It’s that time where we stuff ourselves with chocolate, delicious desserts, hot coco, and all the candy we can muster. You are probably still suffering from the sugar comatose. That’s why, this time of year is especially important to stay on track, especially when it comes to our kids. However, if you are like me, when you hear the words gluten-free, no carbs, and eating clean, it suddenly becomes overwhelming. And, how do we know what is really best for our kids?
The truth is, a combination of all of these “fad” diets, which really equals a well-balanced diet, is what we all need. Our bodies need protein, carbohydrates, and foods with unrefined sugar to give us the nutrients that boost our energy and keep us full longer. Amid all the confusion, the one thing we can all agree on is eating better keeps us stronger, healthier, prevents illness, and increases longevity. But let’s take it one step further. When it comes to nutrition for our kids, eating healthy has direct effects on how they learn and how their brain develops. Eating leafy greens, fish, eggs, blueberries, and other fruits and vegetables help attention, behavior, focus, energy, mood, and our child’s overall well-being. Incorporating healthy foods in your child’s diet while they are young can help prevent speech delays, anxiety, depression, and can calm symptoms of ADHD.
Now, don’t completely give up on the sweets because it could lead to binge eating, but try to make wise choices for you and your kids as much as possible. I know, right now you are saying, what a Scrooge! But, it’s truly for the benefit of their cognitive growth and development.
We may not think nutrition has an impact on learning, but turns out it’s another piece to the puzzle. So let’s make eating healthy more fun and give kids a reason to ask for the fruits and veggies over the Oreos and Snickers.
Sunny Side Up
One of the most important nutritional tips is to give kids a good breakfast. I know, it’s hard enough to get them ready for school, but stuffing them with sugary cereal every morning can actually counteract learning in the classroom. To help attention and behavior, whip up some eggs and bacon for them or an omelet. Protein keeps kids full longer and provides more energy and nutrients. Grumbly tummies only make them more anxious and irritable, and low energy can make them sleepy.
Dress Up Your Food
If you really want to get your kids to try new foods and to broaden their pallet, let’s make it fun and colorful. Dig deep to get in touch with your creative side and build fun images, characters, and animals with your child’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Try making a palm tree with bananas, kiwis, and pineapple. Or, use carrots, peas, and corn to make fun animals like a giraffe. Who wouldn’t want to eat it when it looks like this?
Dump the Processed Foods
Now I know we have all been harped on about processed foods and hormones in our meats and poultry, but the fact is, those foods can be just as bad for children as adults. Processed foods can make it hard for the body to absorb the correct nutrients it needs, which leads to poor digestion and causes hyperactivity. This means you may have to plan your meals ahead, but in the long run, it’s better for your child then Macaroni and Cheese and Top Ramen. Hamburgers, French fries, and chicken nuggets can actually affect mental performance. Nutritional deficiencies can also lead to lower IQ and poor critical thinking.
What better way to get your kids motivated to eat healthy than to have them help make the meals themselves? Kids love adding ingredients with measuring cups and tablespoons. Let them try it out, have them sample the food, and ask them what they would add to make it better. Involving kids can really make a difference on how they eat and what they eat.
Step Up the Protein
Calcium and magnesium can calm anxiety, fidgeting, and restlessness, which are found in meats, eggs, nuts, and leafy greens. Omega-3s found in salmon and halibut, can improve mood, focus, and memory. Any type of meat that comes from animals is much easier for children to digest, which makes the body happy and clam and prevents depression and anxiety. The American School Health Association (ASHA) conducted studies showing students who had consistently insufficient protein intake scored lower on achievement tests than their classmates who had adequate nutrition.
Children with a B12 deficiency can show signs of speech delays. Incorporating foods in your child’s diet that contain B12 is a great way to prevent that from happening. Try adding ground turkey as a substitute for hamburger or grill up some fish tacos. Both are leaner and healthier with the necessary B12 nutrients your child needs. Foods high in B12 are your meats, beef, chicken, fish, pork, dairy, and eggs.
Set an Example
Last but not least, the best way to get kids eating healthy is if you eat healthy too. After all, we aren’t only looking out for your child’s health and wellness, but yours too. Remember, what you eat, your kids eat as well. Even if you don’t like certain healthy foods (for me it is eggplant), exposing your kids to these types of foods gives them a chance to decide what they like for themselves, and we wouldn’t want to deprive them of opportunities (wink wink).
Incorporating more nutritional and healthy items in your child’s diet doesn’t mean it has to be boring or gross. It is essential for nutrition and better learning. Here are three great recipes that are healthy, yet fun for kids. If your kids won’t like goat cheese on their quesadillas, add a little mozzarella instead.
- Thai Chicken and Quinoa Salad
- Grilled Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa
- Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onion Quesadilla
For more great recipes and nutritional tips, click here.