Childhood can be a challenging time when it comes to making the best choices in nutrition for kids. Not only are children growing rapidly and needing more nutrients, but thanks to the poor quality of most commercial foods, not knowing the nutritional needs of your children, being strapped for cash, and having kids that are picky eaters to deal with, it can make children’s nutrition an overwhelming topic for most parents.
Have no fear though. I’m rising to the challenge (for my kids and yours) and starting a new mini-series here on Growing Up Herbal called Nutrition For Kids. In this series I’ll be addressing the following things.
- 3 Ways To Improve Your Child’s Diet
- The 5 Best Nutritional Supplements For Children
- How To Replace Supplements For Children With Food
- Is A Children’s Multi-Vitamin Necessary For Kids
- How To Make Your Own Children’s Multi-Vitamin Formula
Not only will I be talking about the above topics, but I’ll also be sharing some DIY herbal formulas over the next 3 weeks that are packed full of nutritional herbs and superfoods for your kids. You can use these herbal blends as needed with your kids in many different ways. I’ll be sharing one using nutritional herbs, one with adaptogenic herbs, and one with detox herbs. Stay tuned.
Okay, so let’s get into today’s topic of 3 ways to improve your child’s diet right now.
3 Ways To Improve Your Child’s Diet
In my health journey, I’ve gone from one extreme to the other. Finally I feel like I’ve come to a balanced middle. Can you relate?
I came from growing up, never taking vitamins to then learning about how we can’t get all the nutrients we need from our foods so supplementing was a necessity. That and my mother-in-law took supplements for EVERYTHING! Thankfully over time, we’ve both learned that each of these ends of the health spectrum where unnecessary and extreme. You need to supplement in some areas because we all have a potential for nutritional deficiencies, and you can’t replace your food with supplements! These two things are especially true when it comes to nutrition for kids.
When it comes to improving your children’s diets, there are a few things we mamas can do to do ensure that our kids are eating great foods and getting the nutrients they need.
1. Choose High Quality Foods
First, we can do our best to buy high quality, real foods, ideally that are organic and from local farmers. It’s not only important that our foods are free of harmful pesticides and GMOs, but buying local helps to sustain our communities and provides us with fresher foods that are most likely grown with care.
Now if you wanna take it one step further and make sure your food is high-quality, you can always grow your own. I love gardening, especially now that I’m older and I care so much more about food and nutrition.
I remember growing up and my dad making me get out and work in the garden. I HATED it! None of my friends had to do it, and I was so embarrassed one of them would drive by my house and see me working in the garden! Oh… the agony… the shame. I had to work. How silly was I??! I now, by the grace of God, think very differently about all that, and I’m very grateful that my parents found it in my best interest to get me outside, in the dirt, learning how to grow our own food. My man and I will do the same with our boys. We want them to grow into hard-working, responsible men that can take care of their families one day, and learning to work outside in a garden is a step in the right direction.
When you grow your own food, you are in total control of the nourishment of your food, start to finish. From choosing the best seeds you buy and plant, to the condition of your soil, to the type of beds you have, to the natural fertilizers you put on your growing plants, to when and how you harvest, store, and prepare those foods. It’s all you mama!! Oh, and your men too… unless they leave the gardening up to you that is!
Below I’ve listed some of my FAVORITE gardening books. I highly recommend you get started in this area. Not only will you have the best, highest-quality foods, but it will save you money as well.
2. Expand Your Child’s Diet
You can also work on branching out and expanding your child’s diet. I know from personal experience that this can be hard. If they’re not used to eating fish or seaweeds or fermented foods or organ meats, etc., etc. it can be hard to work them into those things, but it’s not impossible. This is something that I’m continually working at, and no, I don’t do this with every meal, but many times I’ll try to take one meal each week and try something new and different with it. It’s amazing what I learn by doing this, and many times my family doesn’t mind the new ingredient at all!
Be sure to take it one step at a time, practice making meals with recipes that incorporate these things in them, and talk to others about how they’ve done it. Pinterest is a great tool for searching for real food recipes (follow my Real Food boards here) that contain these ingredients. Google can help you find these recipes too as can your favorite food blogs. Check out my list of real food resources that link to websites, books, courses, and meal plans that can all help you improve your and your child’s diet as well as branch out and try new things.
3. Identify Deficiencies And Supplement
Lastly, evaluate your child’s diet and its shortcomings. No person is going to eat a perfectly healthy diet all the time. Plus, how great is it that our bodies were designed to not fall apart if we don’t get everything we need every single day? I find that very freeing… knowing that I can take my time and not feel like the roof is gonna cave in on my or my families health if we don’t eat perfectly all the time. Remember that 80/20 rule I talked about when working your way into eating real foods? It totally applies here.
So how do you find areas that your child may be deficient in? Well, for starters, you have to learn about nutrition and food. You have to learn about necessary vitamins and minerals, where they come from, what foods they are found in, what symptoms occur when the body is deficient in them, and how to correct these deficiencies. Now I’ll be addressing some of these things in this Nutrition For Kids series in the coming posts, but from time to time, I’ll also be posting vitamin and mineral profiles here on the blog as well. This is to help you so you don’t have to search all over the internet for this information, and hopefully it will help you to identify at risk areas in your child’s diet as well. Be sure to stay tuned for those over the coming months.
Once you identify areas that are lacking in your child’s diet you can either try to boost those areas with foods that contain those specific nutrients or you may even need to supplement for the time being. I always prefer to go with nutrient dense foods first, but there is nothing wrong with using supplements if needed.
For example, I know that during the winter months, my kids will not be getting as much vitamin D from the sun so I supplement more during that time with cod liver oil. There are times when I know I’m not going to be cooking as healthily as I normally would such as the beginning of a pregnancy when I’m too tired to cook, right after a new baby is born, or when we’re on vacation so I may want to supplement with a quality multi-vitamin (herbal or food based) during that time. Another time would be if for some reason my child’s iron level was low at a well-child checkup, and I wanted to start adding in foods and an herbal tincture to my child’s diet that would help boost their iron for a period of time.
So there you go. 3 ways to improve your child’s diet. Let’s review.
3 Ways To Improve Your Child’s Diet
- Start with high quality foods: organic, local, real foods when possible.
- Try new foods with ingredients you don’t commonly use. Be adventurous!
- Learn about nutrition, identify areas that are lacking, and work to correct them.
Now, I hope you’re not looking at all this and feeling overwhelmed. The point is to give you some actionable steps you can take to make some improvements. These are starting points.
Remember, in anything, start small. Start with one thing to focus on and move out from there. The saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” is true, and it applies to how we improve our children’s diets as much as it applied to Rome.