I’ve talked about HOW to feed children in ‘Raising Healthy Eaters’, and I will discuss this issue much more in future articles. But for now I want to write an opinion piece on WHAT to feed children. This is opinion because firstly, I am not a nutritionist, (although I am very passionate about discovering how to nourish our bodies with good food) and secondly; even if I was a nutritional therapist, it’s still up to a child’s parents and family what they feed the child.
I am sharing my opinion today because the topic of children’s eating habits and their diets is one I have much positive enthusiasm for, and equally as much negative emotion for when I see children being malnourished by modern fare.
I have come to understand that many of us sometimes simply do not know what is best for ourselves, and neither do we know what is best for our children. How many of us have bought low fat foods for ourselves, thinking they were the ‘right’ choice? And now we are finding out that low-fat foods aren’t good for us because they are pumped full of sugar. We just didn’t know. And when we don’t know, we can’t make good choices.
So in this article, I am going to write very simply and boldly, clearly expressing what I think our children should be eating, and what they shouldn’t. I’ve come to these conclusions based on a lot of reading, researching and working with children throughout my life. The books that have inspired my opinions come from; “They Are What You Feed Them” by Alex Richardson, “Fat Chance” by Robert Lustig, “Grain Brain” by David Perlmutter, “Wheat Belly” by William Davis, “Why We Get Fat” by Gary Taubes,“Blood Sugar 101” by Jenny Ruhl, “Suicide by Sugar” by Nancy Appleton and many, many more.
If you are a parent, and want to know what your kids should be eating and what they shouldn’t, then please feel free to take what you want from this article. Do with it what you want. No judgement.
WHAT CHILDREN NEED.
A quick basic intro to the why’s of these lists. Children need nourishment in the form of macro and micro nutrients.
Basically, children need vitamins, minerals, proteins, healthy fats and smart carbohydrates. They need foods to help their bodies and brains to grow, and they need vitamins and other nutrients to take care of their cellular health. They need good fats for healthy brain development. They also need a whole host of protective properties that fresh, colourful fruit and vegetables give their bodies. They need smart carbs to give energy to their busy bodies, and fibre to help gut health. All of these things are nourishing.
What they don’t need are things that exhaust their bodies. Too much indigestible food, or foods that raise their insulin levels and tire their pancreas. They don’t need refined carbohydrates that give excess energy with one hand and rob nutrients with the other whilst not even providing any fibre. They don’t need to be eating over cooked or over processed foods that tax their digestive system and give no nourishment in return. They do not need diet foods or children’s meals that are created for profit and not for body health.
My bottom line is that each meal should be giving them something and not taking away their body’s ability to stay in balance. Give nourishment. Full stop.
WHAT CHILDREN DON’T NEED TO EAT.
None of these foods give any nourishment in the forms listed above (vitamins, minerals, protective properties such as bioflavonoids etc.) So whenever you have the option, choose nourishment and leave these unbalancing foodstuffs out.
- White bread.
- White pasta.
- White rice.
- Sweets such as gum drops, fizzy sweets, boiled sweets etc.
- Snack foods. Such as cereal bars, fruit bars, cheese and biscuit dips etc.
- Bread like crackers.
- Cereal based baby foods, such as rice meals. They have vitamins added in. Go to the source and eat it straight from plants instead and not processed, with vitamin powders.
- Breakfast cereals. Anything with a cartoon character on the front, or riboflavin on the ingredients list. Yes it looks like is does some good, but it doesn’t. Get it from somewhere better i.e. green leafy veggies.
- Chewing gums.
- Soda and pops. Cola, lemonade, orange fizzy drinks.
- Fruit juices. Even in very convenient purple little bottles. No need to rot teeth whilst satisfying thirst. Water is perfect.
- Cheese like products. Like Stringy cheese, or cheese stuff in tubs or tubes.
- Processed meats. Hams, sausages, thin meats. Too many nitrates. No goodness.
- Processed meats in wheat cases. Such as, sausage rolls, scotch eggs.
- Fried foods such as chips.
- Jam and sugar spreads. Like sugary peanut butter, white whipped stuff, nut and chocolate spreads.
- Milk, and flavoured milk.
- Ice creams and iced lollies.
- Processed cakes and puddings.
- Fruity yogurt, chocolate yogurt, yogurt with bits of fruit or sweets or choclate.
- Novelty foodstuffs. Anything in a tube, on a ring (!), with a toy inside, with a free toy, in multiple layers of packaging, anything with a cartoon on it, anything advertised on prime time children’s TV. Your children’s health is not their number one priority. Don’t give away your children’s health and your money at the same time.
“But I like pizza!”
So do I. And like I said, this isn’t a guilt list, a shame list or a should list. Yes, I’ve gone for a title with a punch – but add your own caveat. Maybe for you the title is more “What not to feed your children, all the time” or “What not to feed your children, until I can’t cook another vegetable soup”. The list is sharp and punchy for a reason – it leaves no grey area. Now we all know where we stand and from there choices can be made. Want to feed your child fruit juice in plastic bottles and a bar of chocolate? That’s your choice, but now that’s your INFORMED choice. To make it a much more informed choice than just my list, dig into some of the books I mentioned above. And for any other reading you do; make sure what you read isn’t selling you a convenience food on the side.
