As parents, we will go to the edge of the world and back to care for our children. Our efforts every day are to keep them safe, healthy, happy and loved – and we sometimes drive ourselves crazy trying to do it right! But what if you found out that something as simple as what you’re feeding your child could be harming them?
To overcome the endless amount of misleading messages being marketed to parents and children around food products, we’ve sat down with nutrition specialist, Mikaela Reuben to chat about the importance of a healthy diet for our children.
Mikaela is a leader in food and nutrition and believes that health is the most precious aspect of a vibrant life. As a nutritional chef and health coach, she creates pathways for people to find vitality through food, and creates a lasting change to health by shifting daily decision making and transforming our fundamental approach to food.
We want to share the valuable knowledge Mikaela holds to enable parents and children to make healthy choices everyday! With that, here she is. The talented Mikaela Reuben!
Why is it important to get children in the habit of eating healthy?
Habits form early and children are far more malleable if presented with the right information at an early age. If they create a good relationship with food at a young age, hopefully this will translate through their lives as they get older allowing them to potentially stay healthier.
How do you get a picky child to eat healthy foods?
If interest isn’t being shown by naturally creating excitement around certain foods in the kitchen, then I usually try sneaking it into their favorite meals: If they are scared of spinach hide it in smoothies. If they don’t like kale add it to blended soups. Chop vegetables until they aren’t unrecognizable and add them to stir-fries.
Once they eat these meals a few times, tell them what was hidden so they change their current relationship with the foods that they don’t like.
Check out http://supersprowtz.com/ for a wonderful way to motivate children to look at vegetables differently.
Studies have shown that diet can have an effect on a child’s focus in school. Which foods hinder focus and which ones help?
Diet has a huge effect on a child’s focus. It is not uncommon for children to be diagnosed with learning and attention deficit disorders when it is commonly an issue of poor diet.
Try to avoid foods that are highly processed and high in sugar. Aim for whole grains rather than processed grains. Look to things that do not spike the blood sugar by focusing on ingredients that are whole foods, fiber filled, and complex carbohydrates. Encourage whole fruits rather than fruit juice so that the benefit of the fiber is present. Avoid foods that have food coloring in them. Make sure the diet is rich in iron (leafy greens, beans, peas, eggs) and eat fruits and vegetables rich with vitamin C.
What does this look like?
– Prepare your own oatmeal vs the instant kind.
– Avoid cereals that are high in added sugars, pop tarts, any type of microwavable quick answer.
– Eat a rainbow. Try to include fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible. If eating dried fruit don’t go for the tropical kind and make sure it has no added sugar or chemicals. Keep fresh cut vegetables in bowls with hummus for easy snacking.
– Prepare extra food on Sunday nights. Try baked yams, sautéed greens, and beans. Add these to wraps, salads, or serve with eggs!
– Preparation in advance allows less dependency on the more instant forms of food, and this instant form is usually the one with an extended shelf life, lots of chemicals, and way too much sugar.
In your opinion, if parents should cut one thing out of their child’s diet, what should it be?
Kids love sugary drinks, like pop and iced tea. Is there a healthy substitution with lower sugar content not using aspartame?
Sugar is hidden in many avenues especially the drink products marketed to children.
In a perfect world we would all wean off of the dependency on sweetened and sugary products. As this is not a likely case for most people the best thing that can be done is to monitor the amount of sugar getting into a child’s food.
Encourage water – flavor water with pieces of cucumber, strawberries, lemon, goji berries, cinnamon, anything to make the water a little more interesting.
Aim for a sweet smoothie treat instead of the sugary alternative. Use banana to sweeten and add a handful of spinach to a delicious afternoon berry treat!
Making mint or chamomile tea with a touch of honey or maple syrup. This is still a better version than the store bought sweetened iced tea. Try to add as little sweetener as possible.
Blend strawberries, honey or a date, and lemon, and strain through a cloth to make a strawberry juice. Add this to sparkling water with ice.
Is it more important for children to eat healthy than for adults?
Children are growing and require good nutrition and controlled blood glucose levels. Children are essentially setting up healthy metabolism, eating patterns, and habits for their futures. It has been said that the eating patterns of a child can predict bad eating habits later in life.
Because of this and the fact that good food is required to build a healthy body I believe there needs to be even more emphasis on guiding children how to eat well. That being said, the body always requires healthy food and everyone should focus on this at any stage.
What’s a great emergency snack to bring along on family outings to tie the kids over until the next meal?
Hummus with crunchy vegetables! Put some lemon juice and sea salt on the veggies to keep them crisp and tasty. Celery, red pepper, carrot, and cucumber are good.
Gluten free tortillas, leftover vegetable stir fry – make shift vegetarian fajitas.
Can you share with us a healthy recipe that kids love?
This is a great nutrient filled breakfast version that feels like a treat or dessert!
Acai is a great antioxidant filled berry that hides the spinach well.
Acai bowl with granola with spinach
– 1 pack of frozen acai – 7 ounces (available in the freezer section of Whole Foods and other grocery stores)
– 1 cup frozen fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, pineapple, mango are all good choices)
– 1 banana
– Large handful of spinach
– 1/4 cup granola *
– 1/4 cup sliced banana (optional)
Blend the banana, spinach, acai and fruit.
Makes two small bowls. Top with granola and chopped banana.
2 small servings.
*Make your own granola or buy one with simple ingredients and not too much sugar. Aim for organic.
Thank you so much Mikaela for sharing your tips and keeping us healthy! To follow more of Mikaela Reuben, check her out on:
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