Practical Tips for Improving Children’s Nutrition

by Steven Horne, RH(AHG)

With childhood obesity and diabetes running rampant, many people have jumped on the nutritional reform bandwagon.  Jamie Oliver, a British TV chef was recently awarded the prestigious TED award for his work to promote healthier school lunches.  He makes a lot of good points in his talk, Jamie Oliver’s TED Prize wish.

While I agree with Jamie Oliver’s “diagnosis,” I disagree with parts of his “cure.”  I sincerely doubt that more government funding into school lunches is going to solve the problem.  After all, government is a big part of the problem in the first place as the clip The Case Against Jamie Oliver explains.

I’ve never placed the responsibility for my health, or the health of my family on government, doctors or anyone else. The interests of government and big business are seldom in alignment with what’s in my best interest, or the interest of my family.  The real answer is for all of us to step up to the plate (or better yet, clean up what we put on the plate) and get the job done ourselves.  Believe me, it’s worth it!

Good Nutrition Helps Children Behave Better

Good nutrition not only affects good health, it also affects mental and emotional well-being.  Consuming empty calorie foods like refined sugar, white flour, polished white rice and refined vegetable oils leads to empty heads and affects schooling, behavior and social skills.  When my children were young we had none of these foods in our home and babysitters always said we had the best-behaved kids they had ever seen.

Instead of drugging  kids with harmful medications, we should be feeding them better quality foods. But kids aren’t going to eat these foods at school if they aren’t fed these foods at home.  Unfortunately, many parents say, “But my kids won’t eat healthy food.”  This makes me think, “Who’s in charge of the home, the kids or adults?”  If you don’t buy it, they won’t be able to eat it.

Which, by the way, is part of the reason I’m offering a free parenting webinar on Monday, April 12.  I think many parents today don’t know how be a parent.  Click on the following link to register:  
Free Parenting is a Delightful Job Webinar.

But, returning to the subject of nutrition, if parents knew how much easier it is to be a parent when you’re feeding your kids correctly, most parents would immediately take steps to change their family menus.  In fact, when kids are fed right, incidences of hyperactivity and antisocial behavior dramatically decrease.

Improving Your Family’s Diet Without Stress

So, take charge of what you feed your family, but not as a dictator.  Do it as a leader, which means start by setting a good example.  With a little parenting skill, your kids will learn to eat what you make available and enjoy it.  So, for starters, here are a few tips.

First, get the junk food out of the home.  When unhealthy food isn’t in your home, both you and your children will be less likely to eat it. When you want a treat go out and get it, but don’t keep it in the house.

Second, learn how to prepare healthier versions of your family’s favorite foods.  Take a cue from Food Network star chef Emeril Lagasse and “kick it up a notch” by learning how to make your family’s favorite foods using better ingredients.  This makes improving nutrition less stressful.  

For example, children love sweets, so don’t deprive them of all treats.  Instead, gradually substitute raw honey, pure maple syrup, xylitol and other natural sweeteners for refined sugar in their diet.  You can also use whole grains instead of white flour.  Start by mixing whole grains and white flour 50-50 and gradually increase the whole grain content.

Third, when changing children’s diets, focus on the positive. Talk more about what’s healthy to eat than what’s bad for you.  Remember that what you focus on, you tend to magnify.  So give kids healthy food first. Place vegetables like carrot and celery sticks and a healthy dip out for them to eat as you are preparing the meal.  If they are hungry enough, they will eat this wholesome food  while waiting for something else.  Increase portions of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and whole grains while decreasing portions of meat and dairy foods.

Also, don’t try to control everything your children eat. What they eat when they are away from home isn’t really in your control and trying to control it engenders rebellion.  A “treat” now and then won’t hurt them if their general diet is good.  If you teach them the benefits of eating wholesome foods in a positive manner and set a good example, they will learn to control themselves.  You can’t watch them constantly, especially when they become those delightful creatures that we call teenagers! 

Fourth, because they aren’t going to always eat right, take out a little “nutritional health insurance” and give them some supplements.  All the  supplements we discussed in last weeks issue of Nature’s Field can also be used for kids.  Nature’s Sunshine’s Sunshine Hero’s line features  probiotics, minerals, enzymes, vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids available in chewable form.  These products taste good enough you shouldn’t have any problem getting kids to take them.

Finally, here are some specific tips for helping kids to eat better. For starters, I’ve used licorice root to help stabilize children’s blood sugar and take away their cravings for sweets.

I’ve also used the approach of asking older kids to refrain from eating certain foods for just one week, after which they get to have a meal where they eat all they want.  They usually feel better at the end of the week, and after they indulge in their sugar, dairy, wheat or whatever, they feel horrible.  This helps reinforce the message that this food is making them sick.

Research has shown that children who have protein for breakfast (eggs, meat, whole milk yogurt, a Love and Peas protein shake, etc.) do much better in school than children who eat sugar-sweetened breakfast cereals.  In fact, children who skipped breakfast entirely did better in school than children who ate sweets and carbohydrates for breakfast.  So, if possible, get your family to eat a good, hearty breakfast with protein and good fats.  

And while you’re at it, why not pack them a nutritious lunch instead of having them eat the junk food at school?  That’s a smarter option than spending billions more on school lunch programs that may or may not be the foods you want your kids to be eating.  I took my lunch to school, and, in fact I usually packed it myself, something I’m still doing.  Which reminds me, it’s time to take a break and enjoy the nice salad I made this morning!

Best of health to you and your family!

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Posted: 03/31/2010 at 08:01 AM
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Posted: 03/31/2010 at 08:01 AM
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