Healthy at Home: Nutritional Strategies for Kids Heading Back to School
As 'back to school' rapidly approaches, many parents are making inquiries about keeping their kids healthy during the school year. This boils down to questions such as: What sort of meals and snacks should they be eating? How do I get them to make healthier choices? Well, the answers are simple: the same meals, snacks, and healthier choices as you, fluff ball. You are the parent - take the lead.
Seriously. It's entertaining to have conversations with parents who disassociate their eating habits from those of their kids. Nutritional habits are formed in the household, within the family unit. As parents, it's critical to take as much responsibility as possible for ensuring the nutritional habits formed will be beneficial for life. Nutrition forms the foundation for childhood growth and development, which then sets the stage for adulthood. We want healthy kids, then healthy adults, free of diseases related to:
- Excess body fat
- Compromised gut health
- Immune compromise
- Chronic inflammation
As a society, we're knee deep in trouble right now. About 33% of kids ages 6-11 are overweight or obese, compared to 7% in 1980. Obese young women really break my heart, as reversing this once the mid-20's roll around is a very challenging task. As it stands right now, about 36% of young women are considered obese. I've met many of these women, who are often depressed about themselves, how they feel and look, and upset about the uphill battle they face. Obesity leads to disruption of the thyroid and adrenal glands, cholesterol dysregulation, sleep disorders, metabolic disturbances, and many conditions that can be traced to chronic inflammation and hormone disruption.
Doomsday stuff aside, let's look at the sunny side of things. We are all capable of giving the young ones around us a boost, getting them going on the right track. Variables within our control include:
- The ability (and responsibility!) to involve kids in strength training (along with other sports).
- The ability (and responsibility) to greatly influence nutritional choices.
LIFT BABY, LIFT!
Studies show that kids involved in resistance training and nutritional programs improve self-perception, gain lean muscle mass, strength, endurance, and not surprisingly, self confidence. Resistance training has been found to improve mental well-being, while teaching physical and emotional discipline. Look around your area for a good "Kids Cross Fit" Gym, and/or a local gym offering kids strength training classes.
I LOOK UP TO YOU, MOM AND DAD, I'LL EAT WHAT YOU EAT.
Indeed! If your kids have survived till this point on Ding Dong's and frozen pizza, it's because you have, too. However, now is the time to stop this. Slowly but surely, replace your Lucky Charms with blueberries and Greek Yogurt, your pop tarts with apples and almond butter, and your frozen dinners with shredded chicken, veggies, and salsa. Smack yourself for buying Kellogg's Honey Smacks and don't do it anymore (this cereal leads the list of "10 Worst Children's Cereals" based on sugar by weight). Throw away your OJ, blend up protein smoothies instead. Keep on hand plenty of foods like avocado, berries, hummus, chopped carrots, protein-packed homemade cookies, home made granola, nut butters, varieties of grass-fed jerky, cooked meats, eggs and seafood. Take the junky stuff out of the house.
My experience with kids (Gabby and Matias!!) back when they were 5 & 3, was that they loved healthy stuff as long as they were involved. Involved in grocery shopping, washing and chopping veggies, putting stuff in bowls, etc. Anything I ate or drank, they wanted as well, which included protein smoothies, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and meats and seafood of all kind. If you want your kids to enjoy the healthy transition, get, and keep them involved.
QUICK THOUGHTS ON SUPPLEMENTS.
Generally speaking, a few key supplements for kids include vitamin D (about 600IU/day), fish oil (about 500mg-1g/day EPA/DHA), and magnesium (about 500mg/day). Greens + powders and protein powders combine to make great smoothies (I use Genuine Health, and Douglas Labs products whenever possible). Sports nutrition supplements are also beneficial for kids – but this is a topic for another article.
WRAP IT UP.
To sum, my belief based on a bit of experience and common sense is that your kids habits reflect yours, so you need to change yours first. Get yourself involved in a strength training and nutritional program, and involve your kids. If you don't have kids, grab a few and get going. Remove junk food from your house, and establish healthy eating patterns with the best food possible. Get this party started!!
Please send success stories to me by going to this link.
Resources used for this article:
- Charles Poliquin: Weight Training for Kids Part 1. Accessed 7/13/13 from http://www.charlespoliquin.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/Article/679/Weight_Training_for_Kids_Pt1.aspx
- Weight Control Information Network. Accessed 7/13/13 from http://www.win.niddk.nih.gov/statistics
- Precision Nutrition: All About Nutrition for Kids. Accessed 7/10/13 from http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-nutrition-for-kids
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 7/5/13 from http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm
MS, CSCS, CISSN, Pn1
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
Medical Exercise Specialist
Certified Sports Nutritionist from The International Society of Sports Nutrition
Masters: Human Nutrition
Clearwater Beach Fitness, Clearwater Beach, FL.