Nutrition for Children: It Doesn’t Come In a Box

This is a guest post from my assistant and intern Coco Noel. I am showing her the ropes of real food nutrition to keep her from going down the tofu trail like I did when I was in school! Coco Noel is obsessed with all things related to uncovering the truth in nutrition and wellness. She is studying nutrition in Berkeley, California as part of her never ending quest to know (it all). Coco is a nanny part time while she is studying and has worked for many years with kids. I asked her to give us some tips about nutrition for kids from her perspective.

Bunnies

Nutrition for Children: It Doesn’t Come in a Box

While marketers may lead you to believe that goldfish crackers, pepperoni pizza, and gummy fruit snacks are essential parts of childhood, nothing could be further from the truth. Because children’s bodies are growing and developing, it’s imperative that the foods that do make it down the hatch are nutrient-dense.  (In other devastating news, “crunch berries” do not belong in berry smoothies.)

A healthy diet can reduce a child’s risk for developing type 2 diabetes and some cancers, strengthen his immune system, and facilitate proper development. Research suggests that a child’s diet can affect his or her behavior, I.Q., and school performance.  A proper diet has been shown to reduce ADD/ADHD symptoms in a majority of affected children just as well as therapy and medication—good news for you, your child, and countless Golden Retrievers who are at this very moment being chased with squirt guns and tiaras.

While your child may never of her own volition choose Brussels sprouts over a pink marshmallow bunny, here are some tips to help make your children’s shift towards eating real foods easier:

Get everyone on board!  

At each meal, discuss the foods you’re eating and how they benefit your bodies. While your four-year-old can’t exactly grasp the concept of carotenoids, see what happens when you tell him that carrot sticks will help him see better, and, like an old-fashioned version of Cheetos, might turn his hands orange if he eats enough.  Explain to your nine-year-old that the salmon on his plate will help his brain and his skateboarding skills, and to your teenage daughter that leafy greens will give her skin a slightly tanned glow. If the topic of off-limit foods arises, talk about why you don’t eat them and how they harm our bodies. Your child may not fully appreciate their diminished heart disease risk, but the idea that we respect our body enough to feed it real foods will resonate.

Get rid of the junk by cleaning out the pantry

Make sticking to a healthy diet easier for yourself and your child by throwing out any kid junk food. If you don’t have instant oatmeal or cotton candy-flavored yogurt in the home, you won’t be tempted to give it to your child when he’s whiny and you’re tired or in a hurry.

Make it taste good

It’s not a myth—children’s taste buds really are different than adults’! In fact, 70% of us are bitter-sensitive as children. While the bad news is that most children have an innate aversion to bitter vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, the good news is these same children will eat almost twice as much of those bitter vegetables if they are served with dip. Cauliflower Hummus, organic dressing (steer clear of canola and vegetable oil varieties), and even nut butters or sauces are worth trying. If your child doesn’t go crazy for the veggies, be creative. You may have luck tossing a handful of spinach into a berry smoothie or serving steamed sweet potato or butternut squash chunks drizzled with butter, cinnamon and a sprinkle of stevia.  Here are a few child-friendly recipes to consider:

Salmon with coconut cream sauce

Salmon cakes

Pork Tenderloin with Blueberry Sauce

What about beverages?

If forcing your child to drink water when all the other kids are sipping juice boxes still feels like downright abuse, consider this recipe for an apple cider vinegar drink that is tasty, healthy and low in sugar.

1 1/2 cup of cold filtered water
2 tbs of apple or grape juice
2 tbs of raw apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
2-3 drops Stevia liquid
or 1 -2 tsp honey

Place all the ingredients together in a glass, stir and drink.

Get kids involved in the kitchen

Involving your children in the preparation of food not only builds self-confidence, but it also makes them much more likely to eat the meal they’re helping to create. Even very young children can wash vegetables or help scoop melon balls. The next time your vegetable-phobic pre-schooler is in the kitchen, put her to work washing produce (try leafy/crunchy greens, carrots, tomatoes, lemon juice and an avocado) and dropping it into in a high-powered blender. Name the resulting soup-mush after her, and don’t be surprised if “Lucy’s Princess Soup” (with real bone broth) becomes a lunchtime staple.

