When it comes to feeding our kids, it can be overwhelming to make good choices or to even know what that means anymore.
With all the fad diets and changes in nutrition research and philosophies, it can make even the most health-conscious parent throw their hands up in frustration. Is agave good for you? Should we even look at calories on the label? Meat or no meat? The web is a rabbit’s hole of conflicting information.
Here are some effective strategies:
Haven diet: Choosing to avoid foods can make it feel like we are never going to have fun again. However, if about 80% of the time you eat a “haven” diet – low sugar, lots of fresh fruits and veggies, protein, minimally processed – then your body should be able to handle a splurge. My son eats well most of the time – so when he’s at a birthday party stuffing his face with cupcakes with blue icing, I know he will be OK.Give choices you’ll be happy with: Rather than asking, “What do you want to eat?” try offering a few choices that you would be happy with. For example, when offering a snack, let your kids choose between cucumbers, peppers or carrots. That way, your child still feels empowered. When packing lunches, let them choose one prepared snack (like fruit leather), and then offer three veggies and three fruits to choose from and a choice of protein.Meal planning: Taking a few minutes each week to write down dinner ideas can have a huge impact on getting a healthy meal on the table each night. The meals don’t have to be fancy – homemade tacos with beans, rice, avocado and greens are common in our house – but thinking about when you’ll get home from work, what activities the kids have and how much time you have to prep food will help you base your dinners in reality, rather than relying on take-out.Choose whole foods: Processed foods not only lack any nutrition, but because they have no nutrients, digesting them actually rob the body of vitamins and minerals.Read labels: Often, foods are loaded with hidden sugars or chemicals. Even yogurt and granola can be surprisingly high in sugar. Marketers are experts at manipulating our decisions about what to buy. A good rule is that 4 grams is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of sugar or fat. This can help put ingredients into perspective. Look out for food sensitivities: The most common symptoms I see are diarrhea, bloating, constipation, eczema, psoriasis, recurrent ear infections, rashes (especially around the mouth), joint pain, and behavior and mood changes. If you suspect a certain food category, remove that food from the diet completely for two to four weeks, note any symptoms, and reintroduce that food, again with a symptom journal. This can be the least expensive and most accurate way to detect food issues.Each person is an individual, so finding the right foods for your family is important. Maybe your child can’t touch gluten, but you’re fine with it. Maybe you do better with five small meals but your son eats large quantities three times daily. Within the guidelines above, find the balance in eating that feels optimal for your family.
Nicola Dehlinger is a naturopathic doctor at Pura Vida Natural Healthcare in Durango. She can be reached at 426-1684 or www.puravidahealthcare.com.