The thought of providing a variety of health-promoting, kid-approved foods throughout the school year can certainly feel overwhelming!
There's breakfast to consider, then snacks, lunch, more snacks, dinner, maybe another snack. Those kids can seem like bottomless pits at times!!
I'd like to chunk this subject of kids' school days nutrition down into simple tips and strategies so we can feel less overwhelmed.
Let's consider breakfast.
The average North American breakfast typically revolves around some type of refined, processed grain - like cereal, toast or bread, bagels, quick-cooked oatmeal, and a variety of pastries.
If we were to discuss the negative consequences of this single food choice alone, this would be a very lengthy article! Suffice it to say, there is an ever-increasing number of health professionals who agree that grains are not a requirement for optimal function.
That's right. According to experts who study our healthier ancestors and our genetic connections, we do not 'need' grains. Especially cereal-type grains. Amongst other physiological ramifications of consuming grains, inflammation is one of the biggest problems that results. The more refined, the worse it is. It's a horrible way to start the day!
So, what's a parent to do? Certainly 'whole' grains are an improvement over toxic refined grains. Better yet, choose more ancient grains, sprouted, soaked or fermented grains.
So far, I'm not really making your life any easier, am I?
Sorry about that - just wanted to make sure you're aware of the consequences of grain-centered meals. You certainly don't get this message if you depend upon sources like the food pyramid, do you? Money apparently speaks louder than health.
Let's get back to breakfast.
Here's a hierarchy of improvements to consider making:
1) If you can eliminate refined grains, that would be the ideal option.
2) If elimination isn't a realistic option right now, at least reduce the consumption of refined, processed grains.
3) Upgrade your choices of grains when possible - at the very least, start with whole grains, and make sure there's no high fructose corn syrup. Look for high fiber content and low sugar. No artificial sweeteners, colors or flavors. Whenever possible, upgrade even further by choosing the sprouted, fermented or soaked traditional grains.
But, THE most important thing to focus on with breakfast is to create a BALANCED meal.
In order to provide the raw materials for optimal brain function, balanced emotions and mood regulation, and maximized physical performance, we need some healthy protein, natural fats, fresh fiber from vegetables and fruit, and some pure water as the drink of choice.
I discuss these and the 5 basic food groups that our kids require for optimal health & performance in many of my articles, books and menus. I place these foods in something I call the Circle of Health. It's simple and clear enough that kids, too, can learn how to make healthy choices and structure health-promoting meals and snacks. I think it's important that they understand the importance of the choices they're making. It's a mom thing!
Speaking of being a mom, I understand the temptation of serving cereal for breakfast. Kids love it. It's cheap (or can be). It's quick, easy and convenient. What's not to love?
I also understand that it might not be realistic for you to completely eliminate these types of foods from your kitchen. That's OK - there are still ways we can add better health to this meal.
If you're serving grains for breakfast, you can dramatically improve the overall health value of that meal by ADDING some fresh fruit, and a REAL food source of protein (that often comes with its own natural source of fat).
Need an example?
Let's say your kids are still having cereal for breakfast. Without even getting into the quality of the cereal or the quality and source of the milk, an immediate and simple improvement to that meal would be to start them off with fresh fruit first.
Then, give them something with protein and natural fats, like a whole egg or a handful of raw nuts. If you can swing it, there are some excellent clean breakfast meats that lack the toxic chemicals and nitrites/nitrates... or you can just serve a bit of protein left over from last night's dinner.
I like to think of it as "diluting" the negative effects of the grains!
You know what you'll notice as you add protein, natural fats and fresh fiber (fruit & veggies)? Your kids will have more (balanced) energy, better focus, more balanced moods, greater performance... and a number of other overall health improvements, just by ADDING some things.
Just imagine what you'd see if you started to reduce some of the toxic things from their diets!
That's a topic for another discussion! Baby steps!
Dr. Colleen Trombley-VanHoogstraat ("Dr Mom Online") is a leading expert in Natural Health & Wellness. Her unique perspective and scientific understanding of Wellness, as well as her popular and engaging approach, provides simple solutions and transformational results for families seeking better overall health. To discover her popular strategy for teaching, and living, the fundamentals of better nutrition, go to
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