Making Every Bite Count
Feeding our Children Consciously
By Susan Teton Campbell
“Well, a little is OK, isn’t it?” said the Mom of a 2-year-old at a recent appointment with her new nutritionist. The nutritionist, warning her of the dangers of highly-processed foods, chemicals and sugar, responded by saying, “The answer to that question would depend on what your daughter is eating a lot of.”
Many parents make the excuse, “A little” is OK.” But, with today’s children being exposed to toxic chemicals everywhere they turn, and fast food being more affordable and available than fresh food, the need for a healthy diet has become critical. The ‘little’ has turned into ‘too much’ and in lots of cases children’s health is beginning to suffer. To turn children’s health around, and help them create a body that can handle those ‘little’ indulgences along with the toxic environment in which many of them live and play, parents and caregivers must start asking, “How can we make every bite count?” Strengthening children’s immune systems, through diet, will protect them from the rising epidemic of diseases and conditions that affect our young people.
After years of dietary advice from a range of different sources it seems American’s know that food from the Earth, and not the factory, is what their children need to build a strong foundation. But still the food on many family’s forks does little to nourish them. While most know what healthy foods are, few know how to include them in their diet. Although more fruits and vegetables are a good start in making every bite count, the focus needs to widen. It’s time to get into the kitchen and find ways to make food packed with taste, valuable vitamins, minerals, Essential fats and digestive enhancements.
To make a significant impact on building a healthy immune system, it may help to focus on three principles:
1. Take out refined sugar. Put in natural sugars.
2. Take out bad fats. Put in good fats.
3. Put in probiotic-rich foods.
At first these principles appear daunting. Really now, will an apple replace a bowl of ice cream? Or, can a banana replace a candy bar? And, where are the good fats?
The answer to the first two principles, and a way to satisfy any child’s sweet tooth might be found in fresh and dried fruits, nuts and seeds. These two foods combined are the secret to making amazing desserts, snacks and mini meals. Nuts and seeds hold all the “good fats” often referred to as “Essential Fatty Acids”. They are called ‘Essential’ because our cells must have them for proper cell function. But a bag of nuts and seeds? Will that do when children are used to that donut full of hydrogenated fats and sugar?
The magic happens when you soak the nuts and seeds, and then blend them with fresh fruits (frozen if you like), and dried fruits like dates and raisins to sweeten. All that’s needed is a blender, and you can instantly have a dish similar to ice cream in sweetness and texture, and rich with Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s), fiber and antioxidants. Children love the taste and fill themselves quickly. These natural foods are not addictive like the refined sugars and hydrogenated fats, so children will likely be satisfied and not overeat.
Another way to blend the fruit and nuts, and get the same essence of a rich dessert, is to spread a banana (or apple) with almond butter or another delicious nut butter. This is particularly good for packing a lunch or road trip snack. Topping with ground flax seeds and/or walnuts, which are high in the Omega 3’s, will add even more EFA fuel to the meal.
The important thing to remember about EFA’s is that they are critical to children’s cell function, and that means brain function. If kids are not eating a lot of raw nuts and seeds, (or fatty fish) then taking an EFA supplement like flax oil may help. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that a supplement can cover up the harm of poor food choices. Although the right food supplement can certainly help a diet devoid of essential nutrients, it should not be used as a replacement for nourishing food. The point is to make every bite count with as much nourishment as possible. And, why not use rich and creamy foods from the Earth full of vital nutrients to replace sugary desserts.
The third principle to making every bite count is probiotic rich foods, like Kefir and cultured vegetables. If children are young, they will most likely acquire a taste for cultured vegetables (sauerkraut, unpasteurized is best) early on. If they are older they may still acquire a taste when the cultured vegetables are served with a more fatty meal, but it may be more difficult. In those cases Kefir, the magic food full of probiotic-friendly flora would work well in a family’s daily dietary regime.
Most children have had antibiotics in their early lives and therefore need to restore friendly (probiotic) bacteria or flora in their intestines destroyed by the antibiotics. Introducing probiotic foods into a family’s daily diet could be one of the most valuable changes it makes and it will help to build a healthy inner eco-system. Even if a child has never taken antibiotics, a diet rich in probiotic foods will continue to enhance the intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients and build a healthy immune system. What good is it to feed children excellent food if they are not absorbing it?
In John Robbins’ new book, “Healthy at 100” John unveiled the secrets of the longest living people on the planet. The diet was similar in each of the four populations he studied; light in foods from animals raised on grass; rich in plant foods, nuts and seeds; and each population enjoyed a cultured food as a daily staple.
Cultured foods are one of the most powerful foods in any daily diet, but particularly a child’s. You can purchase un-pasteurized cultured vegetables and Kefir (sugar free) in most natural foods grocers, or make your own quite easily and affordably. A tablespoon of cultured vegetables with each meal will enhance digestion greatly. And, a little Kefir to start the day will help a child’s intestinal track absorb all the nutrients you are striving to give them. This rich probiotic substance may be the key to building a vibrant inner eco-system that can handle the occasional birthday cake or sugary drink.
Next time you ask yourself, “Is a little OK?” The answer may lie in your own kitchen. What are you feeding your kids ‘a lot’ of? What are they eating on a daily basis? Are they getting enough whole foods and good fats?
If you focus on the principles of taking refined sugar out and putting natural sugar in; taking bad fats out and putting good fats in and including probiotic rich foods, then children will have a much better chance of dealing with other less healthy food choices away from home.
Remember; fruits, nuts and seeds are a great answer to dessert replacements, and filling children with EFA’s. And, if children have a good dose of probiotic-rich food in the morning then chances are “a little might be OK” and they will handle that occasional sugary treat in the afternoon much better.
So, keep your fork loaded with nutritional value and “make every bite count”.
Susan Teton Campbell, a food professional with over twenty years experience, co-authored the “Healthy School Lunch Action Guide,” winning endorsements from USDA, California State Child and Nutrition Department and Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Her new six-part DVD series “Essential Cuisine” is available at: www.chefteton.com
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