fueling kids best

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Wondering what you could be doing different to keep your kids healthy and energetic?  Check out my HRM Parent guest post for today:

I thought I’d focus my next couple of posts answering questions I get asked most often about kids’ food and raising healthy eaters. Here’s a great one that came to me recently from an HRM Parent: “What’s the most simple advice you can give me about how to feed my kids right?”

I spend a lot of time talking to parents about how to best fuel their kids for growth, health, energy and learning, but the basic premise is always the same: The absolute best way for kids to eat is to combine the macronutrients (complex carbohydrates, protein and healthy fat) in every snack and meal.

What’s she on about now, you ask?

  • COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES include vegetables and whole grains. Other healthy, although technically simple, carbs are found in fruits, which are high in fibre and nutrients.
  • HEALTHY PROTEINS include lean, preservative-free meats, cold-water fish, free range eggs, beans and legumes, quinoa & other higher-protein grains, nuts & seeds (and their butters) and organic tofu.
  • HEALTHY FATS include nuts and seeds (and their butters), olive, flax and other veggie oils (except corn, canola and soy, which are generally genetically-modified and already plentiful in all processed foods), coconut oil (a healthy saturated fat that can be used in high-heat cooking), ground flax seeds, avocado, wild salmon and coldwaterfish, and good-quality omega 3 supplements.

Always combining these three macronutrients in snacks and meals is the best way for kids to eat because it supports balanced eating, long-lasting energy, and healthy moderated blood sugar levels.

  • BALANCE: Kids need complex carbs for energy, protein for building and repair, and fats for cell and nerve health, including brain development, among other things. Consciously including a little of each every time you feed your child ensures he or she is getting enough over the course of the day.
  • ENERGY: Complex carbohydrates contain fibre and take longer to digest than simple carbs such as refined sugars & flours. Protein and fat take even longer to digest. Combining these macronutrients together in a meal keeps kids fuller and satisfied much longer than a meal based on refined carbs would. In other words, a breakfastmade up of balanced macronutrients (egg, whole grain toast, and nut butter) will keep them going until their next balanced snack at recess. A pop tart or white flour muffin will have them starving before the first bell rings.
  • BLOOD SUGAR: Complex carbohydrates release their sugars into our children’s blood in a more moderate and steady fashion that simple carbs, which simply cause a spike in their blood sugar levels as they surge into their blood after being eaten. A diet full of refined sugar and flour-based foods will lead to an extreme pattern of blood sugar levels, and the corresponding behavioural patterns we so often associate with “sugar highs and lows”. If you combine complex carbs, protein and healthy fat in your kids’ snacks and meals, their bodies have to work through the fiber and nutrients in the complex carbs, as well as the slower-to-digest protein & fat, in order to break down and release the sugars into their blood, causing a slower, more moderated increase in blood sugar. This type of eating leads to steadier sugar levels over the course of the day.

Here are a few ideas for snacks that combine the macronutrients to get you started:

  • whole grain cracker “sandwiches” with nut or seed butter & apple butter
  • fruit with a homemade yoghurt dip and ground flax “sprinkles”
  • frozen berries with yoghurt and granola
  • fruit & cheese skewer with a small handful of nuts or seeds
  • dried fruit, nuts and/or seeds, and dried whole grain cereal
  • half a whole wheat pita with nut butter and banana slices
  • hummus or other bean dip and whole grain crackers or veggies
  • tzatziki or other yoghurt-based dip with veggies
  • applesauce with a handful of almonds
  • hard-boiled egg and whole grain-crackers with nut butter
  • smoothie made with greek yoghurt, fruit, and avocado

Give macronutrient combining a try for a few days. It takes a little effort, but trust me, it’s worth it, and it’s gets easier with practice. It’s a pretty effective tools for improving the mood and energy levels of cranky, exhausted parents too!

If you’re interested in learning more about how to fuel your kids’ best, consider attending one of my workshops. You can check the events tab on this website or the Simple Balance facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/SimpleBalance for info on upcoming dates.

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