ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) — Meredith Barth understands the overload of information parents face every day.
Should she feed her two sons — Jackson, 5, and Max, 2 — a whole-foods diet? How about vegetarian? Or even vegan? And where does the local foods movement fall into the mix?
Barth is one of the chapter leaders of the Holistic Moms Network group in St. Cloud, the St. Cloud Times reported (http://on.sctimes.com/19hDgSJ). The nonprofit has about 30 members and explores all aspects of holistic living, from using chemical-free products to understanding family dynamics.
But food and nutrition is always a topic that parents want and need information about.
"That's the paramount issue for everyone," Barth of St. Cloud said. "We are trying to raise these happy, healthy families. Parents are mostly feeling overwhelmed."
The group holds monthly meetings. It offers support and information for parents. Often, Barth and her fellow chapter leaders bring in speakers and hold panel discussions.
The group does not endorse one idea or another, Barth said.
Holistic for us means we take a look at the whole family, the whole person, and we make decisions taking everything into account," she said. "It can be a lot of different things."
Participating parents want to learn about all kinds of diets. Some families have questions about the traditional diet, which focuses on whole and locally produced foods, and includes animal fat.
Others wonder if vegetarian or vegan diets might best fit into their families. The Paleo diet is also popular right now. That diet focuses on foods cavemen would have eaten, such as meat, seafood and fresh produce.
Lindsey Studer, St. Augusta, is a member and has four children, ages 10, 7, 4 and 2 months. Two of her children have Attention Deficit Disorder. Her oldest son suffers from ADD and Asperger Syndrome.
Her children's challenges inspired her to examine their diets.
"It's very confusing and conflicting a lot of the time," Studer said. "Before I started the group, I thought a lot of things that were healthy, actually were not."
Her family adapted their diets to limit sugar and processed foods and include more raw organic foods, grass-fed beef and pasture-raised chicken.
Studer credits the change to reducing the amount of medication her son takes. Her other children are healthier and have adapted to the new diet with ease.
"They have given me so much information," she said of the group. "A year ago, I never thought I'd be fermenting my own food and drinks. They taught me it is possible to eat healthy with a limited budget, and it is important to focus on what goes in your body."
Some members want to take smaller steps, such as eliminating food dyes or corn syrup. The group also looks at better ways to prepare food, so the foods are more nutritious and can be easily digested.
The Holistic Moms Network accepts parents at any level of development of a healthful lifestyle.
"Holistic living is a life-long process," Barth said. "You just don't sit down one day and become a holistic family."
Food allergies are another hot topic for which parents want information.
"We are seeing such a huge correlation between allergies and children's health," Barth said. "Many moms are asking, 'How do I find out what my child is allergic to?' "
The group wants to empower parents to make the best decisions. They also cover pregnancy, the birthing process, vaccinations, breastfeeding and green living.
"We cover everything," Barth said. "Holistic living can impact everything you do. You can apply it to every decision you make in the day."
Information from: St. Cloud Times, http://www.sctimes.com