One of the most vital life skills we can teach our children is how to feed themselves in a way that will lead to great health for their entire lives. This doesn’t mean putting them on a fad diet, or starving them. To the contrary, this means making sure our children understand what their nutritional needs really are and how they can be met in a healthy, sustainable way with good food!
The Importance of Learning Nutrition Young
While nutrition is important throughout our lives, it might be the most important for our young children. When the body is still developing and growing, it is especially vital that it receives adequate and balanced nutrition. This is necessary for proper growth and development of the skeleton, joints, various organ systems, nervous system, and most important of all, the brain!
Improper nutrition in childhood can lead to stunted growth, especially of the legs and hips and has been linked to a variety of negative health conditions later in life such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, iron deficient anemia, dental cavities, osteoporosis, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and asthma. These are serious health conditions that can make your child’s life much more difficult, so it’s important to make sure they understand good nutrition and that you provide them with excellent whole foods while they’re growing.
No parent wants their children to suffer from poor health. Yet many are stuck in the conventional medicine mindset of treating symptoms, rather than preventing poor health in the first place. Rather than teaching their children how to eat well, many parents take them to the doctor when there’s a problem with their weight, or there’s some other symptom of poor health. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and proper nutrition is very potent, natural preventive maintenance.
What Should We Eat?
It’s no secret that we should eat plenty of healthy fruits and vegetables. However the statistics speak for themselves. Only about 1 in 10 adults eat enough fruits and vegetables, while about 1 in 10 children eat enough vegetables and 4 in 10 eat enough fruit to meet CDC guidelines. These guidelines are relatively conservative, representing a minimum threshold for adequate nutrition. This means that about 90% of our children are at least somewhat nutritionally deficient in their diets!\
So what should we and our children be eating? The easy answer is more fruits and vegetables, especially vegetables. Fruit is high in sugar relative to vegetables and fructose can have negative effects on your health in excess (this is part of why high fructose corn syrup is worse than table sugar, but more on that in the next section).
The following is a list of key nutrients and the fruits and vegetables that are a good source for them from Freshway Foods. If you know your child is deficient in any particular nutrient (or that you are, or there’s a family history of a deficiency), prioritize the vegetables and fruits that meet that nutritional need.
|Nutrient||Health Benefit||Found In|
|Vitamin A||Healthy eyes and skin; protects from infection||Apricots, Cabbage, Cantaloupe, Carrots, Grapefruit, Greens, Leaf and Romaine Lettuce, Mangos, Spinach, Sweet Potatoes, Tomatoes, Watermelon|
|Vitamin C||Healthy teeth and gums; helps heal cuts and wounds||Bell Peppers, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cantaloupe, Cauliflower, Grapefruit, Oranges, Pineapple, Strawberries, Tomatoes|
|Calcium||Healthy teeth and bones||Greens, Kale, Okra, Rhubarb, Spinach|
|Fiber||Healthy digestive system; Reduced risk of heart disease||Apples, Bananas, Beans, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Lentils, Peaches, Pears, Raspberries, Spinach|
|Folate||Wound healing; normal cell division||Asparagus, Broccoli, Peas, Beans, Greens, Spinach, Strawberries|
|Iron||Healthy blood; learning ability||Beans, Lentils, Spinach|
|Magnesium||Healthy bones||Beans, Spinach|
|Potassium||Healthy blood pressure||Bananas, Beans, Broccoli, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Tomatoes|
Chart copied from Freshway foods
Any balanced diet will include fruits and vegetables that meet all of your child’s diverse nutritional needs. The general advice of having a rainbow of fruits and veggies on your plate is a good starting point. The chart above will help to make sure no key nutrients are falling through the cracks. All of these key nutrients need to be abundantly available to growing bodies and consumed often, since many vitamins have a short half-life in the body.
What Shouldn’t We Eat?
While most food has at least some nutritional value, processed foods offer much less bioavailable nutrition than virtually any whole, natural food. Especially bad culprits in nutritionally deficient diets are artificially modified sources of calories. Specifically, hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners, and high fructose corn syrup are major contributors to health disorders like type 2 diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, and even cancer.
Let’s be clear. An occasional cookie or unhealthy snack isn’t going to ruin your child’s health. The problem is when processed foods such as fast foods, frozen “tv dinners,” snack cakes, chips, soda, and so on are the norm, not a rare exception. If your child’s diet includes few whole foods and many processed and modified foods, their health will suffer.
High fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners are particularly common culprits in the American diet. High fructose corn syrup has proven to be highly detrimental to the liver and dramatically increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Meanwhile, artificial sweeteners found in diet sodas and various “low calorie” foods carry similar risks with little or no benefit. The way to better health is not through overwrought engineering solutions, but through the nutrition that comes through eating whole foods on a regular basis.
What Are the Benefits of Lifelong Nutrition?
Children who eat well have better, more consistent energy, better mental acuity and health, fewer chronic diseases, stronger teeth and bones, in addition to being a healthier weight. The benefits of childhood nutrition don’t end in childhood, though. Studies show that adults who ate well as toddlers and children form lifelong habits that lead to healthier eating. So, not only does their health improve immediately and a better foundation of health get established by good nutrition in childhood, the stage is also set for an entire lifetime of better nutrition!
Adults who have eaten properly their entire lives have a lower risk of a whole slew of chronic conditions, especially relating to blood sugar disorders, cholesterol, and blood pressure–common factors in many of the most common causes of death in America. As a result, there’s almost no limit to the difference proper or improper nutrition makes in children’s long term health.
Take Action and Learn More!
At InsideOut Chiropractic, we believe in treating the whole person. Holistic healthcare isn’t just about medical intervention, it’s about setting our clients up for a full lifetime of greater health. Many of us struggle to find the time to prepare whole foods, even when we know how important they are to our health and can afford them. We offer a full line of whole food nutritional supplements that help to meet this basic need in as easy and convenient a way as possible. For those of us who haven’t had the benefit of a full life of high quality food and nutrition, we also offer detox and nutritional help.
If you want to learn more about nutrition, its role in your health, and how the supplements we offer can help, schedule a consultation with us today at 509-637-0969 or send us an email at email@example.com. It’s never too late to start taking control of your health and improving your life.