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Whenever I've thought about Gluten-Free diets in the past, I thought they were impossible. I mean we use wheat flour in everything- cakes and cookies, and desserts, bread and rotis(flatbread). On an average, I used to eat 4-5 food items in a day that had gluten in them. So when I decided to try a Gluten-Free diet to steer away from some food allergies, I thought it was going to be really really hard.


To my surprise, it wasn't that hard at all. Maybe because we are used to making things in India from scratch. Maybe because I have a husband who's a chef (@chef_timothyimmanuel), and other help cooking.. or maybe because in the Indian cuisine, there are so many grains used frequently that are gluten free, and it was easy to lean more on them. So here are some ideas and tips, if you are looking to make a Gluten-Free Diet work for you!


The first big idea is to think through your possibilities for every meal, and then stock your home with the ingredients to make all those meals. That helps make sure that you always have things to eat, or options to cook a gluten-free meal.


Breakfast: With bread out of the picture, I had to get creative.... A big omelette, flatbread made with millet flours (bajra, ragi) and maize flour (makki), Pancakes made with besan (chickpea) flour or ragi flour, Dosas and idlis (rice flour), porridge made with ragi or rice, and fruit!


Lunch: I usually love eating rice for lunch. So just rice, and dal (lentils) of any kind, along with vegetables or salads. A lot of papads (crispies) are also gluten-free. Also most Indian chicken dishes are gluten free too.


Dinner: Tomato rice, Lemon rice, Briyani and other flavored rice options, gluten-free flatbread with vegetables and lentils, salads, hard tacos, nachos, any meat and potatoes, potato or sweet-potato fries. We also made this kung-pao chicken for dinner one day, a chinese chicken dish that worked really well with rice.


Snacks and Desserts: Now this is so so important in any diet because this is where we tend to fail the most. Stock gluten free snacks and desserts that you can have whenever you are a little hungry but don't want a full meal. Nachos and potato chips, popcorn, fruit, chopped veggies with hummus, Indian sweets like besan laddos, or besan halwa, chocolate, a gluten-free trail mix.


My next big suggestion is to explore recipes within a cuisine you love (try Pinterest!!). Sometimes it's harder to replace the exact thing you want to make with a gluten-free alternate (like you want your same chocolate cake but with a gluten-free flour). When we try to do this we always feel disappointed because its never quite the same. (Although gluten-free flour is available in case you want to bake). The better approach is to explore new snacks and dishes that you haven't made before that use different ingredients. I'm excited to explore baking with gluten-free alternates and find some new things that I haven't tried before. Similarly Chinese food, or Italian- I'm going to be looking for great recipes that don't include gluten.


My last suggestion is- take time to plan each week. Keeping up to a special diet is not just about eating right, it's about planning well. Plan your meals, stock your ingredients. Maybe you can make or buy some staples and put them in your freezer or your fridge? A jar of hummus for example is gluten-free and works both for snacks and meals. As you make your meal plans, try not to dwell too much on the things you can't eat but look forward in anticipation to the amazing new recipes you can try!


And the reward in all of this is- I feel so much healthier. Besides the allergy issues, I think most of the unhealthy foods I was eating had gluten in them. Taking gluten out of my diet is helping me eat more fruit and vegetables and other healthier grains that make me feel good overall. So if you're considering it- I'll challenge you to it! It's worth a shot!


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Children under 10 need 10-12 hours of sleep a day. If they are under 3 they need 12-14 hours a day. This includes any daytime naps, and this sleep is essential for their development. (And can I add, for a parent's sanity!) Helping our kids get the recommended amount of sleep for their age is a huge favor we can do for them. It helps them learn better during the day, have better control of their emotions, and be a lot more patient and tolerant. Isn't that the same for us?


So how do we do this? How do we get our kids to sleep?


There are different approaches to sleep. Just to keep it short, I'm gonna call them- the "Firm" approach, and the "Gentle" approach. The "Firm" approach is one where the parent puts down the rule- Sleep at 8 pm, for example, and ensures that the child follows this rule. With babies, a controversial strategy people use is "cry to sleep"- put a baby in their bed and allow them to cry and soothe themselves to sleep. It's really hard to do when your baby is a baby, but we did that (starting at 4 months), and the long-term results of it are just amazing. Our child will put himself to sleep anywhere- on any bed. We (parents) aren't part of his going-to-sleep process. And as far as I can see there are no long-term effects emotional effects of a few tears so many years ago. Some people use it for older kids too, where they ask the child to get into bed at a certain time and don't allow for any excuses. You can also give your child buffer time to settle down- they get into bed earlier, and read for a while before it's time to turn the lights off.


