Children’s bodies are small, growing and highly sensitive to everything from stress, noise and emotions to the foods they eat and the environment. Kids are especially sensitive to white sugars, genetically engineered foods, food chemicals, additives, preservatives, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and man made food products. It is important as parents, to take the time to read the labels on foods and drinks that you plan to give to your children, and is as important to build a foundation in natural foods. Most children’s food products contain toxic and harmful ingredients. It is important to know what your child is ingesting. Avoid foods that have partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose sugar/corn syrup, colorings, preservatives, chemicals or ingredients you can’t pronounce and sugar substitutes such as nutra sweet. It is also important to buy organic foods. Children's bodies are smaller and still developing. They amount of food they ingest per body weight is much higher then that of adults. In addition, their developing organs are much more sensitive to toxic chemicals used in and on non-organic foods. Non-organic foods contain high levels of chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, hormones and antibiotics all of which are extremely harmful to a growing body, especially to developing brains, nervous systems and detoxification organs such as the liver. This is one of the reasons we see a higher incidence of appendix related conditions in small children. The appendix is an organ of detoxification and it is also very small. As it swells with unprocessed and eliminated toxic chemicals it degrades and ultimately bursts under the impact of these toxic chemicals. This is a clear sign of something amiss in the child's diet.
Preschool Children (ages 1-5)
- It is important to remember that children, especially small children, will imitate and acquire the eating patterns of those they eat with and around. Be a good example and eat a variety of foods, try new foods, eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid junk foods and drinks.
- Preschool aged children bodies have a great and wide variety of nutritional needs since they are growing at such a rapid rate. Especially important is good structural growth, brain and emotional development and building a strong healthy immune system. Kids that eat a high sugar, highly processed diet are nutritionally deficient which will slow and can hinder their growth in all of these important areas. The body needs lots of nutrients to grow strong and big.
- Of special need to this age group is calcium, iron, zinc, protein, B12 and vitamin D (see the end for a list of these important nutrients and foods to get them from). Giving children fresh fruit and vegetables and juices, nuts and seeds, cold water fish such as salmon, organic soy products, beans, lentils, whole grains and oats will help support their body in healthy growth.
- Avoid white breads, boxed and packaged foods and snacks, soda pop, sugary juices, and refined foods such as chips and candies. All of these have very low nutritional value and contain many ingredients that are toxic.
- Develop sensible healthy eating habits with your child. Lean their natural flow, their energy patterns and their needs. Create habits that help support who they are and what they need. These habits will form the basis of their health habits as they grow older.
- Little kids have lots of energy that comes in bursts. Kids can play and play and then crash out suddenly. Help support this natural process with frequent nutrient dense high energy meals and snacks. Let your children eat when they are hungry and eat as much as they want. Little kids are still very much living in the moment and are in touch with what they feel and need. They will eat when hungry and stop when they are full. Never force your child to eat or not eat as this will override this internal natural process and create a life long struggle with poor eating habits for your child. Instead encourage and support your child’s own process and the ability to hear and heed their own needs.
- Many kids refuse to eat certain vegetables and fruits and this is when most parents start serving their kids what they like and not serving what they don’t but this is an unhealthy pattern to get into. If you only feed your kids what they like their pallet will continue to shrink and be very limited overall. Offer a fresh fruit and vegetable at every meal and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, even the ones they won’t eat. Over time, as they continue to see these foods they will become more and more drawn to them.
- Cook your children’s foods with extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil on low heats. Both of these oils are highly nutritious and provide a good dose of healthy fats that help support a high functioning brain and energy life, but make sure to include lots of uncooked foods like nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables. Fresh foods should make up the bulk of your child's diet.
- Make all your own baby and toddler foods with organic fresh fruits and vegetables and a high speed food processor. Not only is this highly cost effective and quick, it takes most harmful food chemicals out of your child's diet. It also gives them high doses of living active enzymes, vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals and everything nature gave to us to support strong health.
School Age (Ages 5-12)
Continue in the same patterns and suggestions as the pre-school age group. With a few reminders….
- Focus on reducing and eliminating unhealthy fats and cooking methods which come from junk, processed, refined and fried foods.
- Increase the amount of fiber intake through lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Give your child a wide variety of these foods to choose from.
- This is the age when kids will begin to make their own foods choices at school and when they are away from their parents with friends. The healthy foundation you built during the early part of their life will begin to serve them well now. Don’t be discouraged if they make unhealthy choices and experiment with new foods and eating habits. Allow them to explore but continue to remind and serve them healthy foods when they are eating with you. Talk a lot about foods, what we need, why we need them and their effects on the body and mind. Always offer a fresh fruit and vegetable at every meal and as snacks. Fill your fridge with the good stuff and don’t bring the bad stuff into your home. Offer lots of choices and variety so they can make their own choice but limit the choices to the healthy options.
