As a naturopath specialising in children’s health I have heard it all, from kids that will only eat Nutella sandwiches or bowls of sugar laden cereal to toddlers that have been on too many courses of antibiotics to count. Kids who have powerful bursts of aggression to kids that suffer with anxiety. Kids that are hospitalised with infected eczema to kids with terrible allergies. I have also seen the positive sides to these stories and have seen many encouraging changes to kid’s health that happen as a result of improved nutrition.
However, as a mum I understand the challenges in getting your kids to eat healthy food. They can be stubborn little beings and it takes persistence and determination but there are many reasons to persevere. Here are 5 reasons your child needs a healthy diet!
1. Behaviour, Concentration and Mood
This has got to be the biggest motivator for parents! Read the next two sentences slowly and carefully! Your child’s concentration, behaviour and mood is largely determined by the foods they eat. Preservatives, additives and sugars all have a detrimental effect on the way your child feels and acts. Next time your child is acting up, throwing a tantrum or acting aggressively, take a minute to think about what they have been eating and you will probably find some clues. Additives and preservatives in processed foods are abundant. Check labels are avoid as many numbers as you can.
2. Coughs, Colds and Ear Infections
The strength of your children’s immune systems can be affected by the foods they eat. Antioxidant rich foods such as blueberries, kiwi fruit, sweet potato, red capsicum, spinach, goji berries, and raw cacao all help to boost the immune system. Conversely high amounts of sugars in processed and packaged foods deplete the immune system. I like to think of sugar as a chill pill for the immune system, it slows down the all-important cells of the immune system that protect us from getting sick. When immune function is low, coughs, colds, ear and chest infections are more prevalent!
3. Good Nutrition = Healthy Adults
The long term health of our children depends greatly on the foods they eat today! Fresh food, straight from a plant or an animal is rich in nutrients. These nutrients protect our children from disease as they move into adulthood. It is frightening that conditions such as diabetes type 2 that were previously only seen in adults are now being diagnosed in young children purely because of the food they are eating! Yes, our genes play a big part in determining health outcomes but did you know nutrients have the ability to turn our genes on and off! So if you have a genetic health condition or a disease that runs rife in your family, good nutrition becomes even more important.
4. Healthy Habits last for life
Encouraging healthy eating habits from a young age sets the foundation for life! Yes, fussy kids will often naturally like more of a range of foods as they get older but encouragement and exposure goes a long way. I don’t recommend forcing your children to eat or pushing them to eat everything on their plate! My approach is to present them with a wide range of healthy foods and give them the opportunity to taste a variety of real (not processed) foods every day. Kids that are given bowls of cereal and sandwiches for dinner because that is all they will eat are not likely to suddenly become good eaters. I am a big believer in a “this is what we are having for dinner” approach. I see so many parents getting sucked into the ‘kids food’ marketing hype and feeling like kids should be eating a different meal to the adults. It makes it so much easier for mum or dad to make one meal for the family and lays down healthy boundaries for the kids.
5. A Weighty Concern
The average weight of our general population, as well as that of our kids have increased dramatically over recent years. So much so that what used to be seen as overweight is now considered normal within our society. Carrying extra weight is more than a cosmetic or wardrobe issue it is dangerous to our health. As well as spending more time indoors on computers, Ipads and video games, our kids are eating more calories than they ever have before. Not only is the food high is calories, it is devoid of any nutrients so we are bringing up a generation of overfed but undernourished kids. Ask yourself, is the food that is available to my kid’s nutrient rich or calorie rich? The obvious things to cut down on are soft drinks, lollies, chips and biscuits. Replace them with fun nutrient rich foods such as
- Cut up fruit and thread onto skewers
- A yummy home-made dip, served with colourful veggie sticks
- Chocolate bliss balls using dates, nuts and raw cacao powder.
I hope you now have a new understanding of why a healthy diet matters when it comes to your kids and some new found inspiration to make some changes to your kids eating habits.
Jessica Donovan is a naturopath who absolutely loves working with kids! She is passionate about helping families improve their nutrition and make simple changes to their lifestyle to enhance their health and naturally overcome health issues.
She has combined her naturopathic knowledge and mama experience to create an easy to follow and simple to implement online course for parents wanting to learn more about their kid’s health and how to boost it naturally! Find out more about Natural Super Kids here www.naturalsuperkids.com