"Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying" is one of my favorite quotes from the movie The Shawshank Redemption. When I cry in frustration at the obtuseness of those in charge of disseminating dietary advice to the masses (doctors, the government, companies touting "healthy" products, etc.), I have to take a step back and realize that all I can do is throw a stone into the water with my thoughts and hopefully cause a ripple. As a CrossFit Kids coach and as a human being, I care about the health of our kids!
Why is childhood nutrition such a hot topic? Childhood obesity is on the rise. Here is an interesting article on 10 Frightening Facts About Childhood Obesity. Their list is below. For more detail on each, please check out the full article.
Only 2% of kids in the U.S. eat healthy.
Fast food consumption is rising.
About 25% of kids don’t do any physical activity.
Kids spend up to 5 hours daily watching TV.
Obese children make poor students.
The risk for heart disease jumps.
Half of diabetic children are overweight.
Sleep apnea is a growing threat.
Health care costs are triple what they are for healthier children.
Obese children will live shorter lives than their parents.
For many overweight kids and adults, junk food and sweets aren't the only cause: it's starch. One reason is that high fructose corn syrup is in EVERYTHING, even starches like bread. Check the labels--you'll be horrified. Why we need to sugar everything we consume is another post, but for now, take it on good authority that high density foods like bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes give too much energy, and the excess carbohydrate turns to fat. In reality, it isn't fat that makes us fat, but carbohydrate! The old advice to eat a low fat and high carbohydrate diet hasn't gotten us out of the obesity epidemic; in fact, the epidemic has gotten worse.
I just got back from a talk given by Dr. Lustig of "Sugar: The Bitter Truth" fame, but I can't write up that smorgasbord of info at the moment. Next time, Gadget, next time. Right now, the focus of this post is:
Step 1: We need to work toward the goal of replacing that starch AND SUGAR with vegetables and fruit--i.e. REAL FOOD.
How to Change
My advice is to start adding more vegetable and some fruit to a child's diet in a number of ways:
Start with Breakfast: eggs are a million times better than cereal to start the day. Other options: unsweetened full fat yogurt with fruit, or a chicken apple stir fry. Here are my breakfast recipes from previous posts:
Veggie Hunt: Let your kids run wild in the produce section. Anything they find, they can learn how to make with you. Find a recipe and cook it together. This gives kids a chance to be creative and try something new.
Make It a Family Affair:
Eat vegetables as a family: make sure you are all eating the same healthy diet so you are a role model for healthy eating.
Cook Together: make your kids a part of the process so they feel more connected to their food and the hard work it takes to prepare it.
Pile in the Veggies: Incorporate vegetables into sauces, soups, chili, ragout, and anyplace you can add more vegetables without really noticing them. Some parents find success pureeing vegetables into textures kids like better than when they are raw or cooked and whole.
It's No Big Deal: Don't make a big deal out of dinner, just make it and serve it. Don't highlight the changes you've made, just make it completely normal and natural to eat whatever you've prepared.
Tacos: Try taco night with lettuce leaves and have shredded cabbage, onions, and other vegetables as the toppings.
Don't Forget the Healthy Meat and Fat: Don't be afraid of meat and fat--it's those dense, high glycemic starches that we have to worry about. Healthy fats are avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, pasture butter, nuts, and seeds. Healthy meats are pasture-raised, wild-caught, and grass-fed.
Label Hunt: Spring clean your pantry and fridge so it's free of unhealthy temptations. Read labels--more than five ingredients? Chuck it. Something you can't pronounce/don't know what it is or where it comes from? Chuck it. Added sweeteners? Chuck it. You can make this a family affair--kids can practice reading and get a kick from throwing away the crap.
Drink Water: Water is the ultimate thirst quencher. Anything with sugar, even if it's a "sports drink" or 100% juice, is no better than soda. To transition off the juices, try watering them down. Unsweetened herbal teas are great and add a burst of flavor to water hot or cold.
Be the Boss: You are the boss when it comes to food in your house. Use your choices to nourish, not harm.
Cultivate an Appreciation for Healthy Food: Eating healthy is a positive feedback loop--you feel better and better. Eating poorly is a negative feedback loop--you feel awful, BUT it positively effects your desire for those poor choices. Break the cycle and eat healthy choices to get yourself back on track. Substitute your sugar cravings for fruit--such as a decadent, healthy snack: Berry Bowl--and slowly cut back by adding more veggies.
