Knowing what to feed our kids can be as confusing as knowing what to feed ourselves- maybe even moreso, because as moms, we feel it is our duty to nourish our kids well. And it is- to some extent. But the reality is, it's not just our job to raise healthy kids- it's our job to foster healthy adults, who enjoy good food- and have a healthy relationship with food. Because when all is said and done, and your kids are no longer in your home, all that's left will be their relationship with food. You want it to be a good one!
A study done in 2010 on college students and their parents revealed that parents who were more strict about food ended up with kids who were more than double as likely to be obese or be binge eaters. That being said, we want to raise nourished kids! Thankfully, there is SO much we can do to ensure our kids are getting an abundance of nutrient-dense foods so they grow well. So today, I thought I'd bring you through the very basics of kids nutrition, 101. Listen to the audio here.
Kids were born to eat.
One of the most powerful things I learned in my college lifecycle nutrition class was this: kids naturally self-regulate. This is amounts, AND nutrients.
We were born with the innate need for nourishment through food. So it's our only job to prepare and provide nutrient-dense foods- and foods of all sorts and foster our children's innate cues. How do we do this?
1. Encourage TRUST. How many of trust our bodies to tell us when and what to eat? Many of us don’t. But kids have (most of the time) yet to have been tainted with diet culture, so allow your kids to:
Serve themselves when they are old enough to do so, so they can choose an amount that feels comfortable and safe for them (a large portion can be daunting, a small portion can feel restrictive)
Tell you when they’re hungry and when they’re full, rather than basing off of a clean plate or ‘one more bite’. Remember: their bodies know best.
2. No Off-Limit foods. NOW-- this does not mean every time your kid watches a TV commercial with the latest gummy, squeezy, sugary snack you buy it for them and let them eat it for breakfast. Now, What choices you make around food are none of my business, that is totally up to you and I’m not here to judge, just educate. When I say no off limit foods, it means there is no restriction around type of foods, barring food allergies or sensitivities, of course. When you’re at home, you choose the type of foods you allow into your home and WHEN you’re serving them. Ellyn Satter, dietitian and researcher calls this the division of responsibility. The PARENTS provides, the CHILD decides. So you offer the food, and when, and you sit back and LIG, mama. LET IT GO. Remember- kids self regulate. The least healthy thing you can do for your kids is to force them to eat something they don’t want to eat. They will naturally gravitate towards a variety of foods if you let them. But forcing food creates a lack of trust in their bodies.
Think about the kid who is told they have to finish their plate before they eat dessert… This creates an unnecessary sense of novelty around food. Kids are going to naturally gravitate towards sweet or salty foods, so if left completely up to them, yeah, they would probably eat cheetos with a side of doritos and dessert of birthday cake. So YOU provide the nourishing foods, and you allow your kids to decide how much to eat.
It does help to neutralize foods that might not be the healthiest options, to emphasize your point. Again, this doesn’t mean you need to serve dessert every night- that’s up to your family. It means when you DO serve dessert, it’s just like anything else on the table.
And when you’re out… don’t sweat it. The kids with the parents who don’t let them have birthday cake or bring them carrots instead of chips are the kids who are WAY more likely to end up with unhealthy habits later on.
3. Get right with our OWN relationship with food. That's WHY I created The Supermama Society. I believe healthy, nourished kids start with US.
Let’s talk practically. How do we nourish our kids?
Just because we’re not labeling foods or having off-limit foods doesn’t mean we don’t want to feed our kids healthy foods or just let them eat whatever they want. It’s our job to model balance and nourishing and honoring the bodies God has given us.
I’m going to teach you how to get your kids to eat broccoli in two words: YOU DON’T.
You don’t GET your kids to eat anything. You OFFER foods, over and over and over again with NO expectation.
It can take up to 20 exposures of a food for your child to even touch it. REALLY! 1. Encourage play!
Don’t sweat it if your kid doesn’t eat broccoli. The amazing thing about food, is different foods to have different nutrients we need to thrive, and he also made a variety of foods with similar nutrients so there is more than one way to get nutrients. We’re omnivores for a reason. If we were cats, we could get everything we need from meat. But we’re not. And there is more than one way to get in nutrients. So point #1-- don’t stop offering!
2. Offer a variety!
Variety is KEY when you're talking about nutrition. Kids will get what they need when they are offered a wide variety. This doesn't need to be stressful, just choose different veggies, carbs and proteins week to week.
3. Provide regular mealtimes.
Though we do want to allow our kids to tell us when they're hungry, we also want to provide regular mealtimes to encourage intentional eating and eating FULL meals rather than all-day snacking (but by all means, if your kids are still hungry- provide a snack!)
Balance blood sugar and avoids sugar crashes
Encourages balance throughout the day
Encourages intentional eating
4. Get them involved! Let THEM choose veggies and fruit at the store or farmer’s market, show them where their food comes from by planting herbs or vegetables or going to the farm, and invite them into the kitchen.
Ok, I know you want to know... what nutrients do kids need?
Carbs (this includes but is not limited to vegetables)
PLUS a variety of micronutrients from vegetables and fruit
Anyone taken basic nutrition? Exactly-- they need the same things we do! And as long as we are offering a variety and not restricting their intake and providing whole food options at regular meals rather than just snacks, the micros tend to work themselves out. Kids do have a larger need for micronutrients such as iron and calcium, vitamins like vitamin c and b-vitamins. We're sticking to the basics for now, and we'll dig in more later on.
The bottom line?
1. Encourage trust- kids self regulate
2. Be the example: get right with your OWN relationship with food so you can model for your kids
3. Provide a VARIETY of nutrients
4. Include regular meal times for blood sugar balance and intentional eating.
Stay tuned for more Nutrition 101 Resources, coming to you October 2019.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this website is for information and encouragement only and is not to be construed as a replacement for medical advice or treatment.