Let’s face it, WE ALL WANT to feed our kids what they need in order to grow into healthy, strong, and resilient people. I don’t think there’s a parent out there that would say otherwise. Yet in this information packed world of ours, even a trip to the grocery store can be confusing. The answer to what to feed them while ALSO nourishing them at the same time comes down to an understanding of the essential (and simple) basics. Here’s a quick summary breaking it down.
- Water is often overlooked and yet such an essential player when it comes to the health of our growing children. We need it more consistently than anything else we consume (well aside from air).
- Water is vital to our detoxification systems. It helps our kidneys maintain the right pH balance. When we become dehydrated our bodies shift into an acidic state. Acidic states are breeding grounds for disease.
- Facilitates fat metabolism and nutrient absorption.
- Provides clarity of mind. Our brains are approx. 75% water and proportionately hold the largest amount of water in our bodies. We feel dehydration first through brain fog, fatigue, or irritability.
FYI It’s so essential that our bodies even have mechanisms for getting us to drink more water in the form of cravings. The next time your kids feel hungry too soon after eating, it might just be water they need – now drink up!
- Protein wears the pants in the family for growth, energy, repair, and mood.
- Essential for producing enzymes (chemical reactions) in our body key to our hormonal functioning.
- Helps regulate the sugar surges in our blood stream (essential for weight control, energy, and mood).
- Builds muscle.
FYI – It’s a good idea to think about consuming 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight in order to meet basic daily needs. But keep in mind, protein demands go up with increased activity levels.
- Fat is by far the most vilified nutrient ever and it’s a myth that needs to stop. The craze is unfounded both scientifically and traditionally – it’s just plain unhealthy to not eat fat.
- We need fat for firing. One of the top priorities for dietary fat consumption is to support a healthy brain. Our brains are approx. 60% fat. We are literally swimming in fat up there and need to be, because cholesterol is the mother of all hormones. Hormones in the brain are called neurotransmitters and fat not only supports their creation but also the firing between receptor sites to keep us functioning. We don’t have healthy brains without fat and we certainly can’t GROW a healthy brain without it. And since a baby is born with a head size that is proportionately bigger until she reaches adult age this is a key organ to grow wisely.
- Fat soluble vitamins are absorbed via fat. Without it, we don’t benefit from the nutrients.
- Ever wonder why you feel satiated after a meal with fat? It’s because you truly are. Fat slows down the digestion of food which means we stay fuller longer AND our bodies get to digest that food at a pace that’s not rushed.
FYI – Natures ratios are right. Meaning the right balance between pro-inflammatory fats Omega 6s and anti-inflammatory ones Omega 3s are right in nature. We need both – but balance is essential. Processed foods lean heavily towards the pro-inflammatory 6s and not enough 3s. That’s why omega 3 supplementation is often a wise choice.
- Vitamins and minerals can’t be made in the body (with the exception of vitamin D which is really a hormone) and if you can’t make them, you must eat them.
- Minerals are key players within our systems of detoxification.
- Minerals assist in maintaining a proper pH balance.
- Vitamins and minerals work together transporting essential nutrients where needed throughout the body for a multitude of functions (which is why they’re called essential).
FYI – Modern commercial farming practices do not replenish the compliments of mineral reserves the way our old standard of organic farming did. Nutrient profiles are diminished in today’s conventionally grown produce crops. Take for example, an apple of yesteryear had a nutrient content approx. 2xs higher than today’s version. The same goes for animals raised under commercial practices. The final products are quite different from the pasture raised variety. Even the fat profiles are altered in an unhealthy way as a result of commercial farming. For this reason, this is an area where buying organics make a difference (be it animal or plant).
- Probiotics are the missing link in nutrition.
- Scientists are now beginning to understand the importance of a good gut micro-biome for digestion and assimilation of what we eat – in so doing – supporting immunity.
- The building connection between the GUT and mind is now proving the case that your mood starts in your GUT.
- Aids in the elimination of food to ease problems with constipation and bloating.
FYI – Providing a variety of pro-biotic rich foods everyday such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, unpasteurized pickles and sauerkraut (kept in the refrigerator section) to name a few, is a good plan.
- Carbohydrates take care of themselves with a diet that includes plenty of whole foods. Deliberately adding them is not necessary. They are already in the foods you choose AND when overdone (as with processed foods and sugar) can harm your child’s health.
- Reach for whole food form complex carbs that burn slow and give you steady fuel.
- Avoid regularly reaching for refined simple carbs found in processed foods (think ready to eat fast foods). They provide fast energy that will spike your blood sugar. This contributes to mood swings, energy crashes, and a set up for a plethora of health problems including diabetes.
- Carbohydrates in whole food form (plants) comes along with nature’s carb balancer – fiber. Fiber slows down digestion for a slow burning steady energy without peaks and crashes.
Growing kids need ALL of the above nutrients. Depending on where your child is on the growth scale determines how you balance one over another. A teenage athlete will want to bump up the protein whereas a growing toddler needs plenty of high quality fat for that growing brain. By consistently balancing your meals around all of these nutrients found in whole food choices – think MADE BY HAND NOT MACHINE- you will be providing the basic building blocks for growing resilient kids.