Children need a wide variety of foods to meet their nutritional needs for growth and hormonal balance, as well as foods that fuel the brain to help them pay attention in school. But parents often complain to me that their kids won’t eat anything healthy because they are picky eaters. As a mother of three children, I am sympathetic. But I also remind them that it is the parents, not the children, who pay for the food at the grocery store checkout. If our children are picky eaters it’s because of us!
School lunches and the “Kid’s Menu” at restaurants complicate the issue. They often consist of grilled cheese, cheese pizza and “mac and cheese.” These commercially prepared foods fill your child’s stomach, but provide absolutely no health benefits. Green vegetables or quality proteins are nowhere to be found. Unfortunately, a diet filled with white flour, white sugar, white rice, concentrated juices, food coloring, sucralose (i.e. Splenda), aspartame (i.e. Nutrasweet), and high fructose corn syrup can lead to your children suffering with a slew of allergies, attention issues, skin rashes and/or constipation.
Studies show that dietary habits forged in childhood are likely to persist into adulthood, so the lessons we teach our children about eating can last throughout their lifetime. It’s never too late for you to reform your own eating habits, and create a healthier future for your children.
Make the changing of eating habits a back-to-school project for your entire family. Keep in mind, the process begins with changing YOUR mindset and YOUR habits so that you can help expand your children’s food horizons. Have a family meeting to discuss the benefits of healthy eating. When everyone believes that they’re capable of “learning to like new foods,” the change can begin. Drop the label “picky eaters” and start referring to your children as “good eaters.” With your assistance and consistency, they’ll soon grow into that new moniker.
Nutrition is essential
The goal is to make sure your children’s meals include good fats, quality proteins, green vegetables and unrefined complex carbohydrates. The right kinds of fats are super important, because they’re essential for proper brain function. Good sources of essential fatty acids (EFAs) are raw almonds or raw walnuts; grass fed meats and eggs; avocados, organic poultry; sustainably caught, cold water fish, such as salmon, tuna and trout, avocado and flax seeds. When cooking, only use unrefined and organic olive or coconut oil.
Cooking? Yes. The first and most important step you must take to change your family’s eating habits is to prepare the majority of your meals at home. Save restaurant eating for special occasions, or limit it to one time per week. Keep the made-at-home meals simple – baked or grilled poultry, meat or fish; a green salad, and steamed or blanched veggies with a dipping sauce. If you serve a grain, use brown rice, or experiment with higher protein grains like quinoa. Involve your children in the food preparation process. In that way, they’ll not only begin to learn to cook, they’ll grow to understand that the time spent making meals is also an act of love.
Five Easy Steps for Enhancing Your Child’s Ability to Do Well in School
1. Start the day off with protein. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Consider omelets, boiled eggs, yogurt with fruit, cottage cheese with fruit, almond butter on sprouted toast, or a slice of almond banana bread (see recipes). Eating small portions of protein throughout the day, such as raw nuts, keeps your child’s energy balanced throughout the day.
2. Drink lots of water. The brain is comprised of about 80% water. Increasing your child’s water intake to a minimum of four to eight, 8-ounce glasses of filtered water every day will improve every function of their body – from energy level to brain function. Sodas, Gatorade, tea, slurpies, etc., are liquids, but are not the same as water. Water is essential to the body’s optimal function.
3. Prepare healthy lunches and after-school snacks; make dinner a family affair: Purchase insulated lunch bags for your children and send them off to school with the nutritional punch they’ll need to get through the day. Need ideas? See the article titled 10 Healthy Snack Ideas, some of which can be used for lunch. Make dinner a family affair – get everyone involved in the preparation.
4. Spend time outdoors: Spend at least 30 minutes outdoors every day, either exercising together or playing together.
5. Make time for rest: When we rest, is when the body is restored. Children need much more sleep than adults. Make sure your children get at least nine or 10 hours every night, and watch those grades rise!
Follow these steps, and you’ll see a marked change in the health and well-being of your entire family. Get started today!
Back-to-School Family Challenge
How would you like to see your family’s photo or story featured on the PureBalance Facebook Page, or even the PureBalance Health Center website? Follow the “Five Easy Steps” outlined in Dr. Mom’s article, Enhancing Your Children’s Ability to Do Well in School,” and submit your story to [email protected] by September 10th!