But I know that for so many of you, that feels harsh. And that's fine, you can try the "Gentle" approach. Here, you are still firm about the bedtime requirement, but you help your child learn to sleep by sitting with them, reading stories, playing music for them, encouraging them and constantly assuring them that you are near. I feel like I have used this approach more as my son grew older, and started to need those conversations. On days there are nightmares, or anxieties, and other reasons when it's hard to get to bed.


The "Gentle" approach to getting your child sleep on time, is a huge time commitment for parents. But it is an essential time commitment if you don't want the "firm" approach. And trust me, you will find yourself saving a ton of time through the day dealing with emotional outbursts if your child can get their recommended hours of sleep in a day. Usually, after a few weeks of sleeping at a specific time, the kids get the hang of it, and don't need so much of your time every single day.


Which ever approach you choose is fine, and most parents usually do a mix. Your approach and your child's needs may also change as your child grows. What's important is that you as a family prioritize your child's sleep. And that can mean changing your plans, explaining to your visitors, allowing your child to miss a meeting with extended family, and other decisions that may be hard.


I also want to assure you that it's not easy for anyone. My child has very good sleep habits but it's taken a lot of commitment, and a lot of work. What's more- kids constantly challenge their bedtimes as they grow older and want to stay up later! So we just have to keep reinforcing it.


Also, don't judge. Don't judge the parent who lets their child cry to sleep, or the parent who sits with their child a couple hours each night to get them to sleep. What's important is that both of them are doing what they can to help their child get a good night's rest.


p.s: I know that there are lots of ideas and thoughts on this blog. It's difficult to write a general blog that covers all ages and all parenting styles! Just DM me if you have a specific question about getting your child to sleep!


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How much screen time is too much for my child? It's a question that every parent asks themselves, constantly! And there's no easy answer. Every family has to make choices that are good for them, and find ways to implement what they believe in. It's not at all simple, but I'm gonna try and explore some thoughts to help you weigh the pros and cons in case you are struggling with this decision today...

#1 There's Research Both Ways

While there's research that says too much screen time can affect child development, reading and such, there are also actual research-based online tools to help your child read. There's research that uses games to teach math and other skills- screen time can also be used effectively. Make sure you see both sides of the coin.


#2 Not all Screen Time is Equal

Kids use technology in different ways, some active and some passive. I'd like to suggest that active screen time can actually help children learn. These could include educational games, or even tasks like video making, blog writing, designing and art etc. Passive screen time is when a child sits in front of a screen just absorbing video and sound, like in a TV show. When this continues for hours, over days, it can be harmful to the child's physical body, and overall health. It's best to restrict passive screen time.


#3 Specific Screen Time Slots help

To promote productive use of technology, a child can be given slots specific to different tasks. Like an hour for software and games that are educational. Or an hour for a video game that you think helps build creative skills (We love minecraft for that!). This breaks up screen time into specific slots and decreases the chance that your child will endlessly watch TV shows.


#4 We live in a Technology-Based World.

When I was growing up technology was equal to entertainment. The only screen we had was TV and my parents said we could only watch an hour a day. Today, we live in a world where life is based on technology. I need a screen or a device to order my groceries, pay my bills, do my job, learn, be informed about the news and even connect with friends and family. I even do my workouts with an app. It is essential for my work, social, emotional and physical health. Our kids live in this same world. We can't have the same rules about screentime that we had growing up.


#5 Screen Time is Addictive.

This is a truth that we all have to face, and we have to teach our kids to face. We can't get frustrated with our kids when we find them playing a game when they're supposed to be cleaning their room, while we struggle to stop after one episode of a sitcom. The addiction is as real for them, as it is for us. We have to demonstrate with our own actions, and teach them to have self-control and boundaries. This will take years of training and practice. Until then, as parents, we have to control access to the devices when we don't want them accessing them. This can be done by literally locking up the devices when you don't want your kids using them, or changing the wifi password for specific times in the day, or using a parental control software to control access.


#6 The internet is a dangerous place.

While spending a lot of time on the internet is dangerous, spending time with the wrong people on the internet is even more dangerous. We have to educate ourselves on parental controls, cyberbullying, predators, and the different ways the internet can be dangerous for our kids. We need to consider exposure to violence. Early exposure to violent video games can result in anger and affect a child's mental health. And then we have to keep talking to them about it, teaching them, and making sure that they are safe while they use the internet.


Those are a lot of things to keep in mind. To summarize, safety is most important. Active screen time is better than passive. Organize your child's screen time and restrict access the rest of the day. Be open to acknowledge that what we did as children will not work the same way now, and we all have to adapt and evolve to find a new way in this new world. Be patient with yourself and your family as you find a rhythm that works!


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