Healthy at Home: Nutritional strategies for kids heading back to school

Published:   |   Updated: August 28, 2013 at 05:13 PM

CLEARWATER BEACH – As ‘back to school’ gets into full gear, many parents are inquiring about how to keep their kids healthy throughout the school year. Questions range like: What sort of meals and snacks should they be eating? How do I get them to make healthier choices?
Well, the answers are simple: the same meals, snacks, and healthier choices as you, fluff ball. You are the parent – take the lead. Seriously.
It’s entertaining to have conversations with parents who disassociate their eating habits from those of their kids. Nutritional habits are formed in the household, within the family unit. As parents, it’s critical to take as much responsibility as possible for ensuring your child’s nutritional habits will be beneficial for life. Nutrition forms the foundation for childhood growth and development, which then sets the stage for adulthood. Healthy kids produce healthy adults, free of diseases related to:
1. Excess body fat
2. Compromised gut health
3. Immune compromise
4. Chronic inflammation
As a society, we’re knee deep in trouble right now. About 33% of kids ages 6-11 are overweight or obese, compared to 7% in 1980. Obese young women really break my heart. As it stands right now, about 36% of young women are considered obese and even for women in their mid 20s, to reverse obesity is a very challenging task.
I’ve met many of these women. They are often depressed, unhappy as to how they feel and look, and upset about the uphill battle they face. Obesity leads to disruption of the thyroid and adrenal glands, cholesterol dysregulation, sleep disorders, metabolic disturbances, and many conditions that can be traced to chronic inflammation and hormone disruption.
Doomsday stuff aside, let’s look at the sunny side of things. We are all capable of giving the young ones around us a boost – getting them going on the right track. Variables within our control include:
1. The ability (and responsibility!) to involve kids in strength training (along with other sports).
2. The ability (and responsibility!) to greatly influence nutritional choices.
Studies show that kids involved in resistance training and nutritional programs improve self-perception, gain lean muscle mass, strength, endurance, and not surprisingly, self confidence. Resistance training has been found to improve mental well-being, while teaching physical and emotional discipline. Look around your area for a good “Kids Cross Fit” gym, or a local gym offering kids strength training classes.
Indeed! If your kids have survived till this point on Ding Dongs and frozen pizza, it’s because you have, too. However, now is the time to stop this. Slowly but surely, replace your Lucky Charms with blueberries and Greek yogurt; your pop tarts with apples and almond butter; and your frozen dinners with shredded chicken, veggies, and salsa.
Smack yourself for buying Kellogg’s Honey Smacks and don’t do it anymore. This cereal leads the list of “10 Worst Children’s Cereals” based on sugar by weight, according to a report by environmental health research and advocacy organization, the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
Throw away your OJ, blend up protein smoothies instead. Keep on hand plenty of foods like avocado, berries, hummus, chopped carrots, protein-packed homemade cookies, homemade granola, nut butters, varieties of grass-fed jerky, cooked meats, eggs and seafood. Take the junky stuff out of the house.
My experience with kids (Gabby and Matias!!), back when they were 5 & 3, was that they loved healthy stuff as long as they were involved – involved in grocery shopping, washing and chopping veggies, putting stuff in bowls, etc. Anything I ate or drank, they wanted as well, which included protein smoothies, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and meats and seafood of all kind. If you want your kids to enjoy the healthy transition, get, and keep them involved.
Generally speaking, a few key supplements for kids include vitamin D (about 600IU/day), fish oil (about 500mg-1g/day EPA/DHA), and magnesium (about 500mg/day). Greens + powders and protein powders combine to make great smoothies. I use Genuine Health and Douglas Labs products whenever possible. Sports nutrition supplements are also beneficial for kids – but this is a topic for another article.
To sum, my belief based on a bit of experience and common sense is that your kids’ habits reflect yours. So, you need to change your habits first. Get involved in a strength training and nutritional program, and involve your kids. If you don’t have kids, grab a few and get going! Remove junk food from your house and establish healthy eating patterns with the best food possible. Get this party started!!
- Ashleigh Gass, MS, CSCS, CISSN, Pn1, is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Medical Exercise Specialist, Certified Sports Nutritionist from The International Society of Sports Nutrition with a Masters in Human Nutrition. She can be reached at (310) 666-0065 or at Clearwater Beach Fitness (727) 400-6454.

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