profit, even when they make products for kids. We just need to know that they are not necessarily our friends trying to nourish our children, they’re creating products and adding sugar because all the other products are adding sugar and they need to kind of create their own little spot in the marketplace. So yes, that is why our company is different because these are the products that I am eating and these are the products I am feeding to my son.
So when it comes to our beef sticks, the first thing that is a major difference is just the quality of the animal protein. So this is only 100% grass-fed, grass-finished beef. And on top of that, it is also from regenerative American farms because what we realized is we only have 60 years of topsoil left, according to certain estimates, and to think that my child will see a day where they can not grow their own food terrifies me.
So right now, a lot of companies, even the grass-fed companies are importing it from other countries. Excellent start, but what about here in American where our soil, the microbiome of the earth needs to be replenished. Our soil needs to be rehabilitated. So that’s why we wanted to create a domestic supply for that. So that’s the first thing. The second thing is, what I notice in a lot of meat sticks is, A: There is sugar. Why is there sugar?
That doesn’t even make sense! It’s because we are so acclimated to the taste of sugar, we expect it. Therefore, the people who are making the products have to put it in there. But we decided, you know what? We can make it absolutely delicious just with really high-quality animal products and with a process called fermentation. So it’s different. It’s not a jerky, it’s not going to make your jaw tired, and you’re not going to have these processing ingredients that are often in there like encapsulated citric acid. This is an ingredient that is the industry standard for preserving meat sticks, but it is derived from genetically modified corn and hydrogenated oil. That’s trans-fat.
We know that is detrimental to mental health, brain development, and heart conditions. Not something you want to be eating. Anyway, by preserving them via fermentation, which is something our ancestors have done forever, we get not only a totally clean product but also one that contains probiotics, one that is really easy on the digestive tract. I have a lot of parents tell me “Oh my gosh! My kid hates meat sticks, but loves yours!”
It never bothers them, it’s easy to digest, so we did that. And then we also kid flavors like teriyaki and summer sausage that’s really mild. This was because of the kids. So we have a smokey, peppery, original, we have a jalapeño with a slight kick on the end, then we have our somewhat sweet teriyaki with just a little bit of honey, and then we have summer sausage and garlic summer sausage.
And like you said, Turkey sticks too for kids who just can’t or won’t eat the beef or just prefer turkey. But yeah, we have probiotics, we have really high-quality animal products that are clean. You’re not going to get antibiotic residue or hormones or anything in that product. Just nutrient-dense, sugar-free snacks that you can take with you wherever.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
It’s beautiful. When I was introduced to these, I was like, “This is what I’ve been wanting to find.” Because it is such a convenient way to get such nutrient-dense foods in kids, and it’s packaged in a way that looks like what other kids are eating, because that’s a big deal to kids too, right? They don’t want to have their steel containers with their homemade stuff when the other kids are eating packaged things that look cool. So I mean we might not think about that as adults, but it’s an issue for kids. So this way, they look like every other kid and it’s such a clean product.
When I started looking at the ingredients, I’m like, yeah! We’ve got grass-fed beef and everything that I read on any of the ingredients with your products, I know what it is. That to me is a key thing for parents, that’s for all of you listening. A simple starting point is just when I read the ingredients on a product, do I know what these things are? Or am I stumbling over these words, like “What is this? I wouldn’t have that in my kitchen. I have no idea what that is!” That’s a really good place to start in terms of seeing what is being added to these.
And then the no sugar piece is big because as you said, so many of even the cleaner or better options out there for kids, or adults for that matter, still do have a pretty good amount of sugar in them and it’s one of the things that we really need to be reducing.
Yeah! And a lot of them also have gluten, which we haven’t even talked about, but it’s a problematic food for a lot of children. I wouldn’t say all children, but again, gluten has a somewhat addictive quality, so they put it in a lot of meat sticks. So this is what I want to give to my little boy when I have him, and so I’m glad that you appreciate it too because we had to literally call about 200 different manufacturers to get someone who would do this process, and we’re still with the original one. You just don’t find people willing to process it the way that we do because it’s not lucrative and it takes four times as long, but we are in it for health. So here we are.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
And they’re delicious. There are so many flavors available, that’s the thing. I always test things on myself and then my kids and then with kids at the clinic, and they’re delicious and kids like them, which is a big thing too, because that’s another barrier that parents raise and that families have in shifting their child’s or family’s diet, it’s the stress and the struggle around getting kids to eat different foods. So when we can make them taste good and we can make the texture good, when kids are willing to eat things, that also overcomes a huge obstacle that so many families have to change their diet.
