With the launch our Summit Kids Academy’s new healthy food program, this week’s blog is all about nutrition. The food your child will eat at preschool or daycare is a significant part of their diet and plays a vital role in your child’s overall health and development.
Kids’ nutrition goes beyond the four food groups and three square meals per day. We have a more sophisticated understanding of the traditional American diet these days, and more information about where our families’ food comes from. More informed decisions can make a major difference to your children’s health, and these three tips will allow you to make simple changes to your family’s diet that will have real results!
Organic foods are food products which have not been treated by pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage, genetically modified organisms, or radiation. In recent years, the benefits of eating organic foods has become more clear to American families, and a poll conducted by the Organic Trade Association found that families are beginning to consider organic foods a priority, and are trying to choose organic items rather than focus on cost.
Children who eat a diet rich in organic foods have lower levels of the metabolites that come from dangerous insecticides. Many of the chemicals found in these insecticides are possible carcinogens, and may disrupt hormones in the body. And limiting your children’s exposure to inorganic meat means that your children will not be exposed to the antibiotics fed to the animals who provide that meat.
If you’re on a budget, try your local farmer’s market for inexpensive, organic, locally grown produce. Or shop seasonally. Buying produce that’s in season makes for a lower cost, and, as a nice side benefit, decreases your family’s carbon footprint. You may even want to check into local CSAs in your area that will provide you with organic food at a lower cost.
Whole Foods and Clean Eating
Sure, you’ve seen the name of the store, “Whole Foods”, but have you thought about what it means to eat whole foods as opposed to refined or processed alternatives? Take rice, for example. When you purchase white rice, you are purchasing rice that has been stripped of its hull and its bran, both components of rice that offer protein, fiber, and a variety of nutrients. Brown rice is that exact same grain of rice, but with the nutritious hull and bran intact. It is a whole food, unprocessed, and much healthier for you than the alternative.
Whole foods are foods that have not gone through extensive processing that alters their nutritional value, which is why whole grain bread, brown rice and other whole grains, and whole wheat pasta are such healthy, complex carbohydrates. Other whole foods are often a no-brainer. Fruits and veggies are whole foods that come to your table in the same format they were when they were in nature. And meats, fish, and poultry should look the way they do at the butcher’s counter or fish counter, not the way they look in the inside of a Happy Meal. Clean eating, or the eating of whole, clean foods, simply means choosing ingredients which are closer to their natural form, and have not been overly processed. A good rule of thumb? The fewer ingredients an item has, the better. And the more ingredients you can’t pronounce, the further away you should stay!
The last time you dined at a family friendly restaurant with your kids, you may have been astonished at the portion sizes. Huge appetizers and entrees and decadently massive desserts are only the tipoff the iceberg. With bottomless soup, salad, and soda refills, many restaurants are making unwise decisions for you, and your kids! Even at home, you’re not safe from portion control madness. The recommended serving size on many packaged foods is usually far larger than the amount of food you actually require. This adds excess fat, calories, and sugar to your diet, while allowing food manufacturers to sell even more product.
You can take control of the portion sizes your family eats, however. In fact, pediatrician and expert on childhood obesity Sarah Hampl says that looking right at your child’s hand will give you the key to portioning his food. The correct portion of meat your child should be eating per meal would fit in your child’s palm. A child’s serving of whole grain carbohydrates, such as multigrain bread, rice, or pasta, would be the size of his fist. Also fist-size? A serving of fruits or veggies. And a serving of cheese is about thumb-size, which we know will astound those of you with string cheese junkies!
When you used send food to daycare or preschool, you’re likely putting it in small, portable containers. Try using those containers at home to store food in the fridge for your kids’ meals, so that they’ll see exactly how much food is enough food, and as a way of reminding yourself to keep their portions under control.
Making these three simple changes may revolutionize the way your kids eat. Talk to them about where their food comes from, how it fuels their bodies, and what their bodies need on a daily basis, and you’ll be teaching them lessons that will help them eat healthily for a lifetime.
Summit Kids Academy
Lake Worth and Boynton Beach Florida