When was the last time your kids felt this good? If it's been a while, then boy, do I have some suggestions for you! Luckily, it's not too difficult to help kids get (or keep) their optimum health. Often, simple nutritional changes will make a world of difference, although in some cases, supplements or massage therapy might be helpful to support their growing bodies. Below, you'll find some suggestions for day-to-day concerns that may arise when trying to adjust a child to "healthier" living. Please note that the nutrition page will offer more insight as to what nutritional challenges kids (and adults) often face.
Since nutritional changes make such a difference in children, I would like to discuss some of the common concerns that are raised by parents in my office. Often, parents are concerned because their children are eating very healthy meals (it's all that the parents make!), but the child is not growing according to their equal-aged peers...
Often, we have to watch children carefully to make sure they are eating the food we put out for them... Sometimes "teddy" gets fed, sometimes the dog... So how much is the child getting?
"I'm feeding teddy"
ahh...fun with food...
Kids can be very creative (or just plain messy!) when they dislike the food in front of them. Is your child using these (or similar) creative strategies to get rid of their food? The first step in helping your child eat more nutritious meals is to make meals that are first appealing visually, and second... tasty! The good news is that the acquired taste that comes with age for flavors, has not developed in children, so foods can be quite bland... kids will enjoy this more than "grown-up" favorites.
In terms of making food look appealing to children, remember one word: COLOUR!!! Kids love colours and will enjoy eating colourful foods. Making food look appealing does not mean that you have to create Martha Stewart's unique preparations (which usually take several hours to look half as good as her creations!). When parents are rushed, they are usually thinking that kids will eat tasty foods even if they don't look tempting at first. Unfortunately, many children will not really try to eat these foods---never mind actually enjoy them! So that's my generic advice to parents out there---think colour!!! I will offer further suggestions for children adults in my visits of course as needed for individual cases. More ideas to come here soon.
"and then, I said.... and she said..."
Young adults are full of energy -- for the things that they want to do -- which usually doesn't include eating healthy meals! This is the group that is most likely to lean towards fast foods, high sugar intake and snack foods. A true recipe for energy-crashes and generalized sluggishness. So the key for this age group is easy and quick food that can be digested slowly for prolonged energy. See below for the basics.
The most important feature for eating in this age group is the use of complex carbohydrates instead of (or along with) simple carbohydrates. Think of simple carbs as those foods that easily dissolve in the mouth (sugars, crackers, chips, popcorn) -- when foods dissolve this easily they are known to be quickly converted to glucose in the body. This allows for immediate short-term energy but is soon followed by an energy crash! So complex carbohydrates are the key -- this would include multigrain breads and pasta (whole grain preferably), snacks such as granola or nut bars, and of course, vegetables. Complex carbs give both short and long-term energy which is ideal for the energy required by most young adults' active lifestyles.
The fast foods that this group is attracted to often include fried foods and cheese. Try to encourage the eating of baked, instead of fried foods and limit cheese to only 2-3 times per week, as both of these foods are high in saturated fats. For young adults, hormones are changing in the body, and growth is still occuring. High saturated fats will often result in increased acne or at the very least, oily skin and clogged pores. Modifying the nutrition will help decrease these symptoms and improve mood from the increased energy that is gained from this simple change.
As with all age groups, it is easier to add something good to the nutrition than to eliminate the "bad" foods. Always try to ensure that the balance of good foods going into the diet outweighs the amount of bad foods. For young adults, this will often be sufficient change to result in good health.