Absolutely. That’s what I found with my little guy. He actually loves them! And we share them with his friends, and as you said, not all of his friends eat the way that he does, but when he can bring these and when they come over, they can actually enjoy them, and I’ll just put them out and cut them up and kids love them! So it is so convenient and just so helpful because a lot of times he’ll be like, “Oh I want a snack, I want something else,” and I’ll just say, “Okay, just have a little protein, just have some beef stick first, stabilize that blood sugar.” And if you teach kids about it, he now says — our cousin would go over, and he’d be like, “Oh, you didn’t have your protein first. Your blood sugar is not going to be stable.” It’s so cute! He’s only 6, but he’s starting to understand the concept, and I think that’s so empowering for our little ones.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
It absolutely is. For them to understand the connection between that, because so many kids, especially if they struggle with things, feel like they have no control over that. So from a young age, even to help them start to be attuned to how their brain and body is feeling, how that is connected to what they’re eating, man. What a powerful thing to teach them and to have them grow into as they get older. It’s amazing for them to make the connection there. I want to circle back because it occurs to me that some people may have some questions about this.
You talked about the quality of the animals, the quality of the beef, that it’s grass-fed, that it’s regenerative, the way that these are processed and raised. Talk to us a bit about why the quality of meat is important because I think that’s something a lot of people don’t know, like, “Well I go to the grocery store or whatever, and you know, I get the meat that’s there?” And to be clear, I am all about — there are like good, better, best options.
I don’t think we always need to be striving for the ideal in any way, shape or form. I’ve been a mom for 21 years, you just cannot shoot for ideal all the time, right? So there are certainly times and places for incorporating all the different qualities of food, and if somebody said to me “I only have access to what’s at my grocery store” I will hands down say, “Please be feeding your child meats and things that you have access to.” But that quality piece does make a difference and I’d like for you to provide a little bit of education for our listeners around why that is.
Yeah. And I just want to echo that too, do the best you can! And if you can only afford conventional animal products and it’s that or carbohydrates that have been processed, do the conventional animal products, okay? And a lot of these trials that they’re doing, seeing benefits of fruits and vegetables and animal products, they’re not always using the highest quality versions. There are still benefits. But yes! There are different grades.
What a lot of people don’t understand is there is a different nutrient profile in animal products that are fed grain because that’s traditionally what is done. They eat grass for a long time or for the first few months of their life, and then they’re finished on grain because that makes them bigger, and we incentivize farmers and ranchers to make animals big rather than to make them healthy. So when they’re getting that food, they change the omega 3 fatty acid ratio. Now we know in a lot of kids, omega 3 fatty acid is very, very important.
If we have too many omega 6’s and not enough omega 3’s, which is very, very standard in America, we can create inflammation in the body, okay? So just having animal products that can help disrupt that imbalanced ratio and bring the omega 3 levels back up, that’s really important. And that’s just going to happen with grass-fed beef, even with dairy, if you are into dairy products, getting dairy that is grass-fed, pasture-raised is ideal. Same in eggs. These eggs and pork and milk seem to be very, very different when they’re from high quality like grass-fed and pastured versus conventional in terms of their nutrient quality.
Beef is, too, but not as appreciable a difference. So you’re still going to have more vitamin A and vitamin E, but then some of the research is kind of all over the place. It kind of depends on the nutrient content of the soil where the animals are being raised, there are a lot of variables there. But also, something that’s important is that you won’t be exposed to hormones, pesticides and antibiotics that are used in conventionally-raised animals.
Now the thing is, they say, “Well, we’re going to test all of our animals, give a period of time where they are not going to receive antibiotics” and they do that. They have a withdrawal period, but there aren’t parties that actually go in and test for that. And there is interesting research on animals, that if you are exposed to even low levels of antibiotics, that can disrupt the gut microbiome, and that can lead to changes that won’t be great for your health, okay? Because we want that really diverse microbiome and those little gut bugs.
They impact our health in nearly every way. So avoiding those exposures is really important too. And then last, it’s just environmentally, right? Like I said, 60 years of topsoil left, that is terrifying. So if we continue with this industrial model, we’re never going to solve that problem, because these chemicals that we’re using and the antibiotics, and kefo systems pollute our environment, reduce the quality of our soil, they contribute to climate change, and as a result, our nutrient food supply gets less and less high quality. So when we can source from farmers who are doing these or resurrecting these old, ancient principles, when we can just vote for them, we are actually contributing to a more nutrient-dense and sustainable food supply.
