A Healthy Body Eats Healthy Food. 

 

When you think of heathy eating, what is the first thing that comes to mind?  Breaking it down into proteins, carbs, fats and calories is not something you think of while whipping together your kids lunch – or if they are the ones packing it up.  We also might confuse the idea THAT they ate something with the idea that it’s healthy. There is such confusion about what is considered healthy eating and so many still do not link it to the building blocks of life.  Health is not simply the absence of disease, it means to thrive, grow, develop and prevent illness.  It’s WELLNESS on all levels of health.  Healthy eating is having a healthy relationship with your body.

Ages 0-18 is a formidable and foundational time for children.  From the first bursts of life in the womb, to watching them grow and grow, we as parents are often frustrated and conflicted with one single worry – HOW do we FEED these little blooming people?

Sometimes we are faced with obstacles around food that can become very challenging.  Everything from picky eaters to fussy teens, carb-only kids, and those that seem to just pick up every little germ and bug that might be out there.  Then there’s those that can’t seem to eat anything – tummy aches, skin rashes, headaches, lack of energy and focus, pale skin, constipation, diarrhea, food and environmental intolerances, behavioural issues, sleep and hormonal symptoms… the list is endless.  Parents can often just feel like giving up.  Let them eat whatever, whenever, and hey… I’ve been there.  As a Nutritionist, believe it or not – arguing with my kid over what to eat has been a 14 year battle so far.  

But I always win.  🙂

While the battle can be difficult sometimes, it’s one worth fighting.  Nourishing our children has seemed to fallen by the wayside and covered in an abundance of what else they might need to develop – but returning to the table might be just what we need to focus on today, to build their immunity and fortify their future health.

Health statistics for kids are pretty dire.  Bad, really bad.  North American’s have a problem with malnutrition. I don’t mean not having enough food, I mean having too much of the wrong foods.  The words “healthy diet” have become misconstrued somewhere between the “vitamin fortified neon breakfast cereals” and the latest fast food “meatless” trends.  Frightening.

 

The REAL Pandemic:  Obesity and Overweight and Malnourishment

Statistics are there to prove it.  It’s not just about aesthetics either. Excess weight is a main factor in chronic health issues and it’s said our children today will have diseases decades before we (another generation before them) may not have seen until our senior years.  In the USA, statistics show that 1 in 3 kids will develop diabetes, with 2 in 3 developing adult diseases such as cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, blindness, inflammatory disorders and cognitive illnesses. {1}

“Childhood obesity is associated with various health conditions, including asthma, early onset type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular risk factors. Children who are obese are also more likely to suffer from mental health and behavioural problems. In addition, being an obese child can have long-term health consequences, as childhood obesity is a strong predictor of adult obesity.” {2}

Recent statistics (2018) for Canada are alarming.  Childhood obesity rates have skyrocketed in the past 3 decades having TRIPLED since 1990.  Yes, you read that correctly… 3 times as much as 30 years ago.  Adults faired no better, with 67% of men being overweight or obese and 59% of women in the same category.  Adding to the physical health problems is the often more serious consequences of poor self esteem, depression, bullying and body shaming, eating disorders and lifelong chronic poor health and low immunity.  

 

Low Immunity:  The path to dis-ease

This is coming to light more and more now with the current state of things around the world.  Low immunity and compromised immunity is becoming so common that it’s nearly expected along with the health statistics.  This list is not just for kids… if you feel like this yourself, consider that what you are eating has much to do with what you are feeling:

Chronic Symptoms that are significant with low immunity:

  • Constant Cold/Flu that lasts for a long time or you experience repeatedly over the year.  Having a cold or mild/moderate flu type illness during the year is not actually a terrible thing if you manage it with rest and nutrients.  In fact, it shows your immune system is actually working.  But if you are the one constantly experiencing repeated cold and flu symptoms then your immune system is crying for help.
  • Weakness and fatigue lack of energy
  • Poor sleep 
  • Exhausted all the time
  • Stress (unmanageable and chronic can both lead to chronic low immunity).
  • Gastrointestinal troubles including constant bloat, diarrhea, constipation, pain, difficulty eliminating, cramping, etc.
  • Skin rashes – itchy skin, excessively dry skin and “bumpy” skin
  • Pallor, dark circles under eyes, swollen or reddened eyes
  • Pain – that may indicate chronic inflammation and yes… even in kids.
  • Craving for Carbs – like… always craving carbs
  • High blood insulin levels (high sugar diet) – high insulin levels are associated with lowered T-Cell function and T-Cells can be inhibited with high insulin (pre and diagnosed diabetes type – 2)

 

The immune system is a giant system in the body and is equipped with 3 levels of defence.  It’s strong.  But if you are poorly nourished, there is nothing to fight with.  Note that loneliness, isolation, grief, fear and loss all cause a sudden/acute drop in immune function and your T and B cells do not respond as well to potential pathogens.  We need food, but we also need love, friendships, support, and each other.

One of the best ways to make sure your kids have a healthy selection of foods at school, sports, and their other activities is to have healthy food in your house.  Hot lunches are actually preferred by many kids and it makes for easy feeding if you use leftover foods from dinners or make batches of foods that are easily frozen and reheated.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with so many kids over the last 15 years, and hands down, they seem to prefer a warm lunch more often.  Here’s some terrific and quick ideas for making lunch the best meal of their day.  For making hot lunches, get a good thermos container that will keep foods warm or consider (as with something like a baked potato or slice of pizza, wrap in a couple layers of aluminum foil and place into the thermos or another container to keep it warm.  Works great.

Feed them Well! 

