As an integrative dietitian, I hear people's battle 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.
I want to help you tackle small but simple steps that 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, focused in school, have strong stamina and performance in sporting events, and consistently get 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 choose to buy junk foods with ingredients whose names we can't pronounce and serve them to our children. Then we scratch our heads and wonder why our children have mood swings and struggle to get their homework done. Or why they're already struggling with being overweight and having insomnia at night. Every day, I was hearing about struggles from parents whose children were suffering with ADD, ADHD, OCD, mood swings, insomnia, irritability and obesity. I had the tools to help people tackle these issues with simple meal and snack ideas, along with a few supplements. My 10-year-old son got wind of what I was building and he jumped on the bandwagon, too! And together we created Nutrition School For Families.
Nutrition School for Families is an online program that addresses the tough food and health challenges many of my friends, clients and family members are facing at home in their kitchens every day such as food battles, sleep issues, sensory issues, picky eaters, ADHD, gut issues, overweight children, body image issues and immune function. It is designed to help you and your family change the culture and the conversation around eating healthy food. The whole family should listen to the program together (it is in the form of daily podcasts, PDFs and videos) so you can start to create your new normal together.
Better dashboard dining and other quick nutritional wins
The following tips give you a sneak peek into my Nutrition School for Families program and 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 the 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 on the fly or have at the 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, 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'll 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!
[Editor's Note: Our go-to on-the-go snacks are made by Made Good Foods. They offer a variety of granola bars and minis, crispy squares, and cookies. Not only are they all very tasty, but they also are free of the eight most common allergens but they also contain a full serving of veggies that your kids will never know are there.
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