What should we be feeding our kids?
So many of the clients we work with hire us to for help with diet. In the maze of information and misinformation, we work together to figure out what works best for them as individuals...their personal make-up and lifestyle. In the end, what we find is as one person in a family makes healthier choices, the rest of the family benefits as well. Health is contagious. This is the case not only for diet, but for movement, mental conditioning and overall happiness as well.
When we see an exception to this phenomenon, it is almost always with regards to the children in the family. Poor kiddos! Part of this is because as parents we try to avoid any and all drama with our kids. If the child seems happy with "organic" cereal out of a cardboard box, and thick gooey processed fruits and veggies squeezed out of a tube, we let them be. The other part is that parents tend to catastrophize the situation. Here's an example. Your child won't eat the healthy meal you serve and will be hungry and possibly starve. They won't grow and develop as they should. They'll be smaller then the rest of the kids, not as smart, never get into college, get a job, make friends or find a partner. AND, they will be grumpy and hangry in the meanwhile, making your life completely miserable. Better to give them the not-so-great food they love and call it a day. I am definitely not pointing any fingers here...I can totally relate!
The quality of food we feed our children is especially apparent in restaurants. Have you ever taken a good look at kids menus? The usual selection consists of pizza, mac and cheese, pasta with butter, grilled cheese and the occasional chicken "fingers". Sometimes there is even the added bonus of juice or chocolate milk and a dessert of some sort included in the offering, at no extra cost to you, no immediate cost that is.
The question is, how important is it to get children off the carbohydrate/sugar/nutrient-wasteland of a diet they've grown so accustomed to? And if it is something worth doing, what in particular do they need, and how the heck do we get them to actually enjoy eating healthy foods?
First, why this IS important? On a universal level, our children are our legacies. We pass our torches on to them. Children truly "are the world" (flashback to 1985). They are the future of humanity. From this perspective, we need to equip them with the healthiest, strongest bodies, sharpest minds, kindest and most compassionate hearts and we possibly can.
Historically, there was never any difference between the adult and the children's food, there was only the plants foraged, the fruits gathered and the meat hunted. By feeding our children out of boxes and tubes, they have become disconnected with food, where it actually comes from, how it is grown. This is a detriment to our already ailing environment. This also potentially leads to a poor relationship with food in general, emotional eating rather then relating with food as an earth given gift, as nourishing, as medicine.
It is critical for our kids to get certain nutrients out of their diets, even more so than adults. Their development depends on it.
What do kids need the most? Here I turn to someone I admire, trust greatly, and have personally been a patient of, Chris Kresser, one of the most intelligent functional medicine doctors out there.
- Fat soluble vitamins such as A, D and K2, which can be found in organ meats, cold-water fatty fish and dairy, egg yolks, Natto (Japanese fermented soy).
- Choline and glycine found in eggs, bone broth, fattier and collagen rich cuts of meat (brisket, oxtail).
- Iodine from sea vegetables (particularly kelp) and dairy (not from milk itself, but from the agent used to sterilize the containers that hold milk).
- EPA and DHA from cold-water fatty fish.
- Zinc, iron and copper, once again from organ meats and shellfish.
- Calcium from dairy, bone-in fish and dark leafy green vegetables.
- Phytonutrients, a variety of them from fresh fruits and vegetables, along with their fiber.
- Protein, the foundation for the development of muscles, tissues, and all the body's support systems.
Finally, how do we get our kids to eat these foods and actually enjoy them? Here are some simple tips.
- Be an example. Kids do as we do, far before they do purely what we say. If we are eating these foods ourselves, not only are we feeding ourselves the nutrients our bodies need, but setting an example and stimulating curiosity. Make room for questions and tastes.
- Make small changes. Start with making foods your kids already know and love, but healthier versions of them.
- Don't force your kids to eat anything or to finish what's on their plates and don't offer substitutions. Prepare healthy foods and put them out on the table and be patient. The kids won't go hungry and will eventually come around.
- Add first, take away later. Resist the temptation to immediately clean the pantry out of everything your kids love. Make healthy snacks available and accessible so that they are encouraged to try them on their own.
- Try and try again and again and again. It can take 10+ times, and often months for your little one's taste buds to adjust. Often times rejection of a food as more to do with texture than taste. Try different iterations of a food. For example, if your kids don't like mashed sweet potatoes, try them roasted.
- Make it fun...a family project, experiment, or game. Involve your kids in menu planning and cooking. Set aside your inner OCD (this one i especially hard for me) and within limits, let them be inventive. Create "fun" plates with foods they can eat with their fingers. Make smiley faces out of the food on their plates. Jazz veggies up with healthy sauces to dip into or add butter. (Butter or oil helps make the nutrients in vegetables more bioavailable by the way).
- Make sure your kids are hungry. Steer them away from snack too close to mealtimes.
- The earlier you start the better. Partially due to our own laziness, we never cooked anything special for our daughter. She always ate exactly what we ate. She knows no different and is always eager to try new things. The result is a very broad and sophisticated palate. Don't get us wrong, she won't pass up a cookie or piece of chocolate cake if their offered, but will happily gobble up raw oysters and a steamed artichoke with melted butter if that is what we are eating. (Our meal accompanied by a dirty martini, hers, sparkling water with lemon).
Need some coaching? We are happy to help! Give us a holler.