Home » Mila’s Meals – Free from Gluten, Sugar and Dairy by Catherine Barnhoorn

Mila’s Meals – Free from Gluten, Sugar and Dairy by Catherine Barnhoorn

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Guest blogging for us for the next few weeks is Catherine Barnhoorn – author of the book ‘Mila’s Meals: The Beginning & The Basics’.

Reading through Catherine’s stories and recipes was so inspiring that I knew I had to share it on the Carmién Kiddies blog!

Thank you Catherine for composing such a beautiful and helpful book. This is a modern day treasure!

Catherine’s blog posts will focus on ‘Tea as Medicine’ – here is Part 1.


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As Hippocrates (the father of Western Medicine) said “Let food my thy medicine and medicine thy food. Nature itself is the best physician.” Tea (especially rooibos tea) is a perfect example of this and being naturally caffeine-free and low in tannins, your little one’s can enjoy its healing benefits too.

As a mom to a four-year-old, I am all about using food as medicine, not only when my daughter (Mila) is unwell, but in order to prevent illnesses too. Mila has been enjoying Rooibos tea since she was 6 months old (in small amounts then, but great big mugs-full as she got older).

Let’s look at what makes Rooibos tea medicinal…

Healing Benefits of Rooibos Tea

Rooibos tea has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-viral benefits.


Antioxidants are responsible for clearing the body of ‘free-radicals’ – that is, the toxic by-products naturally produced by the body during its many functions, as well as those ingested through food and from the environment. Free-radicals cause oxidation in the body which damages cells and can lead to disease, which it why it is important to eliminate them from the body. While green tea has long been revered and promoted as a healing food and a great source of antioxidants, Rooibos tea is said to have 50% more antioxidants than its more famous cousin, (and, unlike green tea, it is caffeine-free!) (source: WebMD https://www.webmd.com)


Polyphenol is a generic term for the several thousand plant-based molecules that have antioxidant properties. Polyphenols do so much good in the body:
They are anti-inflammatories – that is, they prevent inflammation in the body.
Polyphenols are anti-viral – that is, they protect you from various types of viral sicknesses such as common colds, viruses and the flu.


From a nutritional perspective, Rooibos is full of essential minerals. It is a good source of:
manganese, calcium, and fluoride (good for growing strong bones and teeth);
magnesium (essential for overall good health, a calmative and aids good sleep);
zinc and Vitamin C (important for a healthy immune system);
potassium (which supports healthy functioning of the body’s vital organs).
iron, (which carries oxygen to our blood cells) and which babies may be deficient in after the supply they were born with is depleted by 6 months of age.

The Concern about Tannins

I have heard mommies say they won’t give their little one’s Rooibos tea because it contains tannins. While high levels of tannins (present in other teas) may inhibit digestion and interfere with your baby’s ability to absorb iron, Rooibos tea is low in tannins. Furthermore, it contains its own iron and Vitamin C, and Vitamin C increases absorption of iron – so, as with many wholefoods when eaten ‘whole’, the individual components complement and counterbalance each other.

Soul food

I truly believe that no amount of good food can nourish a starving soul. Besides the food on your plate, there is a need for Soul Food. At the Institute for Integrative Nutrition® (where I obtained my Integrative Nutrition Health Coach certification) they have developed the concept of Primary Food – essentially, primary food is nourishment that doesn’t appear on your plate. The four core primary foods for adults are: exercise, spirituality, career and relationships. The premise is that when these areas of your life are in balance, food is secondary – primary food fills your soul and satisfies your hunger for life. It is those things or activities that bring you Joy.
There is something so wonderfully soothing and nourishing about drinking a warm cup of tea. So, besides the health benefits from rooibos tea’s nutrient content, – it really is food for the soul.

[As a side note I would venture to say that soul food for your little one would be: loving relationships, physical activity, spiritual practice and play.]

And then there is the Ritual aspect of tea. Ritual is a way the soul satisfies its need for connection, presence and joy and has been considered a healing practice for centuries in many different cultures. Many rituals show up in our sharing of food, holiday traditions, and birthdays, with family and friends.

While the Asians have the sacred Tea Ceremony (a spiritual experience embodying harmony, respect, purity and tranquility) and the British have High Tea (enjoyed as an occasional indulgence or to celebrate a special event), in South Africa we have our very own unique tea ritual… Tea and Rusks! Whether its tea & rusks in bed with mom and dad first in the morning as the breaking of the night’s fast and a time of togetherness before the craziness of the day starts, or as an afternoon treat at Ouma’s house, Tea & Rusks is nourishing for mind, body and soul. (Mila runs into her Ouma’s house requesting tea & rusks – it is a big part of their relationship and I am sure will be a source of happy memories for her for the rest of her life.)

