Good nutrition is vital for your child’s healthy development…It is often overlooked and very misinformed in conventional avenues.
Babies need more nutrient-dense calories (such as fats and protein) per pound than at any other age. It really is amazing to watch how many changes they go through in the first year – physically, mentally and emotionally. Good nutrition is of vital importance for their future health. Even if it is necessary to feed formula, using a homemade formula or adding kefir at the same time can help to provide a closer breast milk alternative. This is a great way to ensure that your baby has the right start in life.
And this focus on nutrition is equally important as your child begins to make his or her own choices and has to deal with social and media pressures about food. Key lessons given to our toddlers as to what constitutes food (real food not processed foods loaded with salt, sugar or man-made ingredients in colourful packaging) are fundamental to how they will view nourishing themselves for the rest of their lives. How can we as parents help them to make good lifestyle choices from the beginning?
We can start by eating with our kids, rather than feeding them on their own. Kids learn by mimicking. Turn off the screens and sit down and show them how to eat. Eat what they are eating too- no special meals. How can we encouragen them to eat something if it is not on our plates too. I like to put all the food in the middle of the table. This way they can choose how much they want and we can talk about what each part of the meal is. There is one rule- everything must be tasted.
As an example- every time we have salmon for dinner (once a week) my almost 5 year old bellows that she doesn’t like salmon (every time). Every time she has to have some on her plate to try. Every time she takes more and eat it! Every time! If it wasnt there in front of her she wouldn’t taste it or eat it because I would have left it of her plate to be done with the hassle and she would continue to believe that she doesn’t like salmon! All the while my 2 year old is watching and absorbing EVERYTHING! HE sees that dinner is an event, it is a feisty mix of talking and arguing and laughing. That food is there to eat and we all sit until everyone is done (not till everyone’s plate is clean!). This brings us to what should be on offer for our kids to choose from?
Our children should be eating the following:
Good sources of fats: Fats are needed for energy, hormone production, cell strength, memory and to help carry nerve messages through the body. Saturated fats only found in animals are essential for brain development.
Often overlooked, oils are a vital support for the immune system and are necessary for maximum brain function. Include coconut oil and olive and avocado oils in the diet. Cooking with coconut oil adds delicious flavour to your foods and can safely be heated to a higher temperature than other oils. I also love butter/ghee, eggs (just the yolk for the under ones), avocado’s, nuts and seeds (just the seeds- like flax, chia, sesame and hemp for the under ones- soaked and sprouted if possible), olive oil (I like the cold pressed extra virgin best!) and some aged raw cheeses.
Fats help kids to develop strong bones, teeth, digestive systems, cells, brain cells and skin. They also help to balance moods and help sensitive kids feel a bit more protected. The energy kids get off of a high healthy fat meal is more even and sustainable too (less tantrums!). It also helps to fill them up- because, man, kids can put food away!
Protein: Essential amino acids support liver detoxification, new cell growth, energy production and metabolism. Protein can be found in all animal sources including eggs, gelatin, nuts, seeds, chia, quinoa, lentils and beans. Gelatin is an excellent source of protein, very restorative (especially for the immune and digestive system), anti-inflammatory and helps to satisfy hunger. Great for snacks. You can use bovine gelatin or a fish/vegetable (agar agar) alternative.
Fermented foods: It may surprise many people but bacteria are essential for all health. We have more bacterial cells than human cells and ensuring a balance of the right bacteria is key. Include fermented foods such as kimchi, miso and pickled vegetables and introduce fermented drinks such as Kefir and Kombucha. Get kids to help you make it, use them in smoothies and dont worry about the sour aspect- it is good to culture your kids palates- not everything has to be sweet to be delicious.
Organ meats: We have lost the tradition of eating all parts of the animal from hoof to tail and are eating lean meat off the bone which is not as healthy. Organ foods like liver, kidneys and sweet meats are nutrient-dense foods that contribute greatly to our health. If this is something you just can’t ‘stomach’ (pun intended!). Bone broths also contain essential nutrition, especially for healing and growing kids and can be used in soups, stews, sauces etc. Otherwise adding gelatin to drinks, soups, stews and jelly is another protein rich food in the diet.
Fruit and Vegetables: Make mealtimes fun by selecting fruits and vegetables of a wide range of colours, thereby providing a good range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Fresh vibrant foods are far more exciting to the palate and to the body than products endorsed by a cartoon character. Allow them to go to markets and supermarkets, to help pick out the foods, smell them and even taste them as they help you prepare the meals.
Fibre is also essential as it helps in balancing blood sugar levels and removing toxins. Whole grains such as brown or red rice and quinoa are a good choice. Fruit and vegetables are by far the best source of insoluble fibre. Eating foods as close to the natural origin as possible will help their body’s to process and use the foods that they eat. Grains can be used but ONLY if prepared traditionally.
The best gift we can give our children is to help them make dietary choices that strengthen and heal their digestive, hormonal and immune systems. At the same time, they can learn to balance their blood sugar by eating the right foods in the right combinations. This can help greatly in avoiding mood swings and the tantrums and upsets that these can lead to. Also stay away from refined grains (and indeed all grains till the age of 2) and learn how to prepare and cook your grains, legumes, beans, nuts and seeds traditionally. Your child will be happier and more productive and your life will be easier as a result.
Sadly, we see many cases of food intolerances today, showing up as eczema or asthma. The root cause of these conditions is very often inflammation of the gut. Being aware of one’s reactions to food is critical in preventing these issues. By being informed and teaching your children you can make eating not just a necessary part of life, but something you can use to enhance your health and your enjoyment of life. Look at your own relationship to food- do you think food is exciting, a vital part of whole body health, something to nurture you and keep you on top of your game? If not then maybe that is something YOU need to work on first.
Here are some healthy recipes that have been tried and tested by kids!
Here is my pin board; Food for kids;
Follow Loula Natural’s board ++Loula Natural’s Food for Kids++ on Pinterest.
Another one for Lunch box ideas; Follow Loula Natural’s board Lunch box ideas on Pinterest.