Offer a wide variety

At each meal, offer an assortment of colorful fruits and vegetables in addition to fat and protein sources. A no-nagging tip for encouraging your child to taste new foods: if you know berries and hardboiled eggs are a surefire win each time, keep those in the fridge until the end of the meal. Even if she initially refuses to eat anything, wait a few minutes before offering alternatives; hunger pangs have a way of making even the most stubborn of kids try new foods.

Stick with it

Shifting away from a kid junk food diet to one of real foods may take weeks or even months of adjustment, so don’t get upset if your child turns his nose up at most of the food in front of him.  It will be difficult at first, but if you consistently put real food in front of him, it’s inevitable that he will begin eating real food. I promise, no child has ever starved to death in front of a plate of grass-fed meat and colorful fruits and vegetables.

Relax

Your child may never request liver or kale, and that’s okay (you can sneak it in a soup or meatball). Remember: the goal isn’t that your children adopt a diet that’s identical to your own. Rather, aim for them to eat foods that nourish their bodies and instill in them a life-long appreciation for real food.

A Paleo template that incorporates Weston A.Price principles is safe, healthy, and appropriate for children. Be extra vigilant about getting meats, eggs, and butter that are organic and pastured, and of course all fish ought to be wild. Canned foods should be low mercury and labeled BPA-free. Aim for a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables, and since children require more fat than adults, be liberal with properly prepared nuts, seeds and healthy saturated fats like Grassfed Organic Ghee and coconut oil.

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Food Pyramid by Sandrine Love.  Copyright 2012.  All Rights Reserved.  Please do not use this photograph without the express written consent of Nourishing Our Children.

Are you wondering how to best nourish your child?

There is a non-profit, educational initiative of the San Francisco Chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation established to address the dramatic deterioration in the health of our children. They have an excellent DVD, e-book and power point that shows you or your loved ones the best ways to feed and nourish children. It breaks down complex information into bite sized easy to understand chunks that are simple to implement. These materials will help you understand how traditional cultures used nutrition to stay healthy for thousands of years without modern day problems like cavities, diabetes and heart disease.

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For those of you who have an interest in Nourishing Our Children’s brand new and newly revised educational materials, this is the time to donate to receive them!  They are offering a 25% to 40% reduction in their usual donation request until February 1, 2013!  Act now to receive:
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  • Food Pyramid Chart

         All for $100!! (usually over $160)

Don’t Miss the Nourish Our Children Promotion ending Feb 1, 2013

 

Sources:
http://www.nutritionj.com/content/6/1/19
http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/14/health/la-he-diet-adhd-20110314
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22741167

This post is linked to: www.holisticsquid.com


Comments

  1. says

    Great ideas here! I like that you used the organic cheddar bunnies as an example. Though it is definitely better than other options out there, the organic label does not always mean healthy!

  2. Lee says

    LOVELOVELOVE this! Fantastic ideas! I am currently trying to do ALLTHENUTRITIONALTHINGS for my 7 month old, and he absolutely loves anything I put on his plate (spinach, broccoli, squash, salmon, tofu etc). I love cooking so much and really hope by including him in the cooking process as he grows, he’ll learn to love it too. Keep up the amazing work!

  3. says

    Every body knows that junk food is not very healthy and nutritious for children. By realising this fact, parents should restrict the kids for junk food as regular meal. Saying a big ‘NO’ to junk food would only tempt to eat them more. They might do it without the knowledge of the parents. Instead it’s a good idea to give them the freedom to eat junk food limited occasions and rest of the times maintain a healthy diet. This way the children will also know their limits and have a chance to eat food of their choice for the child and the parents should try to make the child understand the fact. Following are some ideas to avoid junk food from children.

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  1. [...] A healthy diet can reduce a child’s risk for developing type 2 diabetes and some cancers, strengthen his immune system, and facilitate proper development. Research suggests that a child’s diet can affect his or her behavior, I.Q., and school performance.  A proper diet has been shown to reduce ADD/ADHD symptoms in a majority of affected children just as well as therapy and medication…click here to read more! [...]