This is a hard question for parents to answer. Why? Because the truth is sometimes hard to admit to themselves, much less anyone else.
As the parent, you set the rules, buy the food, prepare the food and schedule meal times. Or do you? Has your child or children become the General in your house? Do they dictate what they eat and when they eat? As a general rule children don’t know healthy foods from unhealthy foods. As the parent, you should know the difference and if you don’t, you have a responsibility to learn. Moms and Dads would naturally want their children to be healthy, right? As a parent you have responsibility beyond yourself.
Facts You Need to Know to Raise Healthy Children
Are you planning to have a family with children? Are you currently raising one child or more? As parents, we encounter family problems on a weekly and even daily basis. Now parents face a more serious problem (a must read). American children are facing unprecedented health challenges due to the consumption of refined and processed foods. In fact, you may be the first generation of parents that will raise children that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
Children, while young, may not look like they have health challenges. Not all children that eat refined or processed foods are overweight. However, you may see other health problems develop. Your child may be suffering from frequent ear infections, a cold or sore throat that seems to never go away or they may have persistent sinus or upper respiratory allergies and infections or digestive issues such as stomach cramping, constipation or diarrhea. They may have behavior problems at school or they may lack the ability to concentrate during school. This can happen when the body is nutrient deficient and can’t build a strong body or build a strong immune system. One fact you can bank on, a diet consistent in refined and processed foods will put your children at a very high risk for a future filled with adverse health conditions and diseases.
The Influence of a Mother’s Health
The health of a child actually begins before conception! If a mother has been getting good nutrition and has been taking care of herself, her baby will have the best chance of being born healthy and have less risk of birth defects and future childhood and adult illness. Research has actually shown us that the health of the mother influences the health of her child all through their life even through their adult years. If you are in childbearing years, your health is very important to both you and your baby. To build a great body for you and your child, make sure you are exercising and getting great nutrition.
The nutritional needs for children are different from those for adults. As they mature and graduate into adolescence, their nutritional needs will change again. It is important to make sure children are getting great nutrition to build a healthy brain, strong muscles and strong bones. In addition, exercise and physical activity are very important for the health of your children. They need to be involved in physical activities such as soccer, baseball, gymnastics, volleyball, or after school programs at your local health club or YMCA. Make family activities a priority each week. As a family, take walks, go on picnics, explore trails, and go to your nearest playground and play together.
As parents, you must lead the way for your children; you must set the example for them. It doesn’t make sense for you to be making healthy changes for your children and not for yourself, it will not work. The best way to make sure your children are getting adequate nutrition is to feed them wholesome foods that build health. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds are loaded with health building carbohydrates, fats, protein and powerful antioxidants and other phytonutrients. If selecting meats, choose organic free-range grass fed beef, and organic free-range turkey and chicken. (I don’t recommend eating pork.) If selecting fish, choose wild caught cold-water fish like salmon, halibut, cod, Alaskan whiting and tuna.
Brain, skeletal and muscle-building nutrients are vital for a young body. Healthy fats, including some saturated fats, are critical for brain development. The Omega families of fats are considered essential fatty acids because they are important for health and are only achieved through our diet.
Most Americans are deficient in Omega 3 fatty acids. Salmon, chia seeds, flax seeds and walnuts are excellent sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Very good sources of these healthy fats include scallops, cauliflower, cabbage, cloves and mustard seeds. Good sources of these fats include halibut, shrimp, cod, tuna, tofu, kale, collard greens and Brussels sprouts.
Omega 6 Fatty Acids
Omega 6 fatty acids are very common in our diet and therefore are not an issue for the average person. In fact, most American’s get too much omega 6 fatty acids, which can cause inflammation. Increasing the Omega 3’s in the diet can help counter the inflammatory effects.
What foods should be avoided or limited?
- Refined and processed foods are high in calories, unhealthy fats, salt, preservatives and sugars. These foods rob your body of nutrients and over time cause adverse health conditions.
- Soft drinks of all types should be avoided. They contain very harmful ingredients.
- Fruit juices are high in sugar and can cause obesity and cavities; eat whole fruit instead!
- Avoid white breads, white rice and added sugars such as white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and corn syrup.
- Fast foods, what is in your fast food? Is it really chicken?
- The 5 Worst “Healthy” Fast Food Kids Meals (Just an example of how bad fast food is for your children and for you!)
