Saturday, November 26, 2011

Healthy eating for kids - of all ages!

So have you ever wondered if your kids are eating well? Have you convinced yourself that fast food is better then no food? Or have you gone the other way and gone all organic all the time? Where's the middle ground and is healthy eating for kids the same as it is for adults?

If your answers to these questions are yes, yes, maybe, yes and no...then you'll like what is to follow. I plan on regularly including posts that address the many questions parents and caregivers have about healthy eating for kids. To start today: Fat.

Children need varying amounts of fat from infancy through the teenage years. In fact, adults do to, but thanks to the nutritional trend of the low/non-fat everything market we often avoid fat altogether or get confused and eat all the wrong kinds of fats. So here's the breakdown: we NEED to eat fat. It is an important source of long-burning energy (unlike starches and sugars), helps your feel full longer, helps provide learning brains with the nutrition it needs to develop, it helps maintain stable hormone levels (and that's good for everybody!), and helps bring the vitamins A, D, E, and K into your body - that can't do it without fat!, and also some fats are called ESSENTIAL, meaning that you must eat them since the body can't make them. These fats are important to having a healthy heart, immune system, in helping your body heal itself, and preventing the development of cancers. How do you add more essential fatty acids? Flax seed pancakes are a big hit here, pine nuts in veggie pasta, avacados (good fats galore), pumpkin seeds, nuts and olive oil.

Ok, well what about the bad fats? Those are the fats that come from heavily processed foods and animal fats. No, you don't have to be a vegetarian, but Americans definitely can reduce their meat intake simply by adding 1 or 2 meatless meals to the family menu. Sure, you can add some tabouli stuffed peppers to the family meals, but if you have picky eaters - or skeptical partners, you might want to try something less "different." I take a well loved meat meal, and switch the meat ingredient for something else. Lasagna with ground beef can become veggie lasagna, use meat substitutes like ground crumbles (BOCA or YVES brands), or even mushroom slides for a meaty texture. Do the kids like mac and cheese and hot dogs, but you dislike the idea of all those animal "parts" and nitrites - try tofu pups, smart dogs from Lightlife (our family's favorite). We also like to add peas or edamame (soy beans) to up the protein/veggie points. My one year old, and picky-eater hubby like these options and they are so good that it doesn't occur to any one that the meat's even missing!

I like making smoothies for my Little One, giving her all the good fat and protein that comes in yogurt or milk. I personally drink Shakeology everyday as it has lots of Omega-3,6, and 9 fatty acids, good protein, vitamins, and is gluten free. It keeps down my cravings for sugars and carbs - so there are less times I have to tell my daughter she shouldn't want to eat what mommy's eating! Habits are easier to make then to break, so start them now - before the age of three if possible.

Last note: high heat destroys essential fatty acids, so cook low - no deep frying with oils, and add seeds and nuts raw on top of foods after cooking. Also, fish oils are high in essential fatty acids, and have less cholesterol, and can even prevent heart attacks. Bake fish sticks for little ones, and bread the outside with crushed crackers or rice crispies. Give them something to dip it in - My little one lives dipping fish in apple sauce, don't ask. She also loves soynut butter on sandwiches or waffles, and it's full of good fats. It's also a great alternative for tree nut-free homes or schools. Try some of these tips for yourselves or your families.

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