As alarming as the obesity epidemic has become in America, children are especially vulnerable due to the poor nutritional habits of many parents as well as the abundance of affordable and convenient processed foods.
Clients often ask us, ‘What should my kids be eating?’ Fortunately, since a lot of the problems that lead to weight gain in adults also lead to the same in children, improving the diets of parents usually leads to a healthier upbringing for kids.
Here are the most common nutritional issues we find with the kids we work with and how we fix them.
Eating the same foods every day. As a general rule, try to give your kids as much food variety as possible. This ensures a wide array of nutrients and minimizes their chances of getting burned out on a particular food. Think of getting variety within each of the three macronutrient groups – protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Protein foods include meats, eggs, fish, and dairy. Healthy fats include nuts and natural nut butters, avocado, oils, seeds, olives, and natural cheeses. Carbohydrates include all fruits and vegetables, along with beans, potatoes, rice, cereals, and breads.
Missing out on nutritional density. Along with variety, pick foods that are the most nutritious. Nutrient-dense foods will give your kids more of the things they need and keep them satisfied longer. In general, natural foods are more nutritious than processed foods. Natural foods are minimally or totally unaltered from their original state, such as fresh meats, fruits, vegetables, eggs, and nuts. Processed foods include cereals, crackers, cookies, hot dogs, and frozen dinners, just to name a few.
Eating too much sugar. Get a balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates with each meal. Although a banana is healthy, it’s all carbohydrates, so pair it up with a hardboiled egg or a tablespoon of peanut butter to balance it out. This will give variety, but will also help control blood sugar levels so they don’t spike too high or drop too low – an effect of eating pure carbohydrates that is sure to make your kids feel hungry again a short time after eating.
Drinking too many empty calories. Finally, be aware of the calories your kids are drinking. Cut out soft drinks and minimize processed fruit juices. Drinks containing sugar or caffeine will again spike blood sugar levels and alter energy levels and appetite. Replace these types of drinks with filtered water, coconut water, milk, and natural juices.
Teaching kids healthy eating habits while they’re young will increase their chances of maintaining those habits well into adulthood.