There is interesting research now that you can actually bring carbon out of the atmosphere and put it back underground, which is one of the main things we are trying to do with climate change with regenerative beef. They did this analysis, this place called Quantas Labs, and they looked at these, even the plant-based meat alternatives, so like Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger, and other research has shown for conventionally-raised beef and pork, and even soy — so they look at the environmental impact, and what they found was regeneratively-raised beef, the only one that was carbon neutral. It actually took carbon out of the atmosphere and put it back. Conventionally-Raised beef was the worst, 33 pounds per pound of beef raised was going into the air. I think pork was around 9 and the Beyond Burger and plant-based alternatives around 3 and 4, but regeneratively-raised beef was a very different story.
So for the nutrient density, for the avoidance of the other things, the extras that are being put into our animal products, and for the environment and what that will mean for our future generations, I think it’s really important, and knowing that greenwashing is a thing, even if it’s grass-fed. I always like to get to know, if you can go to your farmer’s market, do that! Look them in the eye and ask them about their practices, and don’t say “Are they grass-fed?” All cows are grass-fed, say, “Were they ever fed grains? Do you use grains in your practices?” And “What does it look like on your farm with the chickens? Do they just have access to the outdoors or are they actually roaming around in the outdoors?
Like asking simple questions, and a farmer and rancher actually gave me this tip, which I think is awesome: You can go and ask this farmer at the farmers market like “Okay, tell me about your farm.” and then you can go into google earth and then you can look, what does it really look like there? Are there actually animals being rotationally grazed and all of these things? So yeah, there are many different levels and I just hope you do the best that you can with the knowledge that you have, and then call it a day.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yeah, it’s so important and the saying comes to mind, we are what we eat ate. So the animals that we’re eating — we’re also taking into our bodies what those animals ate. So you really clearly talked about the difference between animals that are finished on grain kinds of products versus grass.
And I think that especially for children, there is the nutrient-density piece, just overall wanting foods that we put in our kids to be as nutrient-dense as possible, but that omega piece is also so important because Omega 3 fatty acids are so critical for supporting developing brains, and especially if you have a child who is struggling with learning challenges, ADHD kinds of issues, autism spectrum disorder, mood issues, any of those things, the research is so clear that omega 3 fatty acids are critically important for that. So if we can be feeding our kids animal products that shift that ratio and give them more of those omega 3’s and less of the omega 6’s, it’s such a valuable thing.
Yeah, and I just want to tell a quick story, because we have the sweetest pig farmer and what he does is — conventionally-raised pork has this ratio: About 35 Omega 6’s to 1 Omega 3. We ideally want it to be 1:1. Now what he’s done, and using it in his practices and using grass, pigs can eat grass, whatever, he has actually achieved a 5:1 ratio, so it just harks to the fact that it really, really, really, matters what that animal is consuming. And when you have farmers who are — he just gets nerdy and so excited to share this with me, like, “Look what I did! The ratio is way down! And these kids are going to be nourished, these people are going to be nourished!” Yeah, I think that’s really exciting.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Oh, I love that. That’s so great. So as we’re wrapping up here, we’ve highlighted the beef sticks, we’ve talked about the turkey sticks. The other thing that I do want to highlight here because you also, when you were talking about the most nutrient-dense foods, you talked about greens. So just quickly, I want to touch on your greens powder, because I think so many parents don’t even try to veer into the realm of getting their kids to eat more of these nutrient-dense greens, let alone thinking about giving them a powder, for lots of adults who have tried them, they’re like “Bleh, I don’t even like them”, so just tell us briefly about your greens and how you did that differently because I think it’s important.
Yeah totally. So this is a greens powder, my son drinks it very regularly, he calls it his “ninja juice”. So I think the first thing is the way that you present it, like, “Oh my gosh! We have this ninja juice and it makes you strong!” And we always have him look at his muscles after he drinks it. Okay, so what we did differently is most greens powders on the market contain cereal grasses. Humans are not meant to digest grass. They don’t contain cereal grasses like wheatgrass because they’re really, really beneficial but because they’re very cheap.
So they often make up the bulk of the powder, and then they just do this little dusting of these other nutrients. So we wanted to completely reverse that trend. So what we do is we have 23 organic fruits and vegetables in the mix, and then we put high-quality spirulina. Now spirulina is, when you get the right quality — and I’ll talk about what that means in a little bit, has so many different benefits for detoxification, for weight loss, weight maintenance, and then in kids, it has been shown to help learn and there is a study done that shows that it affected their cognitive performance.