- Milk can be a source of calcium; however it is loaded with sugar and fats and is generally not healthy for our children or for us. Cheese is concentrated milk and is also loaded with saturated fat and sodium. There are other good sources of calcium. Learn more about dairy and your health here. Here is another interesting read on dairy products from a farmer!
How does this affect your children?
- “Because of the increasing rates of obesity, unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity, we may see the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.”
Source; American Heart Association http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@fc/documents/downloadable/ucm_304175.pdf
- Childhood obesity will lead to early heart disease, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and cancers.
- Two years ago, the American Pediatric Association recommended that children between the ages of 2 and 10 get screened for heart and cholesterol problems if they are overweight or their parents are overweight, have high cholesterol or smoke.
- We are now seeing children under the age of 12 developing heart disease, high cholesterol and adult onset diabetes (Type II).
Scientific Proof, our children and we are getting fatter! Changed bullets to match others.
- Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 years increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008. The prevalence of obesity among adolescents aged 12 to 19 years increased from 5.0% to 18.1%.1, 2 during this same time period.
- Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.5
- Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.3,6
- Obese youth are more likely than youth of normal weight to become overweight or obese adults, and are therefore more at risk for associated adult health problems, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.6
Why are we having this problem?
- Convenience has robbed us of our health. McDonald’s or Burger King on the way home is the norm. Quick foods at home are poisoning our bodies. For example, pizza, pop tarts, sugar-coated cereals, instant flavored oatmeal, soft drinks, sugary drinks, instant grits, doughnuts, pastries, white bread, white rice, chicken nuggets, French fries, tater tots, hash browns, macaroni and cheese, meals in a bag, biscuits and jelly, drive through meals, candies, etc.…. are full of fat, sugar, calories and very little nutrition to build a healthy brain or body.
- Lack of physical activity is increasing. Our body adapts to the demands we put on it. If we do not move, our body has no reason to give us more energy to move or to build stronger bones and muscles. Exercise is required for a healthy body.
The Nutritional Basics for a Healthy Child
A healthy diet helps children grow and learn. It also helps prevent obesity and weight-related diseases, such as diabetes. The following guidelines will help you give your child a nutritious diet:
- Offer a minimum of 2 servings of fruits and 3 servings of vegetables a day.
- Everyone should start the day with a nutritious breakfast.
- Choose healthy sources of protein, such as lean meats, nut, beans, lentils and eggs.
- Serve whole-grain breads and cereals because they are high in fiber.
- Broil, grill or steam foods instead of frying them.
- Avoid fast food and junk food.
- Offer water and/or milk substitutes (almond milk) instead of sugary fruit drinks and sodas.
- Do not give in to your child’s demands for unhealthy foods. Their whining will stop eventually, and they will eat when they get hungry, as long as YOU DO NOT GIVE INTO THEIR DEMANDS. You are the parent and must take control.
As a parent, learn about your child’s nutrient requirements. Some of them, such as the requirements for iron and calcium, change as your child ages.
How to Get You Child to Eat More Veggies
Video 1 Disguise Healthy Foods
Video 2 Food Games, Smoothies, Tricks
Video 3 Easy Ways to Get Vegetables into Your Child’s Diet
Video 4 Make Eating Healthy Fun!
Video 5 How to Handle a Picky Eater
Children Resource Links
- Eat This Not That for Kids
- Healthy Family Recipes
- Healthy School Snacks
- How To Read a Food Label
- Nutrition, Exercise and Child Health
- Eating the Alphabet!
- How to Get Your Family to Eat Vegetables!
- Great Vegetarian Recipes
- Kids Nutrition and Fitness Center
- Nutrition Tips for Children and Adolescence
- Nutrient’s and Their Food Sources
- Super Healthy Kids Blog
- Use This Interactive Tool to Determine You and Your Child’s Actual Nutrient Needs
In summary, eat a bounty of nutritious foods, eliminate as many refined and processed foods as possible, stay away from fried foods, avoid foods and drinks with added sugars, play with your children often and encourage them to get outside and play with other children their age.
I wish you the very best in health and wellness,
Wally Bishop C.N.C.
The contents of this blog are not and should not be considered medical advice. This blog is for informational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor before making any dietary or lifestyle changes. Never quit taking prescription medications unless advised to do so by your doctor.