- Children of this age group continue to need lots of nutrient and energy dense foods and a focus on purity. Concentrate on pure water and pure foods - Water that is filtered and foods that are organic.
- Also focus on a varied diet. Kids like what they like but can get stuck eating too much of the same things which leaves holes in their diet, where they are missing valuable and needed nutrients. Change things up a lot and buy and offer a wide variety of foods.
- Choose foods that are whole, which means closest to their natural state. Every form of processing, whether it is cooking, canning, boxing or freezing, removes valuable vitamins and minerals and inactivates enzymes and phytochemcials. Stay away from refined grains such as white breads and pastas. Refining removes the essential fats, proteins, complex carbohydrates, fibers, vitamins and minerals and only leaves the starchy part of the grain which has little nutritional value and clogs the digestive system.
Teen Years (Ages 13-18)
- During this time of life children are especially vulnerable to health changes because of all the significant changes going on inside their bodies. In addition kids are faced with a high amount of external pressure and stress.
- It is imperative that children in this age group are getting all of the nutrients they need. Sure signs of poor nutrition or nutritional deficiencies are mood swings, acne, emotional outbursts, poor concentration and lethargy. A good diet can help to combat these common teenage problems and support your child grow into a healthy and strong adult.
- Children of this age will eat and are in need of large volumes of food. Don’t discourage your child from eating a lot, just be mindful of what they are eating. Remove foods that are high in fat (dairy, animal products, fried foods,) junk, refined and sugary foods. Let them eat as much of the good stuff as they want.
- Exercise becomes increasingly important during these years. Get your child involved in sports activities or something they enjoy that requires them to use and move their bodies and mind. Riding a bike or taking the dog for a walk are also a few good ways for your child to get some exercise and movement in their day. Also remember that role modeling activity and movement will be one of your greatest assets and tools for getting your child motivated and involved.
A Special Note About Commercial Juices..
Commercial juices that you find most commonly in your grocery store do not add much nutritional value to your child’s diet. Most brands usually contain sugar, artificial colorings, additives and preservatives, pesticides and herbicides. In addition, most of the fruits and vegetables have been through so many processes at this point, their nutritional value is very low. Drinking lots of these high sugar juices, in small children especially, will reduce their appetite preventing them from getting all the nutrients they need. Taking in large quantities of these high sugar juices can also increase your child’s susceptibility to yeast overgrowth which can cause behavioral problems such as ADD, chronic nasal congestion, frequent colds and infections. Instead, choose whole fruit juices don’t add anything. Naked and Odwalla are good brands.
A Special Note on Dairy...
Milk ends up comprising a large part of many children’s diets, but really is very low on the nutrition scale for the human body. Milk has a poor vitamin and mineral ratio, especially when it comes to magnesium and calcium. The best ratio for the human body is 2:1 (calcium:magnesium). When this balance is disturbed health problems can arise, especially later in life. The calcium from cow’s milk is also not well absorbed by humans. In fact, we are able to absorb more calcium from kale then we are from milk! Dairy milk is also very high in saturated fat (an unhealthy fat for the human body). Many studies have also linked milk to health problems including iron deficiency, anemia, gastric bleeding, cramps and stomach upset, chronic diarrhea, chronic nasal congestion, chronic ear infections, allergies, asthma, colic, rheumatoid arthritis, musculoskeletal pains, kidney disease, and heart disease. Dairy is also highly acidic, throwing the internal pH of the body out of balance. Milk was designed for baby cows and fits their physical make up just right but our needs, as humans, are very different than that of a cows.
A Special Note About Water...
Our bodies are mostly made of water. Water in the body is needed for almost every process and function that we move through each day. Without enough hydration our bodies loose strength, the ability to repair and function properly. Kids in particular forget to drink water throughout the day but need it the most since they are so active. The type of water children drink is important. Since their central nervous system, in particular, is still developing, they are especially sensitive to water pollutants and chemicals. One such chemical that is in unfiltered water is fluoride, which is toxic to the human body and children are most sensitive to its toxicity. In fact, the US is one of the only developed countries that fluorinates our water. Give your children plenty of filtered or bottled water each day. A good practice is to have them carry a water bottle with them which will remind them to drink when thirsty.
A Special Note About Organic Foods...