Reward Excellence: You can give a reward for the family's effort--perhaps a once a week cheat meal at a restaurant or ice cream for dessert one night. Some people don't like a reward, but for me, if I can stay healthy all week, I have earned a cheat meal or dessert and feel pride that I earned it. You can also make your "cheat" meals really not so much of a cheat if you buy or make homemade treats still low in sugar and starch and gluten-free--they'll definitely make you feel better than a blow-out gluten cheat. On the other hand, you can also just forgo the cheat altogether and make it family plan to get healthy and stick with it.
Help! Here are some helpful resources:
Get Your Kids Off the Crack--my soapbox stand against sugar and refined carbs. Check my sidebar and browse my label cloud for more topics of interest.
Everyday Paleo: a mom with it all going on--easy paleo recipes for the whole family, functional fitness, and her own book!
Joyful Abode: a very professional smorgasbord of information and recipes
The Paleo Child: with the title "A Paleo life from birth to breastfeeding and beyond."
The Cave Kitchen with a great Learning to Cook section categorizing the tasty recipes.
Enjoying Healthy Foods Says Lindsey: "I started this blog to share my experiences (recipes) good and bad through our major change. I am not scared to share my FLOPS with you... as this is a learning experience for me."
Paleo Mama "I am not a professional chef. I am not a doctor or a nutritionist. I am a mom who is cutting through the propaganda of the American “healthy” diet, to create REAL natural meals for myself and my family."
Paleo Parents: delicious and colorful recipes and some helpful parenting tips. I like their sidebar intro: "A practical approach for modern day families to eat from the Paleolithic period. It's not about a diet. It's not about "no" grains, dairy and sugar. It's about eating healthful, wholesome food for your family to look and feel their best. It sounds hard and overwhelming, but one (easy) step at a time you can get there, too."
Part 1 Says Patty: "In this series I plan to get down to the nitty gritty - what's worked, what hasn't, where I'm going and where I'm at with my own children."
Part 2 Says Patty: "Like I said in my first post, any child over the age of 5 is gonna resist if their food options are suddenly changed. I took a different stance and gave my kids the same time, education and choice that I had when I chose to eat healthier."
So I hope I helped give you some starting ideas and support for choosing this path to nutrition and health. Life's a journey--you just have to take the first step and if you fall off the path, just pick yourself up and get back on.
If you write or know of any other parenting blogs to share here as a resource for others, please write a comment and I'll add them to the list. Please let me know how your journey is going for you!
CrossFitter, CrossFit Trainer, and paleo-afficionado, I am following my dreams in Santa Cruz, CA. Through CrossFit and this blog, I want to pass on some of the insight I have found through trial and error to help make more people happy, healthy, and functionally fit.
NOTE: This website is my opinion, NOT medical advice.
Synthesizing what I have learned from studying the Paleo Diet, Zone Diet, CrossFit nutritional guidelines, and Primal Diet, here are my own dietary guidelines:
EAT MEAT (preferably grass-fed, pastured, and organic) AND VEGETABLES (preferably fresh, seasonal, and local), HEALTHY FAT (like nuts and seeds [not in excess], avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, and pastured butter), SOME FRUIT (preferably fresh, seasonal, and local), LITTLE STARCH, LITTLE TO NO PROCESSED FOODS, and LITTLE TO NO DAIRY (this is a point of contention, so use your gut as your guide and go raw and grass-fed if you do partake), NO GRAINS OF ANY KIND (yes that means quinoa), NO SUGAR (avoid added sweeteners of any kind as much as you can), and NO LEGUMES (otherwise known as beans, and yes, this includes peanuts).
Seriously, don't get hung up on the "NO's." There is more I CAN have than that I CAN'T, so I am NOT starving myself or getting malnourished! This is not some crazy fad diet; this is a lifestyle with a healthy diet catering to health and longevity crafted by looking at the foods we, as humans, were designed to eat and which we have eaten over thousands of years. I have chosen foods that nourish and aid health, not harm. I am eating quite well, as my food blog will attest!