What we feed our children greatly matters to their physical, mental, and emotional health. With the rise of childhood obesity and Type 2 diabetes rates in kids that appear younger and younger – it’s time we start really paying attention to what they’re eating. Unfortunately, not all food is created equal and you can’t trust that they’re getting nutrient dense foods at school anymore. With our busy lifestyles these days I understand why it’s easier to justify quick food but hopefully we can help pick
What to feed your child.
I’m going to start with what NOT to eat
First off, determine that a given substance is truly a food. If the substance will not decompose for over a year, do you think that it’s fit for consumption? I would argue not. What ‘foods’ have we basically eliminated from consumption; fast food, microwaveable food, food bars, etc.
Other substances to eliminate:
-high fructose corn syrup
– processed grains
Avoid high sugary drinks or beverages. Next time you’re in the store check out what is in a Gatorade, vitamin water or other drinks that are perceived as ‘healthy.’ You may be surprised how much sugar is truly in there! Also, how do some of those sport drinks get such bright colors – yes, artificial food dyes. Water is always a good choice as most of us are chronically dehydrated as it is. If you want any healthier options for beverages there are plenty, just ask and I would be happy to share ideas. An option is powdered greens that you can add to water to enhance the flavor as well as help to get your servings of fruits and veggies.
(Most of the foods to avoid are in the middle isles of the grocery store. That is because these foods are typically foods that can sit on the shelf for long periods of time.)
What to eat
I promise there are lots of good healthy foods left to eat! Foods to give your child to give them the necessary sources of nutrition on a regular basis are as follows:
- Protein (from good sources)
- Healthy Fats
Proteins are vital for all of us and are especially important for kids who are still developing bones and muscles. Healthy meats offer complete proteins for growth. Also, vitamin B12 is not found in plant foods so it’s important to get it from animal sources.
Great sources of protein include:
- Grass-fed beef
- Free-range chicken or poultry
- Wild caught fish
- Organic organ meats
- Free range eggs
- Wild game
- Bacon (make sure it’s nitrate or nitrite-free)
Protein sources to avoid: processed meat, meats with nitrates, commercially or farm raised beef, fish or poultry, and non-meat alternatives such as soy.
Most children don’t eat enough vegetables and the top consumed veggies for Americans are potatoes and tomatoes. You can guess what sources those are likely from…French fries and ketchup maybe?
Great sources of vegetables:
- Organic leafy greens
- Spinach, lettuce, kale, chard, turnip, mixed greens, etc.)
- Colored veggies
- Peppers, tomatoes, onions, eggplant, carrots, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbages, squashes, cucumbers, avocados
- Other veggies
- Brussel sprouts, olives, artichoke, beets, asparagus, kohlrabi, radishes, leeks, bok choy, fennel, parsnips
Avoid vegetables that are fried like French fries, potato chips, onion rings, chicken nuggets, etc.
It’s best to have veggies come first before fruits. More on that when I get to fruits…
Fat, yes, fat! We NEED good healthy fats in our diets! Our brains are made up of % of fat! It makes sense why it’s important for brain health then isn’t it? Dietary fats carry the important and necessary fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. I hope people are realizing the low-fat trend that happened in America did not make us healthier.
Great sources of Fat:
- Olive Oil
- Butter/Ghee (organic/grass-fed)
- Fermented Cod Liver Oil
- Organ Meat
Avoid fats that are pro-inflammatory such as polyunsaturated oils (soy, canola, vegetable, etc.), hydrogenated oils and trans fats.
As I mentioned in my previous post; ancestrally, sugar was available a few months of the year. Fruit is good just make sure it’s in moderation because it still contains sugar. A great rule of thumb would be to eat fruits sparingly and ones that are naturally in season.
Great sources of fruit:
- Berries (organic as most are on the dirty dozen list)
- Apples (organic as high on the dirty dozen list)
- Citrus fruits
Avoid conventional fruits that are high on the dirty dozen list – always buy those organic if possible. Here is a link to the dirty dozen list: https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty_dozen_list.php#.WnjfWExFycw Also be aware that some fruits are higher on the glycemic index (which means that they will spike blood sugar fast) such as pineapple, mango, watermelon, etc.
Start making meals at home.
This is something that is simple yet is being lost these day. I’m thankful that my parents did and still do make majority of meals at home. When making meals at home, don’t make a second meal specially for your children, but instead have your children eat what the rest of the family is eating. By making food at your home you can teach your children how to help make meals as well as have the ability to know exactly what is in your food. This can ultimately cut back on highly processed foods with inflammatory oils, preservatives, hidden sugars, etc. Now some of you may already be in the habit of making ‘special’ meals for your children however it’s never too late to make changes. I’m not saying that it’s going to be an easy transition, but it won’t take long before your child knows he/she needs to eat what is prepared. Call me old fashioned but I remember my parents making food and if I didn’t want it then I had the option of going to bed without supper. I never had the expectation of them making a separate meal just for me.
Along with preparing and eating meals at home, it’s another way to have time set aside for bonding over food shared. With how busy most of our lives are it’s a wonderful opportunity to just “be” with one another and have great conversation while enjoying your meal. I challenge everyone to put away their phones, turn off the television and allow your meal times to be free from all distractions. You may be surprised how invigorating it feels to be ‘disconnected’ from technology and completely present with your family.
It may sound intimidating at first but meal prepping and planning for the week ahead makes things SO much easier to stay on track and avoid going for the fast junk foods. If you do need something fast on the run, have veggies, fruits, or easy, fast proteins on hand to grab and run.
Once you’ve made up your mind to incorporate these changes into you and your families lives, it’s okay to do so gradually but be diligent. Make trying new foods exciting! Your kids may test you on this initially however you’ll probably be surprised how much easier your kids will adapt to these dietary changes! A large and important step is to model healthy eating yourself. If they see you enjoying veggies regularly, they are more likely to choose it themselves. Children are going to learn behavior more on what they see versus what they are told.
Good eating habits start at home. I’m not saying one should never eat out or enjoy a treat but as the saying goes, “everything in moderation.” Your children will thank you in the future!