Danger Zones    

In our busy lives, it is important to maintain regular mealtimes. Mealtime in a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere provides a good social opportunity. A stressful, rushed mealtime may interfere with the absorption of nutrients. And the last meal of the day is just as important as the first meal of the day. “Studies have shown that children who eat evening meals together with their family have a more balanced nutritional intake than those children who prepare food on their own and/or eat in front of the TV.”4

If a child has already snacked on candy, carbonated beverages, and sugary foods, the resultant loss of appetite may cause poor nutrition, because then the child does not want to eat the right foods.

Food intolerances and allergies could be another roadblock. Children are often intolerant to Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), prunes, sulphur, food preservatives, chemicals added to foods, food colourings, artificial flavourings, canned fish, caffeine, lactose, fruit juices, gluten, and aspartame. A true food allergy is a reaction of the immune system to a specific molecule; food intolerances are much more common. Naturopaths, nurses, doctors, and dieticians could help you with concerns about reactions to foods. They also might offer advice about the way food is grown and how that affects overall nutrition.

The foods we eat are often tainted with hormones, pesticides, and other dangerous additives. Choosing organic foods is well worth the effort and expense, since a child’s brain is extremely sensitive to pesticides. How foods are processed also affects their overall nutritional content. With whole-grain products, the food item has been made from all of the edible portions of the kernel. However, “refined grains have been taken apart and the bran and the germ removed. Only the starchy endosperm is used to mill the flour. To counteract this nutritional loss, some nutrients are added to the flour, and then this flour is called enriched flour. The original ingredients of magnesium, vitamin E, and fibre are not replaced.”5

The way we cook our food has nutritional consequences as well. Deep-fried foods can be very harmful to the brain. When oil or fat is heated up to high temperatures, harmful by-products are created. A child’s brain is much more susceptible to toxins in deep-fried foods than an adult’s brain, making it essential for children to avoid these foods. Overcooked foods can be just as bad. Water-soluble vitamins are the ones that disperse or dissolve in water. They are the B vitamins and vitamin C, which can be lost in the cooking process. They are destroyed by heat or leak out into the water we use to cook, and then they get thrown away.

Take a Dip

Getting children to eat fresh vegetables is often a challenge, so dress up those greens! Safflower seed oil or apple cider vinegar is great in homemade dressings. Add fresh lemon juice and fresh chopped herbs for more flavor.

Dips are another way to encourage the consumption of raw vegetables. Homemade hummus or other bean dips are often favourites. Additional dips can be made with tofu, yoghurt, or avocadoes.

Snack foods are often the culprits that can ruin a great nutrition plan, but there are healthy alternatives. Dates and nuts can be added to cereals and fruit salads, stuffed into cored apples, and mixed into whole-grain homemade breads, muffins, and cookies. Apples dipped in Manuka honey create a sweet snack. Smoothies are always fun, and the children may want to create their own combinations of rice milk, tofu, nuts, berries, fruits, and plain, unsweetened yoghurt. It is recommended not to heat flax seed oil, so using it in smoothies is a great way to reap the benefits of flax seed. We like to make up crazy names for our smoothies, names that reflect the mysterious colours or obscure ingredients.