Gram for gram, it is literally one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world, a great source of protein, so if they’re really not into eating the animal protein first: “Hey, have a little bit of spirulina” you’re going to get about a gram in a serving, and it tastes delicious because there are no cereal grasses which taste horrible. It actually has this minty berry lemonade flavor, we added prebiotics, we have some enzymes, so it’s just a nice way to get them in there. Sometimes I give it to him and he just drinks it, sometimes we put it in a smoothie. You can even bake it in. We have recipes where you put it in little treats, like little no-bake cookies. So a really, really diverse way to get it into your diet, but my son really likes it.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yeah, and it tastes good. I think that’s the thing I wanted to highlight. For some of those kinds of powders, the texture can be terrible and the taste is even worse. That is a non-starter for most kids. So I just want to highlight that for parents now, after this conversation who are really wanting some convenient, simple ways to get more nutrient-dense things into their child’s diet, absolutely the beef sticks, the turkey sticks, and absolutely the greens powder, and it does taste good. A lot of kids here at the clinic and at my house will just drink it like you said, mixed with water, but you can put it in the smoothies, lots of things. And we’ll make sure in the show notes too, for the show, to put some of the links for those resources for the recipes and things for the people who are interested in that.
I would love that. And one other thing I want to say that has been really important for when my son is learning about food is that I never moralize it. Maybe your audience knows this, but I don’t do “Good” or “Bad” food. I use “Strong food” and “Sometimes food” because if you don’t, then when they eat the bad food or if they want to eat the bad food, they’re going to think “I’m a bad person because of bad food.” So I just always like to keep it really neutral. There is one other product that we don’t actually have in stock, but I want to tell people about it to put it on their radar, it’s been so helpful. It’s our Organ Complex. So organ means literally, spirulina is up there, but organs meats literally gram for gram, the most nutrient-dense foods in the world. But who is eating them, right? I’m a holistic nutritionist, I can’t even stand the taste, that’s why we put them into capsules.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
We’re talking about liver and all those kinds of things.
They are literally a powerhouse, especially a vitamin B12, which is really important for our kids’ brain development, vitamin A, which is really important for reproduction and our immune systems. So anyway, he just takes 2 capsules a day, my little guy. And he has no idea. Poor thing, before he could swallow pills, we would have him drink it. But other parents have told me they just sprinkle it on eggs. I think that’s a better idea.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yes, you can. You can sprinkle that on things and it’s great, and it’s the cleanest, best product out there that I have found for — the Organ Complex. It’s so valuable and especially if you have a child who is struggling with physical health symptoms, who is struggling with brain-based kinds of issues, getting the nutrient density of that in them is so important.
Oh yeah. I just wanted to say one really cool thing about that too. Iron issues is something we see with a lot of ADHD and there is this really cool — in 1934, three physicians actually won a Nobel peace prize for the finding that the liver could cure anemia. So when you’re getting iron supplementation, it can be really difficult, it can create constipation, how much is too much? But when you can get it from food, it’s often a very different story, and I have heard so many different miraculous recoveries from just getting liver. If you don’t do the supplement, cool: Eat liver. Grass-fed liver, not the poor quality liver.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
And it’s very helpful. Even just starting with the beef sticks, doing high-quality animal proteins will get you a good source of iron in there too, just working more of those things in. And as we’ve said throughout the conversation, start where you can start. Small shifts can make a big difference, you don’t have to do everything all at once, but just this awareness of the importance of nutrient density, the importance of good quality protein, and working that into your child’s diet where you can is such an important thing.
It is, and we often try to reinforce it and make it fun. Keep it light, right? We don’t need to be perfect and sometimes we’re not going to eat perfectly and it’s cool. When he makes a good choice or she makes a good choice, you say, “Oh my gosh, I see that muscle! Is it bulging? I think you’re even faster than you used to be!” Just little playful things, it really helps reinforce that in a non-shamey, judgmental way.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Absolutely. I so, so agree. This has been just great. So many other things that we can talk about, but Autumn, thank you so much for being here and for creating Paleovalley and these amazing products. We’ll have the links to those things with the show notes and even a special discount for all of you to be able to access to try these out for the first time. I highly recommend everything from Autumn and her company, personally and professionally, I can not recommend it enough, and you are just a wealth of information, so thank you, Autumn, for taking the time to be here with us today.
Thank you, it’s been such a pleasure! There is no topic more interesting to me, so I just appreciate the opportunity.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Awesome. And thanks, as always, for being here and listening. We will catch you back here next week for our next episode of The Better Behavior Show.