If you are a parent, there is nothing you wouldn’t do to spare your child even the smallest discomfort. So know this… the foods you offer your children today have an immediate and direct impact on their physical, mental, and emotional health. The quality of those foods determines whether they will enjoy optimal health as adults or be constantly battling to regain their sense of well-being.
The epidemic-like rise of childhood asthma and obesity and the increase in adolescent diabetes and attention-deficit disorder testify to our failure as parents to nutritionally protect our children.
For moms and dads who have made the decision to feed their children well, it often seems that all the forces of nature and man conspire to sabotage our best efforts. Junk food temptations are everywhere, and are vigorously promoted by an industry far less interested in your child’s health than it is in its own profits.
The quality of food that kids eat has deteriorated over the past few generations. Many kids eat a large percentage of their meals at fast food restaurants. Some schools have MacDonalds or Burger Kings as the only source of food in the lunchroom. School lunch programs are still fueled by the surplus foods of the dairy and meat industries who continue to have a powerful impact on the foods served in schools. These high fat, high sodium, low nutrient foods slow our kids down and contribute to forming bad eating habits for the rest of their lives.
Many moms believe that if they are following the basic four food group approach – meat, dairy, vegetables and fruits – their child is well-fed. This is an old concept – bought and paid for by the Dairy Council and Cattleman’s Association. Cow’s milk is terrible food for humans. Cow’s milk is designed to build a cow – a large animal that attains adult size in a short period of time. The protein in cow milk is poorly digested in humans and in young children, the undigested protein can cause everything from allergies to rashes to diarrhea or constipation, chronic colds and ear infections. In addition, no other animal on earth continues to drink milk after weaning from its mother. The human GI tract is built like vegetarian animals – low HcL in our stomachs, flat teeth and long intestines. True carnivores, such as lions and tigers, have ten times the HcL in their stomachs, sharp teeth and much shorter intestinal tracts.
When we urge parents to take their kids off dairy products, they always ask “Where are they going to get their calcium from?” So we ask then, “Where do you think a cow gets its calcium?” Cows don’t drink milk, they get it from vegetation, the same way your children can get it. One and a half ounces of tofu has as much calcium as a glass of milk. Ounce for ounce, broccoli has as much calcium as milk.
We also recommend that parents cut down on their child’s meat intake. Our need for protein is grossly exaggerated by the Cattlemen’s Association and Dairy Council. At no other time in our lives are we growing as fast as we grow in our first year. And human breast milk is only 5% protein.
How a mother feeds her baby from birth to age six months has a strong influence on its future health. Infants are born with a powerful instinct that governs their nursing habits. They nurse until they are no longer hungry, then they stop. They let you know in no uncertain terms when its time to eat. If a child is breast fed, he or she can go their entire first year taking only breast milk as nourishment. Breast milk has everything he/she needs, including water.
A baby’s first teeth appearing is a sign that the child is physically and emotionally ready for solid foods. Introducing solids too early is bad for two reasons: One, solids crowd out the breast milk, which is the perfect food. Two, babies immature digestive systems can’t handle the solids and can open the child up to a lifetime of allergies. Pediatricians suggest that a mother wait at least 6 months before introducing solids. Steamed vegetables such as carrots, summer squash, peas, asparagus and broccoli, put through a food mill is a good start. Raw vegetables will not be well digested. Avoid commercial baby foods high in starch and sugar. Whole grain cereals can be added after the ninth month. From then on, a diet of legumes, grains, vegetables and fruits will supply a child or grown-up with everything their body needs.
Another common source of confusion is the eating schedule a child should be on. From one to three years, let their instincts dictate – feed on demand. Keep healthy, whole foods around, and let kids eat when they want. Forcing children to eat when they’re not hungry, or depriving them of food when they are, can set up an unhealthy attitude around food and lead to problems. Once a child is four to five years, they will probably be able to have regular meals with the family plus snacks. Don’t be alarmed if the child has no appetite at a particular meal. He will eat when he needs to.
Most kids seem to like to snack their way through the day as opposed to sitting down to three meals. Animals in the wild graze through the day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are artificial and arbitrary notions designed for convenience and don’t necessarily reflect the way humans are supposed to eat. Rather than forcing our kids to adjust to our eating schedule, we would do better to observe what they do naturally and learn a few lessons. Try these healthy snacks: Vegetable sticks, fruit, almond butter and crackers, popcorn… and these healthy desserts: Baked apple, fruit smoothy, fruit juice popsicle, home-made cookies (whole grains, sweetened with honey or molasses), dried fruits (apricots, raisins, apples, bananas, pineapple), or halvah (sesame seeds and honey).
Once a parent decides to change a child’s diet for the better, they are often met with resistance. You want to appeal to the child’s priorities, not yours. You can talk to three and four-year olds about how eating the right foods will help them grow big and strong. With older children, talk about all their activities and how they’ll play better eating good food as opposed to french fries and milk shakes. Teenagers care about their looks. High fat, high sugar and fast foods cause acne, weight gain and oily skin and hair. Keep in mind that poor diets can lead to frequent illness, obesity, skin problems, poor mental function, all of which affect a child’s self-esteem.
Constipation left unchecked can lead to appendicitis, diverticulosis, hemorrhoids and internal toxicity.