Did you know that nearly one-third of the average American kid's diet isn't even real food? While it may be disheartening to think about all the junk and processed products our kids currently eat, here's the good news: it doesn’t matter if your child had a completely organic diet from the moment she started eating her first pureed veggies, or if she's the type to turn up her nose at anything but chicken fingers.
What matters is what you do from this day forward — including what you put on your kiddo’s plate tonight. It’s never too late to begin healthy eating.
As a mother of four and a certified health coach, I've seen firsthand how incorporating simple, everyday lifestyle changes into children's lives can create a foundation for health going forward. I'm sharing a few of my favorites here:
1. Eat at home.
A recent study published in Public Health Nutrition suggests that the biggest step toward healthy eating is cooking more at home. Not only are restaurant meals full of unhealthy oils, sugar and salt, but the portion size generally encourages overeating. By cooking at home, parents ensure they know where the food is coming from.
2. Detox with a daily green smoothie.
The phyto-chemicals that make that smoothie green can help detox nefarious chemicals and heavy metals out of your child’s body. Mixing fruit (with all its antioxidants!) in with dark greens — baby spinach, kale, romaine, etc. — can help ensure that your child is getting the right nutrition to fuel their growing bodies.
Here's one of my favorite recipes:
- Handful of organic frozen berries of your choice
- Handful of organic baby spinach
- ½ cup almond or coconut milk
- 1 Tablespoon of chia seeds
- Raw honey or stevia to taste
- Add water if needed
Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender and process until smooth.
3. Enjoy more fermented vegetables.
The good bacteria found in our intestinal tract are vital for both healthy digestion and nutrient absorption. Plus, many studies suggest that these friendly bugs also have a tremendous influence on a child’s behavior.
So, make sure you're working fermented vegetables into your child's daily diet, whether it's chopping up pickles to add to a tuna salad or topping a grass-fed burger with pickle slices. Even better? Learn how to make your own fermented vegetables, from sauerkraut to fermented carrot sticks.
4. Say goodbye to boxed juices, sports drinks and soda.
These empty-calorie drinks contribute nothing to your child’s nutritional profile. Replace these nutrition disasters with pure, filtered water. If your child is more likely to gravitate to drinks with flavor, opt for coconut water, or add freshly squeezed oranges, limes or lemons to plain water. Keeping kids hydrated is key to flushing out the toxins.
5. Don’t skimp on the healthy fats.
Healthy fats are important for children’s brain development and the absorption and metabolism of vital nutrients. Nuts, seeds, avocados, cold-pressed olive and avocado oil, salmon and other oily, cold water fish, organic butter or ghee (clarified butter), organic eggs and grass-fed meats are all must-haves.
6. Walk the walk.
Children notice everything, even when you don’t realize they're watching. And they'll especially notice if you ask them to eat something you are not willing to eat yourself.
In a large survey of kids under age 12, mom and dad ranked highest as their children's nutrition role models. Which means if you fill your diet with processed foods, so will your child.
7. Introduce smart snacks.
Snacks can be a healthy part of a child’s diet — as long as they are the right kind.
Ready and easy to grab is the key here. If they're readily available and sitting on the kitchen counter, what child can resist grabbing a handful of delicious berries or bright orange cut-up carrots and hummus after school? Rather than letting your kids rummage around in the fridge or pantry, pre-plan for the moment you know your child will have the “hungries."
8. Serve the rainbow every day.
There's no single food that can supply all the nutrients needed by our children’s growing bodies. Studies suggest that people who eat a wide variety of foods are healthier, tend to live longer, and have a reduced risk of developing lifestyle-related illnesses like heart disease.
Secondly, research shows that introducing young children to a variety of foods — in a rainbow of colors — can make them more likely to be adventurous eaters when they're older.
Lisa McCoy, CHHC is a mother of four and owner/partner of SimplyHealthy Kids. She co-founded SimplyHealthy Kids as a way for parents to learn how to get their kids off a processed food diet and turn to real food by addressing their child as a whole person - mind, body & soul. To learn more about her online program that contains 100 kid-friendly recipes, shopping lists, weekly menu guides, and more, please visit simplyhealthy-kids.com or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.