Because children’s bodies are growing and because they have high metabolic rates and underdeveloped immune systems, eating healthy is important. It is more important to eat healthy as a child than it is an adult. This is contrary to popular belief when you hear people say “children are resilient”. The definition of healthy varies from person to person, but there are a few basic and simple rules to abide by to optimize their nutritional intake.
1) Variety, variety, variety. Eat different foods. Try to alternate different foods. One thing I do is make a list of items I plan on feeding my children every Sunday. This isn’t a dramatic schedule. It is nothing more than a few scribbles on a sheet of paper. (Eg. Carrots, cucumbers, turkey). The following week, I’ll jot down sweet potatoes or corn on the same sticky note. This just keeps me aware of what I am feeding them and reminds me to alternate vegetables.
2) Stay away from artificial flavorings and sweeteners. Do you know what skittles candy is called? A rainbow of chemicals. Here is Skittle's ingredient list (which, by the way, does NOT appear on the Skittles website):
…Sugar, Corn Syrup, Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil, Apple Juice from Concentrate, Less than 2% Citric Acid, Dextrin, Modified Corn Starch, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Coloring (Includes Yellow 6 Lake, Red 40 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Blue 2 Lake, Yellow 5, Red 40, Yellow 6, Blue 1 Lake, Blue 1), Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)…
The best part of the ingredient list is what I call the rainbow of artificial food colorings, the 9 colorants. Other countries are phasing out these colors, (banned in Europe) but not the US. For example, Red 40 is suspected of causing hyperactivity and cancer in children. Kids are going to eat candy, so try to buy healthier options with no colorings – dark chocolate bars, etc etc
3) Make healthy snacks available. I try to do little things like cut some carrots up, make some guacamole and have some crackers placed on the kitchen counter. With how busy life can be, think of something easy to keep handy. Hot chocolate is something I make a lot of. I use almond milk or coconut milk, mix with cocoa powder and coconut sugar and it tastes amazing. There are so many simple things we can do to enhance the nutritional content of foods.
Please pay attention to what you feed your kids. It is during this critical time of childhood that they develop eating habits and an immune system to keep them free of disease.