In the spirit of “back to school” here are a few ideas on nutrition for kids. (Of course this information is good for adults too!) Nutrition for kids is the most challenging aspects I face when working with clients. While it is hard enough to get adults to eat healthier, kids are often a greater challenge. The food producers and manufacturers have developed special foods that they call “kid’s food”. If you take the time to read the list of ingredients you will find that most of it is not food and should not be consumed by anyone, particularly our children. Our children are growing and need the healthiest foods available to properly fuel their minds and bodies.
The consumption of “kid’s food” and more sedentary lifestyles (lack of exercise, lots of television, computer, and video games) is having a major impact on the health of our youth. And it’s not for the better! Obesity among children aged 6 to 11 more than doubled in the past 25 years. The rate among adolescents aged 12 to 19 more than tripled. Rates of child hood diabetes and cancer are also on the rise.
How do we get our kids to eat healthier foods? One successful strategy is to make subtle substitutions to the foods they like to eat. Let’s take something as simple as the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. For the peanut butter use organic peanut butter that is nothing but peanuts and peanut oil. Most commercial peanut butters contain added sugar and hydrogenated oil (trans- fats). We know trans-fats are linked to cancer and that added sugar adds empty calories. I stress the organic because peanuts are one of the most highly pesticided crops, so non-organic peanut butter will contain potential chemical residues and toxins. An even healthier option would be to use organic almond butter.
For the bread I recommend sprouted bread as it is the healthiest bread option. It is made from wheat so for those with gluten intolerance will need to use a gluten free bread. For the jelly, find the most natural product you can. Look for spreads that do not add sugar or have less sugar added. The fruit already has plenty of sugar.
What are some other healthy substitutions? A major area to look at is the carbohydrates. While carbohydrates can be a good source of energy, too many or a disproportionate share of the diet can lead to weight gain and a variety of other health problems. In today’s world our kids eat a lot of them – bread, rice, pasta, and salty snacks. Our goal here is to simultaneously shift from the refined and processed white flour products to whole grains and at the same time introduce more vegetables into their diet.
In addition to the switch to sprouted breads, we can use brown rice instead of white rice and pasta from brown rice rather than refined wheat (the white pasta). All of these substitutions taste virtually the same. They just look a little different and that may turn off the kids. But, covered in tomato sauce they will never know the difference!
Then there are snacks. The kids get home from school and they are hungry and it is not quite dinner time. There are certainly some better choices than chips and dips. Another societal norm is this idea of “snack food.” Just like with “kid’s food” we need a little retraining. What is a snack? It is a small meal. So, think of something healthy that would be part of a meal. There’s nothing special about these foods, except that they are healthy. I like to tell people not to worry about if something is considered “breakfast” food or “snack” food – just eat healthy food when you are hungry!
Here’s a list of some healthy snacks: hard boiled eggs; jerky (beef, bison, turkey, salmon – just be sure from a healthy source); organic cheese (cottage, cheddar); organic plain yogurt with your own fruit added; fruit salad; almond butter and celery; baby carrots and bean dip; broccoli with dip; blue corn chips with bean dip, guacamole, or salsa; loaded baked potato; nuts; and seeds. See there’s plenty to choose from!
Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. His office is in Mequon. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (262) 389-9907 or go to www.brwellness.com.