Let’s look at the facts: 1 out of every 3 kids in America is now considered either overweight or obese. Serious health conditions like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are affecting children as young as 8 years old.
Start with Whole Foods: Take stock of the number of whole foods you consume each day. A whole food comes directly from nature and contains oodles of unadulterated nutrients that are recognized and easily metabolized by the body. If you can imagine it growing, it’s valuable energy. Start where you are, and increase your intake by 1 whole food per day. After a week, you’ll be consuming a minimum of 7 foods grown directly in nature’s soil that will nourish the body from head to toe. Examples of super whole foods are:
- Beans: All beans are packed with fiber, but the darker the color (black and kidney), the higher the nutritional content.
- Fruits: Berries like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries are wonderfully delicious, low in calories and great for strengthening the immune system.
- Vegetables: Double your intake of dark green veggies and your body will thank you. Sauté garlic in a little olive oil and your servings of broccoli, kale, spinach, collard greens, arugula, and swiss chard will be deliciously easy to satisfy. If those greens are not yet appealing, lighter veggies like string beans, sugar peas, asparagus, romaine lettuce, cucumber, celery etc. still pack a nutritional punch.
- Grains: Oats and brown rice are 2 complex carbohydrates that top the super food list.
- Nuts and Seeds: Raw nuts like almonds and walnuts add valuable vegetable-based protein to nourish our brains and bones. Sprinkled ground flax seeds are a versatile and convenient source of the ever-important omega 3 essential fatty acids.
- Yogurt: Buy plain yogurt, sweeten it with fruit or 100% maple syrup and make sure that it contains live cultures by reading the ingredient list.
Crowd out Unwanted Foods: By increasing the number of whole foods in your diet, there will be less room for processed, synthetic, factory-made food. As much as 90% of American’s food budget is spent on pre-packaged products that add unwanted calories and fat with little nutritional benefit to the body.
Upgrade Your Breakfast: Breakfast is truly the most important meal of the day. Most Americans have it backwards by consuming simple carbohydrates like cereals and orange juice for quick energy, but balanced protein options offer longer and more sustainable nourishment. Nutritive choices include: eggs, nut butters, whole grain cereals topped with seeds, whole grain waffles/pancakes topped with crushed walnuts, hummus on pita bread, yogurt with berries and flax seed, fresh fruit with nuts or seeds.
Bring Instead of Buy Lunch: Although many school systems are working to upgrade school menus, much remains to be done. Bringing lunch is a good option.
- Pack a variety of bite-sized, colorful raw vegetables like cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, cut up peppers, cucumbers and celery with either a dip or dressing.
- Pack a fruit salad instead of a piece of fruit to get a variety of vitamins and minerals
- Instead of sandwiches on white bread, jazz up options with pita pockets and whole grain tortillas.
- Use dinner leftovers instead of processed deli meats for sandwiches.
- Pack soups/stews and pasta in a thermos for kids who prefer warm lunches.
- Pack a granola bar instead of a candy bar.
- Pack a yogurt with granola for added taste.
- Pack water instead of boxed juice drinks.
Fuel Up Rather than Fill Up With Snacks: Think of snacks as mini-meals rather than as junk food frenzies. Delicious after-school snacks suggestions are: yogurt smoothies, fresh fruit kabobs, salsa and multi- grain chips, baked potatoes, veggies and dip or a bowl of soup. Use water, either flat or carbonated, to dilute all sugary drinks including fruit juices. Adding colorful ice (made by freezing cranberry or pomegranate juice in trays) will radically increase water’s appeal.
Engage Kids in the Kitchen: Children have lost the opportunity to be needed. Instead of serving meals to them, include kids in the preparation and clean-up as well. Younger children can easily help with simple tasks, while older and more responsible kids can actually choose a recipe and make the meal from scratch. Allowing kids to become part of the process teaches them tangible skills, which in turn, can offer incredible satisfaction.
Amy M. Cotter, a Certified Holistic Health Counselor, practices in Bedford. firstname.lastname@example.org