Something that has always interested me is our body’s nutrition and diet. I have learned some interesting facts; for example: a child’s nutrition is based off the same principles as the nutrition of an adult. Every one of us needs the same types of nutrition (i.e. vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein, and fat). The only difference is that children need a different amount of nutrients at different ages and depending on the size of their little bodies. With all the delicious local foods and amazing restaurants in Honolulu, it can be challenging to not only keep our own nutrition needs in mind, but also our kids’.
- Protein: Seafood is a great source for protein, along with lean meant and poultry. Protein can also be found in peas, soy products, eggs, & unsalted nuts and seeds, especially for those with vegetarian diets.
- Fruits: Instead of using fruit juice as a substitute, encourage your children to eat fresh, frozen, or canned fruit. The sugars in fruit are natural sugars that are easily broken up by our bodies, as opposed to man-made sugars in fruit juices.
- Vegetables: Also, encourage your children to eat fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables. This is important to instill in the minds of children at an early age so that they learn early on what should be going into their bodies. Most vegetables also have acquired tastes, so starting them off early can help them enjoy them sooner. Emphasize the dark green vegetables, along with red and orange. The more color in the vegetable, the more dense the nutrient value.
- Grains: While shopping, always choose whole-grains. These include: multi-grain bread, oatmeal (not the instant kind), quinoa, & brown or wild rice.
- Dairy: Encourage your child to drink and eat healthier dairy products. This includes milk, Greek yogurt, cheese. Try to avoid the sugary dairy products.
Also, an aim towards limiting your child’s solid fats and added sugars intake is important. Both of these can be highly addictive and can lead to excess body fat. Look for other ways to replace solid fats with vegetables and nuts.
For children with special needs, diet is a crucial component to their health and well-being. Many autistic children have digestive concerns that require close monitoring and careful diet considerations. As a parent, you know your child’s needs best, but make sure to bring your doctors, therapists, and the rest of your child’s “team” into the decision making process to ensure a well-rounded view point that will bring them the most benefit.
No matter what, it is also extremely important to steer away from processed foods. Most processed foods will appear “healthy” by claiming it is “low fat” or “low carb” or even “zero calorie,” when in reality those foods are chemically designed to not have calories or carbs. Most natural foods have some calories or carbs or fat, so anything that claims to have none, typically has some unnatural substances used to modify them. A lot of these products have also been chemically designed to sit on shelves for months, which is not natural or healthy at all.
Knowing what’s going into our bodies is extremely important these days. Especially with all of the marketing that is out in the world trying to sell us more and more products that are awful for your health and bodies. Reading the ingredient labels while grocery shopping may sound time-consuming, but in reality can be very helpful in the long run. If you read an ingredient you are unsure of or can barely pronounce for that matter, then you probably shouldn’t put it in your body, let alone your children’s growing and developing body. Start them off to a good start and instill a healthy, active life-style to help them stay healthy.