Stillwater Healing Arts Clinic
By Sara Hart
Getting kids to eat vegetables can be a chore greater than organizing the storage room and similarly, is easily put off with the hope that it will just resolve itself over time. Once a child experiences the pure pleasure of processed carbohydrates, simple sugars, pure fat, and salt there is no going back.
Infants will often easily enjoy a wide variety of foods as they have their first tastes. But as their library of flavors grows larger, the preferences tend to grow smaller. Lots of kids are picky eaters and it is almost ubiquitous at some stages of development. As a parent it can be extremely frustrating to have a child protest, throw tantrums, and seem to be willing to skip meals out of disinterest in what is made available.
The essential needs of childhood nutrition center around supplying adequate nutrients for growth and development and providing enough resource for blood sugar regulation. Children’s immature systems are vulnerable to every fluctuating moment of mood, energy, immune, and metabolic challenge. Supporting their foundation to provide the greatest ease throughout each day requires a few basics:
- Calorie dense foods
- High concentrated vitamins and minerals
- Live, antioxidant rich foods
- Omega 3’s, especially DHA
- Minimal food additives & irritants
Caloric requirements for growth can result in children seeming to eat constantly, especially as kids approach the teenage years. There are some phases of development when the caloric needs to sustain growth and activity makes it difficult to get enough food in. High calorie foods will make less frequent trips to the pantry necessary and better support blood sugar.
On the flip side, there are more children diagnosed with obesity today than ever. Therefore we cannot just look to calorie amount, but instead need to focus on the food quality to be sure we’re feeding our kids well.
Calorie rich, high-energy snacks that support a healthy metabolism are foods like jerky, nuts, yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, and whole grains with butter or coconut oil.
Simple carbohydrates may be lower calorie but they also have lower nutrient quality. Snacks such as pretzels, chips, crackers, puffed foods, and cereals do not benefit the active, growing child aside from giving them something to do and may result in unhealthy weight gain.
Fresh, local, and organic is more than just a trend, it’s the way things used to always be and have inherent value physiologically and socially. Once a food is picked from the ground, the antioxidant quality diminishes rapidly. Something traveling for a week or more before it reaches our home will be far less beneficial to eat than it was when fresh. Antioxidants are our bodies’ best defense against internal metabolic toxins as well as external toxins. In today’s world there are continuous assaults to the delicate nervous and endocrine systems in our bodies by chemical pollutants. While we can do our best to reduce exposures, it is equally important to provide the body with proper tools to handle the modern world.
Omega 3 fatty acids are a class of nutrients required for supporting cellular regeneration and the development of a healthy nervous system. As society shifted from a hunting/gathering type of diet to an agrarian lifestyle, the increased consumption of grains and plant oils dramatically shifted the ratio’s of oils in our diets. This shift has contributed to the development of many chronic inflammatory diseases. To ensure a great start in childhood, balance omega 3’s by focusing on consuming a wide array of vegetables, grass fed meats, and fish.
Once the seal is broken and children have the experience of sweets, pastries, and juices, it may seem like that is all they’re willing to eat. Rather than engaging in the battle of wills (which is never pretty!) here are a few tricks that have worked well for some families:
- Offer proteins and vegetables at the start of each meal, carbohydrates at the end
- Start the day with protein as a routine so it is what children expect
- Have leftovers as the snacks to discourage skipping meals for snacks later
- Have children choose 5 colors to include in their meal
- Make meals together, encouraging exploration of individual ingredients
- Avoid catering to the child’s pickiness and encourage everyone to eat the same
- Make sure adults in the home are setting the example of healthy eating
- Use smoothies with added nutrients to get what may be missed in meals
Despite the challenge parents face of seeing half the food on their child’s plates untouched, there’s plenty of reassuring evidence that everything is going to be okay so long as parents persist in making healthy food available. Children who are picky eaters tend to have a lower than normal body weight for a period of time. However, studies have shown that the long-term outcome of this is negligible. Picky eating may be a personality trait and the exploration to discover tastes and textures that appeal can be a long journey.
Other research has demonstrated that even children, who preferred not to eat the wide variety of choices offered to them as kids, did choose a healthy diet as adults. This trend suggests that with continuous exposure to healthy options, eventually kids will come around.
Childhood nutrition sets the stage for long-term health. While picky eating is completely normal, it is important to recognize if a child’s pickiness is a behavioral challenge that may be an attempt to control something at a time in life when most things are not in their control. Sometimes the dislike of a food signifies that the food is an irritant to the body. This can be the case even with seemingly benign foods such as carrots or bananas. Other times, it issimply a phase of development in which case persisting by offering healthy options is the best a parent can do.
For more information on healthy eating for all ages, please join us at Stillwater for our THRIVE program. Monday, January 28, will focus on a variety of healthy diet options, both informational and experiential! Call (303) 823-WELL for more information, or visit us online at stillwaterhealingarts.com.