 

Hot Lunch Ideas:

  • Soups – homemade such as chicken noodle, tomato with shredded cheese, turkey & wild rice, butternut squash, beef barley, vegetable with gluten-free alphabet pasta.
  • Scrambled eggs with grated cheese, or hard boiled eggs chopped
  • Chilli – meat or vegetarian. If kids don’t prefer the kidney beans, blend into the main sauce and it’s hidden!
  • Shepherd’s Pie with cauliflower/sweet potato topping
  • Baked potato with butter/sour cream (add a bit of shredded cheese, feta cheese etc.)
  • Stir-fry:  chicken or beef strips, broccoli florets, carrots, onions, garlic, celery and red peppers
  • Beans n’ Dogs:  (use organic hot dogs made with real beef if at all possible and canned navy beans in tomato sauce).  Cut up the hot dogs into VERY small pieces (I tell parents to cut for kids very small… into half-half moons – like quarters).  Heat up beans and blend hot dog bites in.  Kids get protein and fibre and they love it.
  • Pasta:  cooked and drizzled with butter (not margarine), olive oil, garlic salt, pepper, grated cheese, parmesan, goat cheese or feta cheese, or topping of your choice.  
  • Tomato Pasta Sauce:  (with meat or plain) with veggies galore, blend in a can of red kidney beans to sauce to thicken and add protein and fibre, and toss with zucchini spiral pasta, gluten-free rotini, spaghetti squash.
  • Stews:  beef barley, chicken and rice or sweet potato.  Add carrot, onion, celery, garlic, peas, corn, green/yellow beans as desired.

 

Fruits:

  • All seasonal – don’t bother if your kid never eats the banana.  Put things in there that they WILL eat.  Applesauce is nice for the littles as it’s easy.  Cut up fruits rather than putting whole ones in… they are most likely to eat it with a spoon if it’s cut.  A trick my Mom used to do and we gobbled it up every time.  Peeling an orange though… well, I never have peeled my own orange.  Too much work (she laughs…).  I cut up fruit now for my own child and it’s always gone.
  • Apple sauce (no sugar added, natural)

 

Veggies:

  • Seasonal and all.
  • All veggies cut into SMALLER pieces.  Kids don’t like  H-U-G-E  Veggies.  They don’t.  They like “finger foods” when it comes to veggies.  Go small.  Dip if you must – but go small. Even for the older ones… teens will munch if it fits between their thumb and pop-socket on their cell phone!

 

Protein instead of Carbs:

  • Cheese cubes – natural cheese if possible, nothing TRAFFIC CONE ORANGE.  Colours like that don’t belong in little bodies, or big ones.  Avoid processed if possible…go with a natural cheese.
  • Yogurt – nothing fancy in tubes and squirters and cups designed with characters on them.  Some greek or vanilla or berry organic yogurt is great -scoop into a little container of your own or a small glass mason jar (the little ones).  Drizzle honey and cinnamon on top for an immune boosting kick.

 

DESSERTS:

Avoid the coloured packaged, sawdust tasting, stale, gooey, fake coloured “granola bars” and electric blue or red fruit rolls that stick to your kids molars like tar.  Consider some healthier choices that freeze/thaw well and can be made in batches or pop them in the lunch bag quick:

  • Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies – dark chocolate works best here.  Cinnamon and apple sauce will add to the flavour as you cut down on the sugar.
  • Blueberry muffins – made with oats – easy and quick with low/no sugar.
  • Mini-banana breads – again, mix in half oats instead of flour and it’s economical and tastes yummy with a few chocolate chips in there.
  • Date squares
  • Raisins
  • DARK chocolate chips or squares
  • Sunflower seeds (and nuts at home if tolerated)

 

VITAMINS and MINERALS to be a ROCKSTAR!

  • Kids multi-vitamin – find one they like.  Don’t go cheap. Big Box stores are not best for these.  Get a natural brand like CANPrev, New Roots, SISU, New Chapter, Progressive or Genuine Health.  No “chain store” brands.
  • ZINC – don’t leave home without it.  A good quality zinc from a health food store will SAVE your winter from endless sniffles, coughs and fevers.
  • Vitamin C – drink it up, find organic chewables, juice some tangerines, put a little lemon water into their water bottles.  Kids need about 2000 mg a day – yep!  
  • Vitamin D – 2000-3000 I.U. a day – get “D-Drops” as they are easy to get into water bottles or a chewable D. (Trust me, drops are best).
  • Omega-3 Fish Oil – I like SeaLicious, Nutra-SEA or Progressive. They don’t taste terrible and kids won’t fuss.  Mix into a smoothie in the morning or right off the spoon or hide in apple sauce.  Get it in there, somehow.  5 ml every other day or 3X week to make it last.

 

FOR THE CHALLENGED IMMUNE SYSTEM:

  • Probiotics – get a natural one, even take every other or third day to stretch it out.  Again, put into a smoothie or yogurt if you can get a capsule and open it.  
  • Quercetin – a bioflavonoid that helps tremendously with allergies, as well as colds/flu. (Good health stores have it)
  • Raw Honey (over 2 years old).  Right on the spoon, in a yogurt or applesauce, in a warm tea.

 

Kids are amazing!  Resilient, courageous and full of hope and faith.  They are our most precious gifts and each and every one has something to teach us.  Let’s take care of them, build them and watch them grow.

EnJOY!

 

Erin-Michelle

 

 

Resources:

{1}  https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/news/20030616/one-in-three-kids-will-develop-diabetes

{2}  https://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/resource/obesity?gclid=Cj0KCQjwv7L6BRDxARIsAGj-34p8Ew9h_DkQnbhkwsEOMls1CbfufSBY86LDfZxsTg-6-XfV833cZ0waAnZKEALw_wcB