What goes in must come out
Admit it: you’ve taken a gander at what ends up in the bowl when you are assisting your kid(s) with clean up after going to the bathroom. It’s a parents’ job, right, to know what’s going in and (much to our chagrin, likely) what’s coming out. Color, shape, amount. It’s all good info. The thing is, though, that a lot of our kids aren’t eating enough fiber – yes, the F-word – so what’s coming out isn’t looking quite as quality as it should. So what to do about it?
Shall we take a look at what we’re feeding our kids? We’re giving them unpronounceable preservatives and chemicals and more sodium than their bodies know what to do with. We’re giving them WAY too much protein and not enough veggies. We give them sugary sugar with more sugar and some fake color thrown in. We are not giving them the foods they need to grow right, think straight, or stay healthy … or poop well.
We love our kids! We would never intentionally give them harmful foods or things that might hurt them. So why are we? Methinks a good part of it is that many of us just don’t know better. How many of you have had a nutrition class? How many of you know how many servings of dairy a 4-year-old should be eating? How many of you know how BIG a serving of dairy is for a 4-year-old? Yup, didn’t think so. It isn’t rocket science, but it is another thing to learn, amongst the bajillion other things you need to learn about when you have kids. And since all of it is of urgent and on a must-learn-right-now status, it’s so hard to stay on top of it all. So, if you give them some bread and some fruit and some veg every once in a while (ketchup counts, right?), you’re probably doing the best you can.
So why am I nagging at you? Because our little kids’ tummies and bodies are paying the price for our ignorance. Kids need proper nutrition with a myriad of foods to properly develop their food curiosity. Kids need whole grains and complex carbohydrates, and proteins to grow big and strong. Kids need veggies and fruits and lowfat dairy. Kids need fiber to help keep them full longer and to clean out their tummies. Kids need less sugar and fewer chemicals in their foods. Kids need less processed foods and more whole foods. Kids also need to help in the kitchen and in the grocery story, no matter how much longer that makes the shopping trip or the cooking lesson.
Try these 8 things to improve the nutrition your kid is getting:
Take your favorite cookie or sweet recipe and replace up to 1/3 of the flour with white whole wheat flour (my favorite brand is King Arthur). It doesn’t change the consistency of the end product, and you’ve just upped the fiber in the treat considerably.
Fiber. Yup, it all boils down to the stuff that builds up the poop. Kids need more of it. The more processed the food, the less fiber. Keep skins on, give them their fruit, and the browner and seedier the bread, the better.
Try a different fruit or veggie every week. Carambola, or cherimoya, or chips made from kale. It can be a new-to-you food or a different way to fix a favorite. Roast some cauliflower or make a broccoli slaw. If you don’t try it, you’ll never know if you like it. And sometimes, it can take up to 15 tries to like something. Even big people should be trying new foods and flavors as often as possible.
Water water water. Try only drinking water during the week. Or all day except with meals. Get hydrated. Your bodies will thank you for it.
Try a different grain or legume every week. There are so many amazing and unique flavors to try. Have you ever roasted chickpeas in a hot oven with a little salt and olive oil? My kids can eat cups of them. Or tried faro? Even tapioca counts. Or try a blue potato instead of your regular Idaho. Think colors: the more colorful your plate, the more nutrients you and your family will be enjoying.
Eat less meat. If you look at the previous bullet, you can see what to put in it’s place. Or if you just can’t go meatless, look to other sources of meat: fish (from proper sources), chicken or even the faux-meats and tofu.
Don’t hide the fruits and veggies that you’re adding to your recipes. It’s a clever way to get more of them into your kids’ diet, yes, but wouldn’t it be better if your kids learned how great fruits and veggies are? If you’re hiding them by adding purees to funky recipes, kids aren’t learning that eating fruits and veggies taste good, and are good for them. They are learning that they like chocolate. Guess what? They already know that. They need to learn that they like veggies, too. It’s harder, I know, to give them a piece of broccoli than it is to give them a piece of spinach-laced cake, but in the end, they will learn more and thank you for it.
Watch the sugar. Do you have any idea how much sugar is in instant oatmeal? Or breakfast cereals? Or fruit drinks? What about fruited yogurt? We haven’t even left the breakfast table, folks, and your kids have already consumed a days’ worth of sugar. Kids can’t grow on sugar. Kids can’t concentrate on sugar. Kids don’t behave well when their bodies are fueled with sugar. I’m not saying no candy, or nothing sweet. Everyone likes to have a treat or a cookie now and again. But do we really need to give them sugar-laced ravioli for lunch? Or crackers with more sugar than fiber? Some label reading would definitely be a good thing.
OK, I’ll get off my soap-box. I just had to get a few things off my chest. Thanks for letting me rant and rave a bit.