Nutrition has become a confusing, overwhelming and often contradictory subject. It’s challenging enough to understand how to make healthier choices as an adult, but the plot thickens when we need to teach our children healthy nutritional habits for life.
When I think of teaching anyone, children or adults, how to make healthier food choices, I look at a two-fold approach to the process.
First, the positive side. This is all about building health. We have certain innate genetic nutritional requirements that we must meet in order to create optimal health, function and performance. We need an abundance of nutrients in their cleanest form possible.
A simple explanation of what these requirements are can be summarized by my Circle of Health. We know that the food groups within the Circle of Health will create better health – they are the raw material for building better health and function. The groups in the circle are:
1) protein – meat/poultry/fish, eggs, nuts, etc.
2) healthy fats & oils – nuts & seeds, real butterfat, foods like avocado and olives, pure tropical oils and olive oil, etc.
The primary focus with kids, or anyone trying to achieve better health, is to do our best to make as many of our meals and snacks include these core components of nutrition. These are the ingredients required for health – so we need an adequate amount of them. Include as many of these foods throughout our day. That’s a great place to start.
Next, in order to maximize our nutritional choices even further, I apply The 4 Golden Rules of Nutrition to these foods in the circle. Whenever possible, choose foods that are:
1) real foods, “God-grown”, single ingredient (or close to it)
2) whole foods, foods in their closest to naturally occurring state
3) as pure or least toxic
4) fresh, seasonal, local and often raw
Now, we’re eating great foods that are a higher quality, and therefore are more nutritious. By now, we’re getting enough of the ingredients for health, AND these ingredients are the least toxic possible. We’re building health.
However, there’s also the flip side of the story. Certain choices DO move us away from health. These are choices that are toxic and/or deficient in the required nutrients. Some of the obvious nutritional offenders are things like high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and colors, trans fats and hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated fats & oils, refined and processed grains, sugar and modern soy foods.
Where do we find massive amounts of these toxic ingredients? In many of the foods kids love the most! Pop, conventional juice and sports drinks, junk food, candy, fast food, convenience snack foods, breakfast cereal and breakfast bars, crackers, pizza, mac & cheese… and on and on.
In order to teach kids how to make healthier choices, we begin by focusing on the “good stuff” first. Telling someone they need to eliminate everything they’ve grown to love – no matter how toxic it may be – is a strategy that’s doomed to fail!
Instead, teach your kids to give their bodies what they need everyday: some protein, healthy fats, fresh fiber and water with every meal and snack. It’s a solid, proactive habit they can adopt for the rest of their lives. “Fill up with Health FIRST”. Meet your body’s needs – that’s the only way health can happen.
You cannot take away those good, healthy choices once they’ve been made. They add up. Our current level of health is the result of the past choices we have made. What we choose today will determine our future health.
It’s all about choices and consequences. Teach your children how their choices will make a difference in how healthy, and happy they will be in the future.