As an integrative dietitian, I hear parents’ cries for help, especially when it comes to feeding their kids healthy foods. Parents today are busier than ever, working and hustling kids to and from after-school activities. So preparing meals with real food can feel challenging, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Small but simple steps can be game changers when it comes to ensuring that your children are getting all the nutrients they need to stay lean and healthy, emotionally well balanced, and focused in school. These tips can ensure your children get food that delivers strong stamina and performance in sporting events, and even help with a good night’s sleep. The goal is to look at the big picture, and make small but effective changes over the course of a few months.
Nutrition School for Families
We live in a country with abundant opportunities to eat real food, yet we often serve our children junk foods with ingredients whose names we can’t pronounce that cause mood swings and hurt concentration. These foods can cause obesity and insomnia.
In my daily practice, I’ve heard parents struggling with children suffering with ADD, ADHD, OCD, mood swings, insomnia, irritability, and obesity. But there are simple meal and snack ideas, and a few supplements, that can help with these problems. This inspired me to create Nutrition School For Families, with the help of my 10-year-old son.
We want to help families deal with food battles, picky eaters, ADHD, gut issues, obesity, and body image issues. We are trying to help families change the culture and conversation around eating healthy food through daily podcasts, PDFs, and videos.
Better Dashboard Dining and Other Quick Nutritional Wins
Here is a sneak peek into our Nutrition School for Families program that will help you get started one bite at a time:
- Try this brain-boosting breakfast hack: Getting adequate protein in your child in the morning helps you win the day with mental focus and a happy mood. Ditch the donuts and cereal in favor of scrambled eggs and oats, a protein smoothie or a veggie omelet.
- Use this fast fiber fix: We all lack fiber, especially kids who won’t eat any vegetables. Soluble fiber is especially important to nourish the good gut probiotics, which supports good digestion and immune function. The solution? Add a scoop of gluten-free Sunfiber to just about any food, and you’re rocking and rolling! Unlike some fiber supplements which turn into gloppy messes when mixed with liquid, Sunfiber blends invisibly into foods without changing their taste, aroma, or texture. And because it’s truly regulating, it helps with both occasional constipation and occasional diarrhea.
- Keep Malaysian palm oil handy in your kitchen: Malaysian palm oil is preferred by many food manufacturers because it adds a creamy texture and it’s naturally free of trans fats. While using this sustainable oil for home cooking is a relatively new thing, it is catching on. Palm oil is heart-healthy and good brain food, and has a neutral flavor.
- Try this for better dashboard dining: Even if you eat in the car, the food can be nutritious, especially when you prep snacks ahead of time so that you can grab and go or have ready when the kids come home. Energize your kids with these high-performance snacks: cut up peppers with hummus; smoothies with bananas, cherries, wild blueberries, spinach, cocoa powder and almond milk (served in a to-go cup); apple slices with peanut butter; or half an avocado sprinkled with sea salt.
- Here’s help for kids who are sleeping poorly: Tart cherry juice blended with sparkling water makes a natural melatonin mocktail that helps induce sleep. A simple and safe amino acid supplement called Suntheanine also helps improve sleep quality. It’s hormone-free, not addictive, and won’t cause drowsiness the next day.
- Picky eater rehab: Embrace smoothies! Adding ingredients that make the cut as healthy, which includes everything from bananas to greens to cocoa powder. These will deliver a sweet and nutritious boost to your child’s day. Try introducing one or two new foods in a snack so your child won’t feel overwhelmed with a meal-sized portion. Give different versions of a food a whirl: Broccoli that is raw, steamed, grilled or roasted makes for some nutrient-rich variety that appeals to all palates.
- Include your kids in the meal planning and preparation process. Ask each child to choose one or two meals for the week out of a cookbook, so there is variety with meals. Make it clear that not everyone in the family will be happy with every meal, but everyone has to take no-thank-you bites. Involving them with all aspects of menu planning and preparation, even if it’s just stirring something in a bowl, will help them to enjoy real food even more and give them confidence in the kitchen.
Hopefully you will find some or all these tactics helpful, whether you have a picky eater at home or just struggle with figuring out how to feed your family healthy food. All of us as parents are doing the very best we can with what we have, right? Keep learning and keep growing. You’ve got this!
Esther Blum, MS, RD, CDN, CNS, is an integrative dietitian and bestselling author who has appeared on Dr. Oz, The Today Show, A Healthy You with Carol Alt, the ISAAC show, ABC-TV, FOX- 5’s Good Day NY, and Fox News Live. This article was originally published on Naturally Savvy.