Are you feeling confused about nutrition or at a loss when it comes to preparing meals for your baby or child? I developed a guide, as simple as I could make it, to try and clear up any confusion and give you some new ideas while also utilizing my degree in Nutrition! This info is coming from the perspective that food and health are one in the same. Most diseases/conditions can be linked to inadequate nutrition and/or subpar digestion. As parents, you are in the position to set your child up with a strong digestive system and healthy eating habits that will last a life time, but no pressure
I’m breaking down what I know for you in terms of Macronutrients:
Most people think grains when they think about carbs, BUT vegetables are the
BEST source of carbohydrate and provide complex sugars that are beneficial to
the immune system (a necessity for children in group care). They are also rich in
vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber and should be the bulk of our diets!
Green, leafy veggies!!! One of the most concentrated sources of nutrients, they
are a rich source of minerals (including iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium)
and vitamins, including vitamins K, C, E, and many of the B vitamins. They also
contain small amounts of Omega 3’s!*Think kale, chard, spinach, collards, beet
greens, bok choy, arugula, cabbage and sea veggies*
Other Excellent Choices:
Broccoli, Cauliflower, Beets, Squash, Sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, Green Beans, Pumpkin, Bell Peppers (one bell pepper gives an adult a day’s dose of vitamin C!), Mushrooms, Asparagus, and Tomatoes to name a few…
**TIPS** Try roasting veggies in a healthy oil (olive, coconut) to bring out their sugars/natural sweetness. You can also puree cooked veggies and hide them in foods like hummus or guacamole. Scrambling eggs with veggies or making a veggie omelet or frittata is another way vegetables can be disguised. Also, Braggs Liquid Aminos (an alternative to traditional soy sauce) has proven effective in getting children to eat their veggies during snack time here at CDC. Get creative and remember it takes many positive introductions to a new food before a child decides whether they like it or not!
Fruit: I feel pretty confident in saying that most kids don’t have a problem with eating fruit. Fresh is best! If your child has constipation problems, it is best to avoid applesauce and bananas until the problem has cleared up. The opposite can be said if your child is experiencing diarrhea.
Berries definitely pack the most punch when it comes to antioxidants, fiber, and nutrient content. Usually, the more tart the fruit the better. Some people believe that the sugars in fruit (fructose) ignite the same insulin response as refined sugar…but that’s another story.
Amino Acids (what make up proteins) are also known as “building blocks,” because they make up every cell, tissue, organ, hormone, and enzyme in your body and are vital for GROWTH and building/ repairing muscle. As you’ve probably heard, not all proteins are created equal. The most bio-available protein is the egg (after breast milk since we’re talkin’ babies).
EGGS: the standard to which all other proteins are compared. It is also well-received by children and is extremely versatile (scrambled, boiled, fried, poached, omelet, baked, casserole…).
MILK: with breast milk being the best. Next in line would be the most unadulterated milk you can find. Goat’s milk is more similar to human breast milk than cow’s and is easier to digest.
YOGURT: PLAIN with NO added sugar!!! You can always add your own fruits and veggies to yogurt if that’s what your child prefers. You can also replace a milk bottle with some plain yogurt if you are trying to wean your child or reduce their milk consumption (just put it in a bottle and cut a larger hole in the nipple). Yogurt is also an amazing source of Probiotics which benefit everyone, especially children with any sort of digestive issue. Try White Mountain Bulgarian Yogurt which is made in Austin and is made in the real, old fashioned way!
KEFIR is similar to yogurt in that it is a fermented milk product, but it contains different probiotic strains. These strains are actually able to colonize the intestines with beneficial bacteria in addition to cleaning out the bad stuff! This is also an amazing food for anyone with digestive issues and, like yogurt, PLAIN with NO added sugar is best!
FISH (esp. fatty, cold water fish—Salmon, Trout, Cod, Arctic Char): are an excellent source of protein AND omega 3’s. Not to mention, a surprisingly well received food by children. The flakey texture makes for an interesting/new texture while also making it really easy to chew.
LEGUMES: The perfect finger food! Even babies without molars can manage chewing cooked beans. Beans are a fiber rich food full of vitamins and minerals (Iron! Magnesium!).
**TIPS** To decrease the issue of flatulence rinse dry beans, soak them overnight, DISCARD the soaking liquid, cooking them, and then discarding the cooking liquid.
ORGANIC TOFU/TEMPEH: Soy is definitely a debatable topic these days, but if you choose to eat it or feed it to your child, make sure it’s organic. I would recommend doing your own research when it comes to the potential dangers of soy (and with anything), so you can decide for yourself.
MEAT: After watching many lunches take place with many different kiddos, I can say that an aversion to meat is more common than the aforementioned proteins. It may have something to do with the chewy texture which can make it a difficult and unpleasant experience for young children. Processed meat is something to be avoided as it is usually full of sodium, phosphates, MSG, and other preservatives. This is another topic worthy of self-research as many studies are coming out concerning the effects of food additives, and it isn’t pretty! This is one of the main reasons we have a no lunchable policy.