"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 you and your daughter eat a lot of."
Many parents make the excuse "a little" is OK. But, with today's families almost constantly exposed to toxic chemicals, and fast food being more affordable and available than fresh food, the need for a healthy diet has become critical. The incidences of obesity, diabetes and ADHD continue to rise. The "little" has turned into "too much" and our health and that of our children is beginning to suffer. To turn those stats around, and create healthier bodies that can handle the toxicity of modern life and those "little" indulgences, it's time to ask ourselves "how can we make every bite count".
After years of dietary advice from a range of different sources American's know that food from the Earth, and not the factory, is what their families need to build a strong foundation. But still the food on many family 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.
Health professionals call for three basic culinary guidelines. If followed they will likely make a significant impact on a family's mental, physical and emotional health.
It may seem daunting. Really now, who's child is going to chose a simple apple over a delicious bowl of ice cream? And, where do I find good fats?
- Take refined sugar out. Put natural sugars in.
- Take bad fats out. Put good fats in.
- Put probiotic rich foods in.
The answer is to include nature's simplest food sources, fresh and dried fruits, nuts and seeds. These foods combined are the secret to 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 it rarely tempting, especially for children. It's easier to choose a delicious donut that's filled with harmful fats and chemicals. But there is a way to make these simple foods appealing to all the family. 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. Instantly you have a dish similar to ice cream in sweetness and texture, and rich with Essential Fats 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 other nut butters such as almond. It's great for lunch boxes or a road trip snack. Topping with ground flax seeds and/or walnuts, which are high in the Omegas, will add even more Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) to the meal. EFAs 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. 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.
There is a third guideline to making every bite count suggested by top nutritionists — probiotic foods. Foods such as kefir and cultured vegetables, like sauerkraut. Most of us have had antibiotics at one time in our life, and young children often have many, many doses in their early lives. Antibiotics destroy the friendly (probiotic) bacteria in our intestines as well as the infection making the body sick. Probiotic rich foods, like kefir and sauerkraut restore friendly flora and are one of the most valuable foods you can put into your family's daily diet, as it will help to build a healthy inner eco-system. This will continue to enhance the intestines ability to absorb nutrients and build the immune system. What good is it to feed your body excellent nutritious food if it's not absorbing it?
In John Robbins' book, "Healthy at 100" Robbins revealed the secrets of the longest living people on the planet. Their diet was similar in each of the 4 populations he studied; light in foods from animals that are 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, slice of pizza or sugary drink.
To feed yourself and your family consciously just focus on the three guidelines:
These conscious choices make "a little indulgence" easier for the body to handle. Keep your fork loaded with nutritional value and "make every bite count."
- Refined sugar and chemicals out!
- Bad fats out, good fats in!
- Probiotic rich foods every day (if possible)!
About the Author
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.