Nourishing Kids – 10 Strategies to Help Your Kid Eat Better
A basic guide and starting point to helping you and your family engage in healthy eating, nourish your bodies and minds, and prevent disease.
Why should we invest in good food and in learning how to eat and nourish ourselves?
All it takes is one commercial break while watching television to see what the corporations want us to eat. The advertisements overwhelming consist of processed, packaged, and fast foods and virtually no mention of real wholesome foods. This has been the case for a long time now. Due to Big Ag and their lobbying dollars, what we are told to eat is not based on the traditional wisdom of countless generations of humans that came before us but on which industry is able to influence government policy the most.
If you study what Americans have been eating for the last century and a half you will see that it has changed dramatically, and not for the better. The United States spends far more than any of the most developed countries on health care while also ranking the worst-performing of these same nations. There is something drastically wrong but very few people are talking about the right answers. Here are some examples of how things have changed within our own lifetimes:
- Generation X is the first generation in history that is expected to die before their parents. This is absolutely tragic and due to several factors but the solutions are fairly straight forward and simple.
- Most food isn’t even real food but instead is made in laboratories and factories at tremendous profit for the corporations and tremendous cost to our bodies.
- Children are now having cardiac damage as young as pre-school. This condition and similar conditions like type 2 diabetes used to only occur in adults, but sadly this is no longer the case.
- In 1970, 5% of children were obese. In 2008, 17% were obese and 33% were overweight. These numbers have only gotten worse since then.
- 13% of all children now have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease due to overconsumption and malnutrition. Yes, malnutrition!
We have to re-train our palates! Our sense of taste has been designed to seek out the sweet flavor because of its association to calories. In more primitive times calories were much more difficult to come by and were exceptionally valuable because of the essential energy they provided. Calories gave people the ability to go out and find more calories and to stockpile those calories for the winters and more scarce times. Calories fueled our minds and helped us evolve our brains and our abilities and to eventually pursue other goals.
Today calories are not as valuable because of their sheer abundance. They have gone from a prized possession to a destructive habit, and have replaced other essential parts of the diet - mainly actual nutrients!
It is important to teach our children how to eat for health rather than to eat to feel good. This essential subject is not taught efficiently in school but it is the most important subject. This is why it is so important for us parents to take the time to teach this knowledge to our children. Because of an abundance of confusing and downright false information out there it can be challenging to teach the basics of good nutrition...One decade butter is bad, the next its good. One decade eggs are good the next they’re bad... and then they’re good again! Because of the influence industry has had on our politicians we need to be able to see through the fads and have information that is time- tested.
This basic guide is meant to be a starting place for you and your family to begin setting good practices in place in order to prevent common diseases and to nourish the growing brains of our prized little ones. The lifestyle and eating habits that we develop between the ages of 9 and 13 not only determines the health of our children but also, through epi-genetics, the health of our grandchildren!
- Teach what real food is, and what it isn’t. Can you kill it, milk it, or pick it?
- Teach what our bodies need to thrive. We should eat to live, not live to eat. We can motivate children by letting them know that good food affects their ability to problem solve and concentrate (ex: doing math and spelling) as well as run faster and jump higher!
- Character is caught not taught. Lead by example and make every step of the process a family affair. Let them help you choose the menu, pick the veggies, shop, chop, and cook. Get them involved as young as possible and as much as possible!
- When they overdo it at a birthday party or indulge in too much desert at home help them to connect the feeling with the food. Help them see how they could have made a better choice.
- Focus on colors not calories. Engage them by asking them how many colors they ate today. The natural colors of fruit and vegetables bring great nutrition to our bodies.
- Create new experiences together by cooking new-to-you or different types of foods than you normally cook. Go to the farmers market and buy the weird vegetable you’ve never heard of.
- Introduce and keep introducing all the flavors every day. The typical American palate is missing out on a host of flavors. There are five (to six - depending on your take) flavors: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent (also called acrid or spicy) and umami. When your kid says they don’t like something, ask them what specifically about the food they don’t like. Keep asking them so that they can get clear on what it is that they don’t like. Usually it’s just inexperience or lack of appreciation for flavors such as bitter or pungent. Keep exposing them to these flavors!
- Avoid being overly strict one way or the other. Being strictly deprived will lead children to be rebellious and sneaky.
- Cook for the family, not for individuals. Meals are a time to come together and celebrate life and each other. When they are involved in the process of planning or preparing a meal they will appreciate it more. Get used to saying: “This is what we’re eating”. It could take a few days in a row but if they are hungry enough, they absolutely WILL eat it. (You can compromise a little by allowing them to put some ketchup on it if necessary 🙂
- Always make dinner an enjoyable time together. It is not the time to reprimand anyone or air our grievances about one another. The optimal state of the nervous system for digestion is the Parasympathetic (“Rest and Digest”) dominant state not the Sympathetic (“Fight or Flight) state.
In the end it’s all about making food interesting and fun. Connect different foods to different states of energy and emotion. Get them engaged and associate it with positivity. If you want to go much deeper into this topic, please send an email to michael at headwayhealth dot com or call us at 512-523-5711.
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