The subject of adequate nutrition for kids rarely has a clear cut answer.  How much protein should they be getting, how many carbohydrates…it can get overwhelming at times.  

When it comes down to it, embracing good nutrition for kids is not about counting calories or micronutrient values; it’s much more about instilling positive eating habits from a young age.

Addicted to Spuds

Kids are most susceptible to poor eating habits, as they are most often targeted by the food industry.  Flashy packaging, vibrant colors, fun shapes and sizes; these are all tactics used by advertisers and food producers to widen eyes.  And typically, these foods are processed, refined, and laden with sugar, oil, salt, and chemicals; all elements that are designed to elicit a response from your child’s impressionable brain.

Once kids take the first bite of these literally-addictive substances, neurochemicals like dopamine (a brain chemical associated with pleasure) goes surging through their bodies.  They literally feel “high.”  It’s almost the same physiological response achieved by taking illicit drugs like cocaine (obviously at a much lower intensity). 

But just like a drug, those chemicals eventually wear off.  When that happens, your kids’ bodies go through a type of withdrawal.  You’ve likely seen it; not only do they become tired, crabby, and whiny, but since their bodies are craving more of that substance, they want more of the food they ate (or something else like it).  It’s literally a vicious cycle.

By teaching your child to avoid refined, sugary and fatty foods, you are giving your child the opportunity to start a positive, lifelong cycle of good nutrition. 

If They Know What’s Good For ‘Em…

But it can’t just be about what to avoid; good nutrition for kids includes teaching them what is good for their bodies.  And this starts with a lot of fruits and vegetables.  Varieties of fresh, frozen, cooked, and steamed fruits and veggies will give your child a great foundation for a healthy mind and body.  They will feel and behave better.  In fact some studies have shown that avoiding fatty, sugar foods can help reduce or even eliminate symptoms of ADD and ADHD. 

Other than that, positive nutrition for kids also includes limiting the amount of animal products in their diets.  Cut down on full-fat dairy and beef (hello, cheeseburgers!). 

Whole grains like quinoa are terrific (and a complete protein as well).  Wraps made with whole wheat tortillas and pitas can mean good nutrition for kids, but be aware that wheat gluten is not only an allergen in some children, it has been shown to exacerbate symptoms of not only ADD and ADHD, but in rare cases, also symptoms of autism.

Another great tool that helps with nutrition for kids is teaching them how to make their own smoothies.  By combining fruits and veggies into something drinkable, it’s no longer about fighting each other over a plate of Brussels sprouts.  I talk to parents all the time whose kids love vegetables, and they learned it from drinking smoothies.

Start From Scratch

At any rate, center your efforts to bring positive nutrition for kids around instilling positive habits from the very beginning, and train your kids’ taste buds to enjoy fresh, unrefined foods whenever possible.  This will start them down a path that’s much easier to shape now (even with a little resistance) than it will be 20 or 30 years from now.

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