What to feed your child: REAL FOOD!
So we have talked about HOW to feed your child…. By following the division of responsibility, where parents choose what foods to eat, where to eat (at the table), and when to eat (~every 3 hours); and where children get to choose if they will eat (yes, sometimes they won’t), and how much to eat, from the foods you have provided.
Now, let’s talk about about WHAT foods to provide for your child!
Offer Your Kids Real Food.
Sounds simple enough, but what does that actually mean? “Real Foods”, “Whole Foods”. These are phrases being thrown around on social media in many different dietary circles. But what do they actually mean?
In my opinion, real or whole foods are foods that:
- Do not come in a ‘package’,
- May require some prep to eat, and
- Have very few ingredients per food. These foods will be found on the perimeter of a grocery store.
Let's look at examples of Real Food:
Vegetables and Fruit
- Vegetables can be broken down into two groups: starchy and non-starchy. The starchy vegetables are usually roots or tubers and include carrots, potato, yam, yucca, cassava, corn, peas, etc. The non-starchy vegetables are usually the vegetables grown above ground like your greens (spinach/kale/lettuce, etc), brussel sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, etc. Make sure to mix it up and get a variety of colours on your plate each day!
- When buying vegetables and fruit, consider either fresh or frozen – both are great! Canned vegetables and fruit are not as good as fresh or frozen because they are more processed and may have sugar added to them (plus the lining of the cans may have chemicals in them too) [https://www.cbsnews.com/news/bpa-chemical-canned-food-study/].
E.g. 1) Spinach comes fresh or frozen. You can eat it raw, add it to smoothies, or throw it in cooking. Both fresh and frozen are great choices.
E.g. 2) Peaches come fresh, frozen or canned. The fresh or frozen ones will likely have nothing added to them; whereas the canned peaches are likely to be canned in syrup or juice, and filled with added sugars that your children do not need.
Meat, chicken, pork, fish, lamb, wild game.
- The less processed the better. Fresh or frozen, with as few additives as possible, is best. So getting raw or frozen meat (one ingredient) from the butcher is a much better option than getting the boxed/seasoned meat or fish with sauces, breading, and many ingredients.
- For example: getting plain, raw chicken (breast or thigh or whole chicken which you then cut up yourself and season with herbs/spices) is far better than buying the boxed, breaded chicken breasts or the deep fried chicken wings.
- I will also add that the quality of the meat/poultry does matter. A healthy/happy animal will provide better nutrients than a sick one.
- The egg is a perfect food. A balance of fat and protein; full of nutrients (especially in the yolk) and as recently been pardoned from its status of ‘heart-disease causing food’ (1, 2). So enjoy your eggs any way you like: hard boiled, soft boiled, fried, poached, or in an omelet. On a side note, eggs are part of my favourite breakfast, along with spinach, avocado and bacon!
Nuts and seeds
- Choosing plain, raw nuts and seeds are great food options, especially on the go! The tough part is that most schools are nut-free environments due to the increase in allergies. At least seeds are allowed!
- Did you know that nuts and seeds are full of healthy fats and protein? Perfect for active and growing little bodies.
- Please choose nut butters that are free of added sugar and processed oils.
- The best options are plain and high fat. Let’s talk about both of these.
- As I've mentioned in a previous blog post, sugar has been linked to hyperinsulinemia and chronic disease. And we know that cultures eating too much sugar struggle with obesity as well as metabolic syndrome (a condition in which a number of health markers are outside of the 'healthy' parameters) such as blood pressure, blood sugars, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol. We also know that even in Canada, we are seeing 30% of children struggling with obesity and now children with type 2 diabetes. So a practical solution is to remove the added sugar from our children’s diets. Try buying plain dairy and adding chopped/mashed/pureed fruit for flavour is a great idea, and will provide more nutrients and far less sugar than the pre-flavoured/sweetened ones.
- There is great debate currently about whether saturated fat (fat that is solid at room temperature – like butter, coconut oil, or bacon grease) is good or bad. Interestingly, there are a number of studies and systematic reviews showing that saturated fat is not associated with cardiovascular disease or all cause mortality (i.e. death). Also there are studies showing that replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat (seed/vegetable oils) did not improve health (1, 2). In fact, there are studies showing that lower carb higher fat diets can lower blood sugars!
- In fact, there were two large randomized control trial done in the 60’s: the the Minnesota Coronary Experiment and the Sydney Diet Heart Study. In both studies, the authors found that participants eating polyunsaturated oils (vegetable/seed oils) in place of butter (saturated fat) were far more likely to die (“higher mortality”). These studies were completed before the dietary guidelines came out in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, but because this study showed the opposite effect of what the authors were hoping to find, they hid the data (literally, in their basements/garages) until they were recovered by Christopher Ramsden. See this news article for a great summary of the recovered data.
- Unfortunately, even though there is a lack evidence that saturated fat can lead to heart disease, Health Canada has chosen to rely upon previously completed systematic reviews that are not up to date, or have ignored some of this more resent research showing a lack of harm. Check out the lobbying efforts by the Canadian Clinicians for Therapeutic Nutrition in requesting an independent, third party assessment of the scientific literature to see what foods Canadians should be told to eat.
- All that to say, feed your child plain, high fat dairy, limit the sugar, and enjoy every bite.
In summary, feed your child food that is as minimally processed as possible, usually found on the perimeter of the grocery stores, mix up the colours of foods you offer your children, balance foods with protein/ fat / carbohydrates, limit the sugar, and enjoy every bite!
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best of health, Eliana