We all know that kids are the future, and it’s important to invest in them… starting now! And right at the top of the to-do list is feeding them properly. Because they’re still growing, students need a diet that differs from the kind adults ought to follow. Toss out the protein shakes and break out the peanut butter; here comes a list of how to give your young ones the balanced diet they need to become the next generation of CEOs and world leaders.
Because most kids are basically huge stores of energy in small frames, they frequently have high metabolisms. This means that they can’t subsist on just three meals a day; they need more than a few snacks in between to keep them going at full throttle. Unfortunately, too many people let their kids gorge on fatty junk food, just because it’s convenient. They might work off the calories, but all that fat and cholesterol deposits in their arteries just like it would in ours. It’s doubly important that we give our kids an extra-healthy diet, even when we sometimes slack off ourselves.
Breakfast first- The message hits us in practically every health article: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But it’s true! Not only does a timely and well-balanced breakfast set our metabolism for the day, it can prevent problems like acid reflux and irregular blood sugar. Scratch the doughnuts and chocolate cereal; instead, try giving your kids a bowl of whole-grain cereal and a piece of fruit. Egg white omelettes, peanut butter on toast and bagels with light cream cheese are other options to consider. Studies have shown that a healthy and hearty morning meal can significantly reduce mid-morning and afternoon lethargy, enhance students’ concentration and improve their ability to remember lessons. A filling breakfast also means that digesting food the rest of the day won’t strain the digestive system.
Natural nutrients- It’s important to make sure children get all their vitamins and minerals, but it’s equally important that most of those nutrients come from natural sources. Natural nutrients are far more easily absorbed by the body than those synthesised in labs. Vitamin A improves eyesight and can be found in beta carotene, a compound contained in green leafy vegetables or red, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables. The B complex is a group of different vitamins (B1 - B7, B9 and B12) and includes thiamine, riboflavin and folic acid; whole grains, eggs, fish and many other foods are full of one or more B vitamins. Vitamin C, which is essential for a healthy immune system, can be found predominantly in citrus fruits; vitamin D and calcium can be found in eggs and dairy products. Zinc improves the function of nerve synapses, and iron helps get oxygen to blood cells; the former can be found in cereals and peanuts, while the latter is present in lean red meat and green, leafy vegetables.
Vitamin supplements- Some days, kids just don’t get all the nutrition they need. They might have a class trip or spend a day out with friends, when junk food is more than likely to make an appearance. For these reasons, it’s important that kids take multivitamin supplements. While there’s no hard-and-fast rule on this, many health professionals believe kids should take vitamin supplements until they’ve stopped growing (usually between 16 and 18). Younger kids may benefit from chewable tablets. Multivitamins made for kids often taste good - so good, in fact, that the younger ones might mistake it for candy! Sometimes, they even come in candy form (gummy bears and gumballs), so be careful not to let the younger ones have more than the recommended dose!
Choose the right portions- Have you ever wondered why kids are always hungry? It’s because of their sky-high metabolism; their bodies use up calories faster than ours do. You can’t expect a student who spends all day studying and playing to subsist on just three squares. Five to six meals with controlled portions is the key: a slice of toast with peanut butter now, a bowl of cereal with milk later, and a tuna sandwich for dinner. You can pre-pack healthy snacks like trail mix, unsalted pretzels and carrot sticks with ranch dipping sauce into snack-size portions for convenience. Fruits like bananas, oranges, guavas and fresh berries make great snacks that are easy to portion. Keep chips, namkeen and junk food (chaat, pizza, burgers) to a minimum.
Accommodate pickiness- Let’s face it: not all kids are going to happily eat smoked salmon and boiled greens. The key is to let your kids be picky, but within limits. For example, you can choose what they eat, but let them decide on the recipe or how they’d like it cooked. This way, you can get your kids to eat that healthy fish with no hassle, and they get a fun sandwich in the bargain. And remember not to deny them junk food altogether; kids have to be kids, after all, and the occasional junk food binge is OK, as long as it doesn’t become too much of a habit.
As you now know, you don’t have to turn into a fitness instructor or a diet doctor to give your kids healthy food. You can be ‘Supermom’ or the Wolfgang Puck of your home, and still make sure your children are getting the nutrition they need to succeed.