1. Do not feed your child the same foods every day
From the moment food is introduced a child starts to train mother: Feed me more of this and less of that. Some mothers start with the philosophy that a wide variety of tastes and textures is best. Often mothers cater heavily to the dictates of the child especially if mealtimes are hurried and time is short. The early introduction of a wide variety of tastes and textures is very important. The wider the variety of food that the very young child eats, the greater the nutrient base for the child will be. Children who are encouraged to taste everything do the best. Make a simple rule not to repeat the same foods over and over again. Try to have enough variety so you do not have to repeat the same food for several days. This simple rotation of healthy foods creates a natural expansion of tastes and nutrients. There is nothing better than a child who loves to try everything and can enjoy the unusual foods of another country or culture with enthusiasm.
2. Offer water as the primary drink and eliminate juice
Most children drink juice all day long. The vast majority of that juice is canned, bottled or in cardboard containers. Fruit is a wonderful source of nutrition and hydration but it is delicate. Once we juice or puree the fruit it quickly looses nutrients. For this reason, only freshly juiced fruit should be used and it should be consumed within 20 minutes of juicing or pureeing. Any that is leftover should be tossed. All the commercial juices are really just sugar water. Water should always be the primary source of hydration. When a child drinks sugar water all day he drinks too much fluid because it is so sweet. When we offer water the child will drink what the body needs but no more. Too much fluid can create problems for the young child. When juice is decreased or eliminated and replaced by water and fresh juice some mothers see improved overall behavior in their child. The child usually has increased concentration and a decrease in hyperactivity.
3. Offer fresh fruit and water in between meals
Our grandparents always told us, “Don’t drink when you eat.” Grandmother was right. The digestive acids in the stomach are diluted by water or other fluids and this decreases their effectiveness. Offer water in between meals to avoid this. Fruit is an almost perfect food but it should be eaten alone and not with other foods. Fruit is easily digested and will move through the body rapidly. It is a natural cleanser. This is why juice is often used during fasting regimes. When fruit is eaten with other foods that take much longer to digest it is forced to move very slowly through the digestive tract with those foods. Complex carbohydrate takes three hours to digest, if fruit is eaten during that same meal, then the fruit will start to ferment the carbohydrate in the gut. This fermentation makes food absorption in the gut less efficient. Fish, poultry and meat take four hours or more to digest. If fruit is eaten at the same time, it will putrefy the animal protein. This putrefaction is even more toxic in the gut than fermentation. The end result is that the child will not get as much goodness from the food he is eating and the gut flora will be negatively impacted. Another important point about separating fruit and water from meals is that there is only so much room in a little child’s stomach. You work hard to get the healthiest foods and to prepare them carefully. Of course, you want your child to have a great appetite and gobble up all that good food. But, if a drink is offered, children will often down the fluid first and this starts to fill them up. If there is fruit as well, they may choose this before they eat. Now there is no real estate left in those little stomachs for the beautiful meal you have prepared!
4. Make breakfast the primary meal of the day
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This is not news. We all know this. Why? Breakfast sets the blood sugar for the day. If we feed the child a king’s breakfast the blood sugar will rise gradually and the child’s energy level will be good and sustained. If we offer an inadequate breakfast the blood sugar will not rise and the child will be more likely to be tired and cranky because of this. If we provide a bad breakfast of sugary cereals or other simple carbohydrates the blood sugar will rise rapidly and then, of course, it will crash atmid-morning. Once that crash occurs it will not be possible to correct this with a proper lunch as it will be too late. That child will suffer all day long feeling tired and out of sorts. Blood sugar matters. Two problems can exist at breakfast. The first is that little children are often not hungry when they wake up. The second problem is that we adults are often racing to get breakfast on the table and get on with our day so we often choose what is fast and easy. We find that if we offer a few bites of freshly cut fruit the child will accept this first thing in the morning then when we come back 30 minutes later his stomach is awake and he has some real interest in his breakfast. There is no doubt that some cultures do better with breakfast than others. In Japan breakfast is always a full meal of fish, rice, vegetables and soup. It is absolutely delicious. Sadly in the US we have forgotten the wonderful full breakfast of our farmer ancestors and traded it in for an excuse to eat some of the worst junk food ever invented. And, of course, we are always rushing. Slow cooker to the rescue. Breakfast can be cooking all night long while you sleep. You awake to a wonderful smell which will definitely have everyone asking, “What is for breakfast?” Organic whole grains (steal cut oats, barley, spelt, amaranth, millet, quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, etc.) can be combined to make a dynamite hot cereal. (Use a lot of water and cook 8-10 hours). Serve it with cinnamon powder and almond milk and it is wonderful. Another breakfast could be brown rice and lentils in the slow cooker with a little poultry, fish or meat and some onions or garlic to season it. This cooks all night and is served with 2-3 different freshly steamed vegetables drizzled with a good cold pressed oil (virgin olive oil, walnut oil, sesame oil). These vegetables can be cut and steamed in less than tenminutes. This is very easy to prepare but also a very complete meal.
5. Only serve fresh food
Only serve foods that come in the containers that Mother Nature or God made. Avoid everything else – no cans, no boxes, no cartons. Fresh fruit and fresh vegetables, fresh poultry, fish and meat. Use frozen food only in the dead of winter when you absolutely have to do so. The very best thing to do is to grow your own food but few of us have the space or the time to do so. Eating organic and local food is the next best thing. Find the local farmers who really make the effort to grow food properly and establish a lasting relationship. You will need these farmers and they need you. There is a very major difference in the taste of fresh foods and foods that are not fresh. You want your child to have that taste because that will be his standard for the rest of his life. This template is being created from the moment your baby arrives. You are defining what real food is and what it is not. By the time he is 7 or 8 years old that job will be done. Will real food be packaged snacks, sugary cereals and boxes of sugar water masquerading as fruit juice? Or will he be raised on real food – a huge variety of fresh, delicious and wholesome fruits and vegetables with poultry, fish and meat. Your child does not drive a car or have a credit card in his pocket. You are the decider, and you are running the show.
This post was kindly contributed by The Institutes for Achievement of Human Potential.