IMAGE: Mila’s and her cousin Lily. Photographer – Alfred Lor (www.shooot.co.za), © Mila’s Meals
And so I thought it fitting that I include my recipe for gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free rusks with this blog post…


vegetarian; vegan; grain-free; for adults too; great for lunchboxes
Makes 30 rusks
A rusk is a hard, dry biscuit also known as twice-baked bread. They are a traditional South African early morning or tea time snack and are typically dunked in tea before being eaten.
Rusks make a great finger food for teething little ones – although they can crumble, so your little one may need to be supervised while eating them until he/she is chewing well enough. Even now that Mila is a little older, she enjoys dipping rusks into her Rooibos tea as a pre-breakfast snack.


2 cups almond flour
2 T. coconut flour
5 eggs
2 bananas, mashed
¼ cup date jam
1 T. coconut oil, melted
2 T. honey (or maple syrup if you are a vegan or if your little one is younger than a year)
¼ cup flaxseeds, ground
¼ cup sunflower seeds, ground
¼ t. Himalayan or sea salt
1 t. nutmeg
½ T. vanilla powder
½ T. cinnamon
½ t. baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
½ t. aluminum-free baking powder


Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF).
Grease two 14.5 cm x 8 cm (5.57″ x 3″) bread loaf tins. You can also line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper to ensure the loaves fall out easily once cooked.
Place the almond flour, coconut flour, eggs, banana, date jam, coconut oil and honey in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric beater for 2 minutes. This softens the rather dry flours as they have the opportunity to absorb moisture before being cooked.
Add the flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, salt, nutmeg, vanilla powder, cinnamon, baking soda and baking powder and beat to combine.
Pour the batter into the tins. They should be three quarters full.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the loaves from the pans and allow them to cool on a wire rack.
When completely cool, slice into 3 cm (1″) thick slices. Then slice those slices in three.
Turn your oven on to its lowest setting.
Place the rusks on a baking tray and dehydrate in the oven with the door slightly ajar. This can take up to 10 hours so you may want to do this overnight.
Alternatively, if you have a dehydrator, place the rusks on the silicone trays and dehydrate at 45ºC (113ºF) for 10 hours.
The finished rusks should be very dry and hard.
Store the rusks in a glass jar or other airtight container.
The rusks will last for up to 2 months.


IMAGE: Alfred Lor (www.shooot.co.za) © Mila’s Meals

To end off I’d like to share how Rooibos tea has come to Mila’s

(and my) rescue in more ways than one!

Rooibos tea to the rescue (for your little ones)!

Bottle/Breastmilk substitute.

Being naturally sweet and caffeine free, slightly warm rooibos tea makes an excellent substitute when it is time to wean your little one. While it is advised for breastmilk (or formula) to be the main source of liquid for your little one until they are a year old, when your time comes to remove the bottle or the boob – Rooibos can come to the rescue. Mila weaned so easily when I offered her a bottle of Rooibos tea at bed time (almost too easily for my liking ).

Iced Tea instead of juice.

My daughter, Mila, has been raised as a ‘free-from’ child – that is, on a gluten-free, sugar-free and dairy-free diet. This was easy when she was a baby and at home with me most of the time. But when she started seeing her cousins and friends drinking juices out of a box, or iced tea out of a can, I felt I had to offer her something more exciting than water (I have been determined that she does not feel ‘deprived’ by not being able to eat or drink what her friends are as I feel this could lead to emotional issues, and food-related issues later in life). Rooibos tea to the rescue once again! Mila was particularly intrigued and confused by iced tea out of a can. She understood that the juices and fizzy drinks were not healthy but the iced tea? It was tea, so why couldn’t she have it? So I made my own version of naturally sweetened and flavoured iced tea for her – sweetened with a little bit of honey and flavoured with chopped pieces of fresh fruit which I allow to stew in the hot tea until it has cooled down. Peach is her favourite! And oh! the excitement around the jingling pieces of ice in her cup!

Soothe and heal nappy rash:

Mila only ever had nappy rash a couple of times – mostly when I had run out of biodegradable nappies and was using conventional ones instead. At the next nappy change, simply put a dry Rooibos tea bag over the affected area and close up the clean nappy. Repeat whenever you do a nappy change. The rash should disappear within a day or two.

Eczema and sunburn remedy:

Add a strong pot of Rooibos tea to your baby’s bath to soothe and heal eczema, rashes or sunburn.

Colic remedy:

due to its general anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties Rooibos tea has long been known as an effective remedy for colic and cramps and can aid digestion.

