Supporting our children’s success in school starts in your kitchen!
ByKatarina Meister, ND •September 13, 2021
Over the past decade, there has been a steady rise in the consumption of high-calorie processed foods when compared to real, whole foods and water. This leads to an increased risk of chronic health conditions later in life, such as insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity. Mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, have also recently been linked to a poor diet. Nutritional interventions alone, specifically a diet rich in whole foods such as fruit and vegetables, have been shown to prevent and lower the risk for all of these chronic conditions.
To further understand this dynamic a study investigated the relationship between children’s consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages with home-related and environmental factors. Sugar-sweetened beverages are beverages with added artificial sugar or with a sugar content of more than 5% added sugars (e.g. soda, orange juice, Gatorade, or Red Bull to name a few). The study found that the average child consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages was around 9 cups per week. The top drinks consumed were tea, carbonated drinks, sweetened fruit juice, and sports drinks. The average amount of sugar in these drinks alone is around 40 grams of sugar per serving. This is a lot of sugar!!
Overall, the study concluded that the higher intake of sugar-sweetened beverages was highly correlated with what was modeled to the child at home, as well as the item’s availability and accessibility in their home/environment. Therefore, what we model for our children and what we stock in our kitchens can drastically influence our child’s risk of developing chronic diseases later in life.
As we head into this school year, check out my 4 simple tips to get you and your child off to a healthy start!
1: Increase Self Awareness.
A study found that leading by example alone encourages your child to eat healthier foods, resulting in lower levels of picky eating and higher intake of fruit and vegetables in children. Our children are affected by what is available to them and what they have access to. It starts with the leaders of the household to model a healthy lifestyle for our children.
- Start by developing an increased sense of awareness of how you are modeling as an agent of change in your child’s nutritional habits.
2: Invite & Encourage Team-Based Learning
A team-based approach is more effective for positive change, while a more controlling approach may cause rebellion and promote unhealthy food choices.
Examples of a more controlling approach may include nutritional restriction, pressure to eat, and/or the use of reward. This more controlling approach also overrides a child’s natural intuition & bodily cues of hunger and satiety. These natural body cues act as protective factors to overeating, and a less controlling approach may decrease the risk of the development of eating disorders in your child later in life.
- Start by inviting your child to engage with planning, prepping, and cooking the meals with you.
- In this way, your child will learn useful life skills and utilize their own critical thinking.
3: Increase Access & Availability to Healthy Meal Choices at Home
Start with small changes, such as making a healthier version of your child’s favorite meal. Then once you are more comfortable and familiar with healthier options you can swap another item for a healthier one. Remember that this is a journey, not a sprint.
Keep healthy, colorful options in the fridge or on your counter.
- Examples include cherry tomatoes & red bell peppers, celery & carrots, blueberries & strawberries, or apples & bananas. Prep these foods beforehand (wash & cut) and then have them in a bowl ready to go. Check out more options for snacks for the whole family here.
- Rotate one new healthy recipe into your weekly meals. Here are some options to get you started: Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Indian Spiced Lentil Stew: Dal Makhani, Cauliflower Fritters, or Brazil Nut “Parmesan” Crusted Halibut.
Satisfy your child’s sweet cravings with a healthy dessert option.
- Try out one of my all-time favorite fall desserts, Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp – Gluten Free.
4: Drink More Water & Provide Healthy Drink Alternatives
Water promotes healthy bowel movements and healthy energy levels. Maintain your child’s hydration by first having them drink 1-2 glasses of water upon waking. Send them to school with their favorite water bottle to keep them hydrated throughout their day. Lastly, it is important to provide your child with healthy alternatives to their favorite sugary drink. Check out my blog post for ideas here.
- DeCosta P, Møller P, Frøst MB, Olsen A. Changing children’s eating behaviour – A review of experimental research. Appetite. 2017 Jun 1;113:327-357. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2017.03.004. Epub 2017 Mar 9. PMID: 28286164.
- Folkvord F. Systematically testing the effects of promotion techniques on children’s fruit and vegetables intake on the long term: a protocol study of a multicenter randomized controlled trial. BMC Public Health. 2019;19(1):1578. Published 2019 Nov 27. doi:10.1186/s12889-019-7952-1
- López-Contreras IN, Vilchis-Gil J, Klünder-Klünder M, Villalpando-Carrión S, Flores-Huerta S. Dietary habits and metabolic response improve in obese children whose mothers received an intervention to promote healthy eating: randomized clinical trial. BMC Public Health. 2020;20(1):1240. Published 2020 Aug 14. doi:10.1186/s12889-020-09339-4
- McMartin SE, Jacka FN, Colman I. The association between fruit and vegetable consumption and mental health disorders: evidence from five waves of a national survey of Canadians. Prev Med. 2013 Mar;56(3-4):225-30. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2012.12.016. Epub 2013 Jan 4. PMID: 23295173.
- Zhuang X, Liu Y, Gittelsohn J, et al. Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Consumption and Associated Factors among Northeastern Chinese Children. Nutrients. 2021;13(7):2233. Published 2021 Jun 29. doi:10.3390/nu13072233
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.