WHAT TO FEED CHILDREN
Yes, children CAN eat all these amazing foods below. Don’t be conned into thinking children only eat ‘children’s food.’ There is no such thing as ‘children’s food’ – it’s all just food! So enjoy cooking and eating the same foods together. And like I said above, you decide on what you want to do. Add your own rules, just know what you’re choosing.
- All vegetables:
– Root vegetables: Parsnip, beetroot, turnips, swedes, carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic etc.
– Green vegetables: cabbage, peppers, peas, beans, asparagus, broccoli, courgettes etc.
– Green leafy vegetables: kale, spinach, lettuce, cress, chives, shallots, uncultivated greens etc.
– Colourful vegetables: aubergine, peppers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, squashes, pumpkins, radishes etc.
– Vegetable fruits such as avocado, cucumber etc.
- All Fruits.
- Seeds such as flax, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, chia, hemp etc.
- Spices – such as ginger, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon etc.
- Herbs – such as coriander, basil, parsley.
- Wholegrains – such as oats and brown rice.
- Wholegrain bread – such as sourdough rye – if that’s your choice.
- Grain like seeds – such as quinoa, amaranth and millet.
- Fish and Healthy Meat if that’s your choice.
- Nut Milks such as almond milk, or soya milk if you choose.
- Herbal teas – such as chamomile, fennel, ginger, etc.
- Traditional cheeses – if you want.
- Bio-live and cultured yogurt – if you want.
- Free range eggs – if you choose.
- Fermented foods – such as sauerkraut, tofu, kimchi, kombucha, etc.
- Sea vegetables – such as nori, dulse, wakame etc.
- Blue-Green Algae – such as Spirulina.
- Pickled foods – such as gerkhins, grated or whole root vegetables etc.
- Dried vegetables and dried fruits.
- Homemade desserts.
- And much, much more.
You may be surprised to see that I’ve added dessert. I think children should be able to eat a sweet, but at the right time. At the end of a meal, when you’re sitting around a table, and a dessert makes an appearance – well that is a lovely occasion and it is enjoyed. It cultivates an appreciation for a good meal and shows how a sweet thing should be eaten. Ocassionally, with celebration, with people, with enjoyment. If it’s homemade then at least you know what’s gone into it and can control some aspects, like sugar for example.
What about dried fruits? Much better to go for the fresh fruit instead right? Yes, I agree. I think it’s a good practice to go for the whole rather than the sum of its parts. But we don’t have to have an all-out ban on dried fruits. Just a few when needed is yummy.
Did you say no milk? I did indeed. I don’t think children need milk. At all, in fact. Why? When did children ever need milk, apart from mother’s breast milk? I think this could be a button presser. But for thirst, give water. For calcium and vitamin D? Eat greens and get outside. Job done. Milk is just a substitute for what the soil does much better.
YOU’RE BEING MEAN!
It’s not so much being mean, as just saying it like it is. Children are in the enviable position of being able to have food made for them and they are in the lucky position of not having overwhelming desires for rubbish foods. If they don’t eat them, that is. Children are happy-go-lucky when it comes to food. They’d happily munch on raw carrots and raw bell pepper if that’s what they know. When we give biscuits and chocolate, then naturally – they aren’t going to want to nibble on a radish! But keep their taste buds clean and their palette simple, and children will enjoy a ripe, juicy mango with a sticky fingered fervour that no mass produced biscuit could compete with.
BUT IT’S A TREAT!
Only you think it’s a treat. A child knows no different. How grateful would we be, if we could look back and know our parents gave us a foundation of health and nourishment in our early years? How relieved would we be to know that our bodies were kept balanced by eating green smoothies and not breakfast cereals? Wouldn’t we be grateful? We’d do well to remember that our children’s bodies will one day be all grown up. They will become adults. Give them the best start for health now, and don’t worry about seeming to be mean.
What’s mean is that we live in a media fuelled culture that says children should eat sugar. No, they really don’t need to eat sugar. The mean thing is that we can’t go anywhere without being bombarded by it. Children are attacked my sugar pushing food corps from all angles. Cinemas, parties, sleepovers, Christmas, holidays, and summer – you name it, and sugar has found its way in somehow. That’s not how it should be. We should be directing our anger at the greed from these food suppliers and not at basic, common sense knowledge of what human children should be eating.
They should be eating food made for us by nature, not unnatural food made by humans.
A take home message for ourselves and our children:
Don’t eat advertised and marketed foods!
Don’t eat anything with a slogan!
What do you think? What do you agree with on the list? And what do you disagree with? I would like to hear your opinions!
If you’re seeking more info, head over to my article: “A Healthy Meal Plan For Children” for suggestions for a day of nourishing eating for children and grownups.