I recently wrote an article for the Huntsville Achievement School sharing information on the correlations between good nutrition and cognitive performance, physical strength and behavioral control. Evidence abounds for the links between nutrition and these ideals that we want for our children. The literature includes information regarding nutrients and performance, and it further
breaks the data into the specific effects of micronutrients and macronutrients.
Foods affect our bodies, our minds, our moods, and our energy. Most of us probably
agree with the experts on the importance of quality nutrition for our children. Starting
each day with a nutritious breakfast is one of the best gifts we can provide our children.
Filling their lunch and dinner plates with fresh, colorful foods assists them in being the
best that they can be. Providing small, nutrient dense snacks can keep them energized
yet calm and ready for life. Eating meals together at the family dinner table not only makes us feel better, it strengthens our bonds and imprints many of our family habits, values, and traditions on our children. We cannot discuss the effects of nutritious foods without addressing the importance of sharing food and time with each other.
Knowing which food or nutrient is the most important for a specific person without
knowing medical history, genetics, and lifestyle specifics is truly very difficult to
accurately do. As in all matters, we are each unique individuals. Our reactions to
specific foods and nutrients will be as unique as all other aspects of our lives.
What I ask you to consider is the effect of various highly nutritious foods on you and
your child. Hopefully, we agree on the basic foundation of highly nutritious foods;
however, based on the specifics of our families, we may need to approach these basics
in different ways. Top quality grains provide vitamins and fiber; yet it is important for
us to consider the effect of wheat and other excellent grains on our family members
with gluten sensitivity. The same is true regarding anyone with other concerns such as
sensitivities to casein or specific allergies. No one knows the specific effects of foods
on a child better than the parents and others who spend time with that child. Many of us
desire to cook with fresh, organic meats and vegetables from local farmers but do not
have the financial resources or time to make this a daily or weekly event. Some children
have unusual habits or fears that present themselves at meal times. So how do we
choose what to do?
First, we need to view the efficiency of the process. Find time to prepare nutritious
meals by enlisting help and by simplifying your busy days: cut up vegetables and fruits
needed for recipes in advance when you have a few minutes and prepare extras to
have available for snacks as well. Cook additional food that can be used for leftovers
if you choose or as the basis for another meal if that is more agreeable to your family.
Place some cooked items in the freezer for that day that ”nothing is on schedule” and
you have no time left to cook. If buying organic is important to you but “all” organic
seems too expensive, then choose from the list of the Dirty Dozen for your organic
purchases and buy conventional with confidence from the Clean Fifteen knowing that you have greatly reduced your family’s exposure to pesticides by following these guides.
Knowing one’s farmer also helps make these choices easier because you can learn how he grows your food. In fact, participating in Community Sustainable Agriculture groups is a great way to provide farm to table fresh simple foods at affordable prices and with the added time saver of computer shopping and specified delivery location. Farm fresh helps greatly retain the nutrients of your foods. For information on these programs in our area, contact me:
Please, consider speaking with a specialist or attending classes to learn more detailed
information about foods that benefit or harm specific situations such as medication
interference or medical issues, ways to purchase foods more conveniently or cheaply,
suggestions for menu planning or preparation to fit your busy lifestyle, or ways to
encourage your child to appreciate or accept some of these wonderful, healthy foods.
And as always, remember what the airline attendant says about the oxygen mask:
parents should put theirs on first so that they can better help their child. Eat a good
breakfast (even if it is a simple grab and run item), nourish your own body and soul,
take a few minutes to be grateful and thankful for the food that sustains us, and
mindfully eat the fruits, vegetables, grains, fats, and proteins that provide us with the
energy to care for others, complete our jobs, and, hopefully, remain joyful and energetic
throughout our day.