Our foods are some of the most contaminated products in this country, due to the amount of chemicals and toxic substances this country allows food industry to put into our foods. Chemicals that are in our foods include poisonous herbicide and pesticides, as well as toxic chemicals used to grow and preserve produce and food products. In addition, the soil where most of our produce is grown is over used and abused so depleted of essential vitamins, minerals and micronutrient which in turn translates to low quality fruits and vegetables. Our animal products are also just as toxic. Most animals that are sold for meat live in the most deplorable conditions and are under an extreme amount of stress and emotional trauma while they are alive. Because of the animals living conditions and environment, they are highly susceptible to sickness and disease. To combat this, animals are fed large amounts of antibiotics which then end up in our bodies. Constant low level doses of antibiotics in our body, destroy beneficial bacteria which reduces the effectiveness of our immune system and digestive process. Then to make animals grow faster and produce more meat, animals are also given hormones and growth stimulants. All of these come into your child's body when you eat these animal meats. Growth hormones in the body throw our hormone balance out of balance, when this occurs hormone related issues can set in and long term hormonal cancers become of concern. Organic foods are not more expensive then conventionally grown foods if the entire cost picture is taken into account including the cost to our health, environment and food quality. A price cannot be put on the health of your growing child.
A Special Note About Good Fats vs. Bad Fats...
Not all fats are bad, in fact some are very good for our body and are are needed. Reducing your child’s intake of bad fats while increasing their intake of good fats will help insure the highest levels of health. Good fats are especially needed for the nervous system and brain and heart and cardiovascular system. Bad fats include margarine, dairy, animal meat, processed and refined foods and sweets and junk foods. They are the vegetable, soy, canola and corn oils. Good fats are included in flax seed, coconut and olive oil. Good fats are found in cold water fish, nuts and seeds. Include lots of good fats in your child to support a healthy central nervous system, heart and immune system.
Important Nutrients, Vitamins & Minerals for Children...
Protein is essential for growth. The highest quality proteins (those that give the body the amino acids it needs while having little detrimental effect on the body) can be found in raw plant based foods. Animal proteins are a complete protein but are hard to digest, high in saturated fat and contain little to no other vitamins and minerals. In addition, amino acids are destroyed in heats above 160 degrees, so the form your amino acids are in, is important. Foods that are most notable low in protein include sugar, fruits, fats and oils. A variety of vegetables, nuts, beans and lentils are all high in protein and should be consumed regularly.
Iron is essential for healthy bones and blood and is most readily available and easily absorbed by the human body when coming from non-animal sources. The acidity created when digesting animal meats, combats the ability of the body to adsorb iron. The iron is instead used immediately to buffer the acidity.
Vitamin C is essential for a healthy immune system and helps in the absorption of iron from plant based foods. You can find vitamin C in fresh fruits and fresh fruit juices.
Calcium is needed for healthy bones and teeth. The best forms of calcium come from nut and seed milks, soy products, organic cheese, green veggies, whole grains, beans, lentils, almonds, sesame seeds and tofu.
Zinc is needed for healthy growth, cell division and healthy immune system functioning. Nut and seeds (especially pumpkin seeds), legumes and tofu are all high in zinc.
B12 is an essential B vitamin needed for healthy growth in the body and especially in the healthy development of the brain. B12 comes mostly through animal based foods but can be found in fortified foods including soy milk, low salt yeast extract (Brewer’s yeast) and many fortified breakfast cereals. If you are a vegan, you may need to consider taking a supplement. Contact your nutrition expert for more details.
Omega 3’s are an essential fatty acid needed by the body for a variety of healthy functions. Children that have a good intake of Omega 3’s have a 4 time lower risk of developing asthma, show less hyperactivity and improved brain function. Omega 3’s can be found in flax seed, walnuts, cold water fish such as salmon, soy, navy and kidney beans, winter squash and olive oil.
Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and a healthy immune system. We moistly get our vitamin D from the sun but during the winter months children can become low in vitamin D. Choose juices and milk products that are fortified with Vitamin D and make sure your children get out in the sun and play as often as possible. The sun is our friend!
Many childhood related illnesses and symptoms, such as allergies, eczema, chronic colds and flus, ear infections, ADD and ADHD all find their roots in child's nutrition. Drugs are not the answer. Drugs are especially toxic to small bodies, nor do they work to restore health and heal the body of the health symptom. A more comprehensive, holistic approach is needed with its foundation in nutrition. If you or your child need a more personalized nutrition path, please contact us at Align Holistic Health & Well Being. Together we can find the natural solution to your child's health problems.