The Health of Children is crucial when it comes to us having a healthy society, as these “little people” will grow into the adults that will move and shake our future! I have noticed that the diseases of excess in children is getting out of hand with more young people being obese, having cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and an increase in atopic conditions like asthma, eczema, and seasonal allergies.
The susceptibility of these children to these diseases an be linked to their diet and lifestyle: A diet of excess empty calorie “foods” (that is high in calories but low in nutritional content), as well as a lifestyle that is much less active than earlier generations equals the perfect storm for metabolic disease conditions to manifest.
What are parents, caregivers, or guardians to do? Well, it’s time to revamp the diet of the family for the sake of the children. Start educating yourself on how to consciously be aware of the foods you and your family consume…is it really food you are eating?
Food is defined as:
~A material consisting essentially of protein, carbohydrate, and fat used in the body of an organism to sustain growth, repair, and vital processes and to furnish energy~
~Something that nourishes and sustains life~
Are the things that you and your family consume promoting life and vitality? Are they giving energy to you all, or is it creating sluggishness? Do you get “The Itis”? Are your children hungry a couple of hours after a meal? If you answered yes to any of these questions then the food your family is consuming may not be food at all!
19 Healthy Eating tips for Children
1. Know what’s in your food! Read ingredient labels. If the list is a mile long and contains things in it that sound like they should be in a chemistry experiment then it probably should not be consumed.
2. Prepare meals at home! This way you can control what ingredients go into your food and can make it as super-nutrient dense as you like!
Also, make sure you prepare your kitchen for the change in diet. Use up old foods (or get rid of them), stock your fridge and pantry with new healthful ingredients to have on hand for easy food prep.
3. Use whole food ingredients! Usually the further you get away from the plant the more refined the product is. So buying mock meats, or food from a box, bag or window, are usually going to give you a unhealthy dose of chemicals, trans fats and sugars. Use fresh (or if needed frozen) vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and legumes to create meals for your family. This way you are giving them the most optimal array of nutrients required for baseline nutritional needs.
4. Avoid giving children refined sugars, starches, oils, and grains. This can be in the form of soda, candy, pastries, snack foods, fast foods, vegetable oils, canola oil, white flours, pasta, cereals, and juices.
5. Use natural sugar from fruits i.e. dates, dried fruits, maple syrup, or molasses. But remember to use even syrups sparingly.
6. Use high quality oils like coconut oil for cooking, extra virgin olive oil for salads, dips and other non-heated items (or at the end of cooking). Research different extra virgin oils and find what your family likes.
7. Use 100% whole grain products! Read labels and make sure there is no added sugars, high fructose corn syrup, or hidden wheat flours.
8. Try gluten-free products in the form of breads, pastas, flours, cereals, etc.
9. For protein, prepare legumes, nut, or seed dishes. Not so much mock meat products or processed tofu.
10. Dairy is very mucus forming and inflammatory. Studies have shown children given milk products before the age of 1 had a higher risk of developing autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Giving milk to children at any age can also create gastrointestinal diseases, allergies, as well as the afore mentioned conditions.
11. Use plant-based alternatives to dairy products i.e. plant-based milks, yogurts, cheeses, and sour creams.
12. Breast-feeding is essential for newborns, infants and small children. Traditionally during our Ancestor's time children could be breastfed from birth to ages 3-5! Why you ask? It is mother’s milk that equips children with the foundation of their immune system, supplying antibodies, enzymes, and hormones. Not to mention it provides necessary proteins, vitamins and minerals for growth and development. The best part is that it is free. Ancestral wisdom at it's best!
13. Baby foods can also be made at home by basically using whole fruits, vegetables, and grains.
Simply wash and peel fruit or vegetables then steam and mash them by hand or with a food processor/baby food mill/blender.
According to Dr. Laila Afrika the whole grains that are most digestible include brown rice and millet. These should be ground into a flour cooked and then can be made into a baby cereal formula with a plant based milk or breast milk. Digestive enzymes can be put into the food if the child is an infant in order to help with digestion of the fiber.
Large batches of the baby foods can be frozen in empty baby food jars or serving sizes can be placed in cookie sheet squares and then placed in freezer bags.
When children are older they can eat the healthful solid meals with everyone else
14. Breakfast for children should not be heavy with starches nor should it be sugary. Because you are “breaking” the “fast” of sleep over 7-8hrs, the body needs something lighter i.e. fresh fruit or vegetables with light starches or proteins. Foods can include, berries, apples, nut butters, green smoothies, whole grain cereals with plant-based milks etc.
15. Lunch for children should be he heaviest meal of the day as the metabolism is fully up and running. Make (and pack for them if necessary) a nice meal for them full of greens, plant proteins, fiber, and healthy fats i.e. avocados, nut butters and fruit slices, salads, and grain or legume based dishes.
16. Water is essential for all bodily process and most especially in growing children! Provide them with abundant water sources and pack a few bottles for them to have throughout the day especially if they are at school.
17. Dinner should be light as well as the body will be preparing for rest soon. Lots of green leafy vegetables should be served to help with digestion, light starches like carrots, sweet potatoes, or corn, and light proteins like chickpeas or nuts and seeds.
18. Make sure to involve children in the food preparation process based on their age and the safety of it. Let them see how the foods are prepared, where it was grown, start a family garden, take them to the farmers market, etc. All of this instills values in them around healthy eating habits that will be a foundation they stand on for the rest of their lives.
19. Also make sure to clearly communicate with family about the guidelines you have set for the foods your children can and cannot eat! This way your family can be aware of and respect the type of living for health you have laid out for your children and their grandchildren/nieces/nephews.
Dr. Afivi Adiro is a Naturopathic physician specializing in diet, nutrition and botanical medicine. With diet being especially foundational to Dr. Adiro, she believes if the diet is not in order and supportive to the body then most other therapies that are tried will not work towards healing.