We all want the very best for our kids. The best friends, best experiences, best teachers, best manners, and the best opportunities. Right?
This begins in the kitchen, believe it or not! The food we eat has been shown to play a significant role in our moods, our brain power, our physical health, and overall wellness. This is true for you and for your kids!
But just because we know we should be feeding our kids healthy, doesn’t mean we know how or want to fight that battle. I’m here to help you do it without a fight so that your kids beg for veggies.
1 - Raise a Grazer
Young kids do best when they eat balanced mini-meals every few hours. This way of eating drastically improves behavior, school performance, energy levels, and even sleep.
The best way to make this change is to rethink snack options. Snacks are often the time we grab the processed, refined carbohydrates. Instead, center the snack around a healthy fruit, vegetable, protein, and fat. With a bit of foresight, you can have healthy snacks at the ready.
2 - Feed Your Kids Growing Foods
In my family we use the term “growing foods” to denote healthy foods (the why is built right into it!). All young kids want to grow, after all. Just like you would probably be more likely to eat something called healthy food rather than sickening food, right?
What are Growing Foods?
First and foremost, growing foods are nutrient dense. That means they are rich in nutrients! Growing foods have straightforward ingredients, because they are whole foods or real foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, healthy fats, and proteins.
Growing foods fuel the body and brain for peak performance and development.
Best Growing Foods for Kids:
Nuts & seeds
Variety of Vegetables
3 - Boost Brain Power
Smart foods build smart brains. Our diet is our brain cells’ diet too! The food we eat feeds the trillion or so cells in our brains, called neurons.
To feed our neurons the best brain food, we need the right carbohydrates combined with the right fats and proteins so the brain can make healthy cells and operate like a well-oiled machine.
What are the right fats?
Eat smart, high quality fats for smart, high quality brain function. These are the Omega fatty acids included in seafood, avocados, nuts, and seeds. Coconut oil and organic butter are also high-quality fat options.
What are smart carbohydrates?
The smartest carbohydrates are those without ingredient lists. They are unrefined. Smart carbohydrates include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
What is smart protein?
The best protein comes from healthy, sustainably-raised animals, eggs, greek yogurt, tempeh, nuts, and seeds. High protein food perks up the brain and helps kids perform at their best.
Begin the day with a brainy breakfast. Many children skip breakfast or grab a junky carb on their way out the door. While this may fill their bellies for the short term, it does nothing to fuel their brains. Remember, a brainy breakfast is chock full of protein, healthy fat, and smart carbohydrates.
When your kid starts her day this way, she will be better behaved, a more adept learner, and alert throughout the day.
4 - Feed the Immune System
What you feed your kids makes a BIG difference in how often (and how severely) they get sick. There’s a reason your grandmother used to nag you to eat your fruits and vegetables. It turns out she knew best how to keep you healthy!
All of the phytonutrients in these foods fight the germs that bombard you and your kids. Healthy food is nature’s antibiotic! And the good news is that these foods have no negative side effects, unlike many prescription medicines.
Different foods contain different phytonutrients. To get the maximum medicinal benefit from foods, feed your child an array of colors. The darker the color and stronger the flavor, often the more phytonutrients it contains.
BONUS - Eating this way also manages inflammation, which is a buzz word these days in health and wellness. It turns out that inflammation is behind most age-related diseases. To protect your children from disease, feed them an anti-inflammatory diet now to keep their cells and immune system in tip-top shape.
5 - Teach Your Kids to Be Food Detectives
Empower your kids by teaching them how to be in control of eating for their health and wellness. They actually want to know...even your toddler!
When my kids were young we used the terms growing food, filler food, and occasional food. Some parents use the terms red light, yellow light, green light. The goal is to educate and empower your kids to want to make healthier choices and to know how. Start this early! It breaks my heart to meet teens who want to be healthy eaters, but don’t know how or where to start. This is where the vicious dieting cycle begins. Teach your kids specifically about foods that contribute to their health and about those that don’t add nutrients (such as pasta or bread) and then those that steal nutrients (like candy, soda, cupcakes and other junk).
Occasional food or red light food actually hurts the body. It leaches, or takes away, many of the vitamins and minerals that we work so hard to put in. That’s why we only eat it occasionally, if at all. These foods contain white flour, sugar, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, food dyes, and preservatives.
Help your kids to understand that when they eat food with these ingredients, it makes their bodies slow and their brain not work well. On the other hand, growing food makes kids faster, stronger, and smarter!