A cough or asthma remedy:

A warm cup of Rooibos tea with a touch of raw honey is a bronchodilator. (A bronchodilator is a substance that dilates the bronchi and bronchioles in the lungs, and in doing so, it increases airflow making breathing easier).

Rooibos tea to the rescue (the Mama’s & Papa’s)!

Rooibos tea can:

Strengthen the bones and teeth preventing osteoporosis and fractures
Clear skin of acne and prevent wrinkles
Increase hair growth, encourage the growth of strong hair and even prevent hair loss.
Relieve the symptoms of dandruff
Reduce the risk of various types of cancer, heart disease and premature aging
Treat the symptoms of gout
Relieve and prevent hypertension (high blood pressure)
Prevent common health conditions including joint pain, osteoporosis and arthritis
Be a natural remedy to irritable bowel syndrome
Help balance blood sugar and improve insulin resistance in the body
Aid blood circulation
Reduce cholesterol.

Is it time for tea?


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Catherine is Mom to Mila, a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, author of ‘Mila’s Meals: The Beginning & The Basics’ – a collection of gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free nourishing wholefood recipes and food ideas for baby’s first years (and the rest of the family too).

She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Psychology from The University of Cape Town; a diploma in Marketing and Visual Communications from The International Advertising Association; and a diploma in Health Coaching (INCH) from The Institute For Integrative Nutrition.

In her ‘previous life’ Catherine was a graphic designer and branding consultant in London, Johannesburg and Cape Town. A near death experience during an armed home invasion in Johannesburg led her to start a new life in Knysna in order to fulfill her promise to ‘live a life of meaning’.

Catherine is deeply passionate about empowering parents to make informed decisions with regards to what they feed their children and themselves, and she firmly believes that food can be “the best form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” Catherine sees her, and her daughter’s, food intolerances as a blessing which has led them down a path of learning, discovery and good health – which will hopefully stand them in good stead for years to come.

To follow their journey or to buy the book, please visit www.milasmeals.co.za, or join them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/MilasMeals.


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This book came about because of green poo – that’s right… bright green baby poo!

I was (as a first time mom) completely freaked out when I opened my daughter Mila’s nappy one day and saw what looked like spinach purée! The homeopath and various other experienced folk told me that it was normal for a breastfed baby to have poo ranging from orange to green. But my instinct told me it was the result of ‘something’. Already noticing the physical affects of gluten, sugar and dairy on myself, I quickly realised that when I breastfed Mila after consuming these foods, her colic was worse and a few hours later, her poo would be bright green!
It is amazing how quickly you change something when it is in the best interest of your child! I immediately went on a completely gluten-, sugar-, and dairy-free diet and the result… less colic, no more green poo, my eczema improved and in six months I lost the 25kg I had gained during my pregnancy.

Then came the big curveball… Mila was six months old and needed to start solids! As a (very) anxious first-time mom I immediately ordered some baby food recipe books. I was horrified when I paged through them to find cheese, bread or sugar on every page! I realised that my decision to raise Mila on a free-from diet meant that I was going to have to put in some extra effort. I was acutely aware of the fact that babies have very specific nutritional needs and by eliminating some foods I was going to have to replace their nutrients with other food sources. I also faced a mountain of criticism – like “how can you not feed your child dairy?” Which I had to counter with facts – like “dairy is a difficult-to-digest food and is not the best source of bio-available calcium!”. So began my search for recipes and my journey into nutrition.

That was 4 years ago, almost to the day. It has been a long process, with a few pauses in-between when Life presented itself and needed complete attention. It has been, and continues to be, a wonderful journey…

And so here is my second child…

MilasMealsIntroduction* MilasMeals_LookInside_Unlearn2* MilasMeals_Final_LookInside_Onbijtkoek* MilasMeals_LookInside_FeedingWithAwareness*

‘Mila’s Meals: The Beginning & The Basics’ – a 500-page collection of gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free nourishing wholefood recipes and food ideas for baby’s first years (and the rest of the family too).

Colour photos for every single recipe & a wealth of information including:

The Why

The truth behind common infant food fallacies
The why, what and how to begin your little one’s life-long relationship with food.
An expose of what is really in that convenient, ready-made food and the affect it has on your child physically, mentally and emotionally.
The importance and maintenance of gut health.
Why not gluten, dairy and sugar.

The What

Essential nutrients, the role they play, and where to find them.
A detailed glossary for every ingredient used in the book.

The How

Over 100 (mostly) uncomplicated recipes made with easy-to-find ingredients.
A re-introduction of essential traditional foods & food preparation techniques (like sauerkraut, slow-cooked bone broths as well as how and why to soak grains).
‘Do-able’ meals for working parents – all the food can be made in bulk and frozen.

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