My wife and I have always put top propriety on our children’s health and vitality. There are many aspects to the development of healthy children-mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical. In this article, I am going to address the critical dietary requirements for children.
Do not feed your kids what the schools promote
Let’s face it; the foods that schools provide and promote are generally a joke. The processed and fried foods in many schools and American homes cause many children and teenagers to suffer from mood swings, blood sugar lows and highs, and lousy energy levels. After all, the cells of the body do not work by magic. A child’s developing body needs adequate fuel and nutrients for proper growth, development, and vitality.
Think of yourself as your child’s “food coach.” A coach guides another person in a specific area to improve his or her knowledge and skills. A good coach also provides support and helps to motivate one to make the best choices. This is a great approach to take with your children. Being parents ourselves, we know that a firm but caring and passionate system works best when it comes to implementing healthy meals and snacks for your child. The following are fundamental principles in becoming an effective “food coach” for your children:
Learn as much as you can about nutrition. This book and many others are loaded with sound, practical advice on optimal nutrition for children.
Influence your children positively by being a role model for how to eat nutritiously. Kids learn more by watching than from listening to us “preach” to them. Follow the same recommendations for yourself as you instruct your children. You will find this is a powerful way to develop healthy eating habits in your children.
Start young. It is easiest to shape a child’s eating preferences in the first three years of life. If you are starting at a later age with your child, don’t worry. Gradual implementations of the recommendations in this book are very workable.
Be enthusiastic about eating healthy. Enthusiasm begins with the belief that you really can make a difference in the quality of your child’s health and vitality. The more enthusiasm you display, the more positive your kids will respond to the meal plans.
Be patient. In a society where junk food is the “norm,” it takes time to adapt to a healthy diet.
Take action. You can immediately affect the way your child feels, behaves, and learns by what goes in their mouth. Also, you can play a major role in preventing diet-related illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, fatigue, anemia, and most other chronic illnesses.
Avoiding the SAD Diet
By examining the Standard American Diet (SAD), one can get a clearer picture of what should not be fed to kids on a regular basis. From here, we can then go on to what is best for kids to eat. The standard child’s diet is high in refined carbohydrates-basically sugar, saturated fat, and animal protein. Many of the foods are loaded with artificial sweeteners, dyes, and preservatives. Meals are commonly the fast-food variety, frozen foods, or are skipped altogether. It is deficient in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and fish. Most children do not drink enough water on a daily basis and drink soda pop or sweetened fruit juice instead. Pesticides, herbicides, and other toxic chemicals are present in the food supply (including leading brand baby food). The short and long-term effects of the pollutants are unknown, although we know a child’s maturing immune and nervous system is more susceptible to these chemicals.
Vital Study: A study of preschool children found that the foods most commonly eaten were fruit drink, carbonated beverages, 2% milk, and french fries. Vegetables dominated children’s least favorite foods lists.
The Four Basic Nutrients
A carbohydrate is a term that refers to a compound that contains carbon and water molecules. Actually, individual sugar molecules joined together to make up carbohydrates. The simplest of sugar molecules are glucose, fructose (fruit sugar), and galactose (a milk sugar). These are known as monosaccharides as they contain one sugar molecule. Within the category of carbohydrates, we have simple and complex carbohydrates.
Simple carbohydrates are composed of one or monosaccharides. They are the sweetest tasting of the carbohydrates. These include:
sucrose (composed of one molecule of glucose and one fructose)
lactose (composed of glucose and galactose)
As you read about in the description of the Standard American Diet, most children consume far too many simple carbohydrates. Although the body ultimately breaks carbohydrates down to glucose (the simplest of sugars), most simple carbohydrates such as candy, potato chips, soda pop, and refined flours (white bread) have little to no vitamins, minerals, or phytonutrients. They are often referred to as empty calories. When consumed in excess, especially on an empty stomach, they lead to immune system suppression, mood swings, attention problems, and weight gain (fat deposition). Many of these effects are in large part due to the spikes in blood sugar. As a result, the hormone insulin is released to aid in the transportation of blood sugar into the cells. As a by-product of this effect, the pancreas (which produces insulin) is overtaxed, immune cells are weakened, and the body stores fat. Too high of a percentage of simple carbohydrates predispose children to obesity, diabetes, cavities, and heart disease. The question then comes up about fruits, since most are simple carbohydrates. Fruits are good to eat when consumed in moderation and when the rest of the basic nutrients are eaten in balance. For children with tendencies to blood sugar problems or easy weight gain, the amount may be more limited or consumed with meals to avoid blood sugar spikes.
Approximately 50 to 60% of your child’s diet should be carbohydrates. The focus of the carbohydrates should be complex carbohydrates. They provide a longer-lasting energy source, provide a longer sense of feeling full, maintain blood sugar balance, and contain more vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Examples of complex carbohydrates include whole grains (such as whole-wheat pasta, bread, and cereals, oatmeal), beans, brown rice, peas, and most root vegetables.
Consuming carbohydrates with protein sources, fiber, and fat (good fats) helps to smooth out the effect on blood sugar levels. This is another reason why a “balance” of all the nutrients if so important.
Vital Study: One study found a 50% reduction in white blood cell activity (good immune cells) for two hours after ingesting a sugar solution. This negative effect can last for five hours or more. 
Protein is found in plant and animal foods. The body uses protein as a fuel source. It also repairs tissues, organs, and muscles. It comprises enzymes and hormones and is found in every cell in the body. Amino acids are the individual building blocks of protein. There are approximately 20 different amino acids. Ten of the amino acids are known as “essential amino acids”, which means our body cannot manufacture them, so it is essential we consume them from our diet. The remaining ten non-essential amino acids can be manufactured in the body
Approximately 15 to 20% of your child’s diet should consist of protein.
Most people fear fat as they associate it with obesity. However, for a child to be healthy, fat is required in the diet. The key is to get in the right kind of fats and to reduce or avoid harmful fats such as trans fatty acids. Children need fat in their diet to produce energy for healthy brain development and function, normal growth and development, absorb fat-soluble vitamins, healthy skin, nails, and hair, healthy immune system, and many other vital functions. There are fats in plant and animal products. Since fats are so misunderstood, I have an expanded section as follows.
Essential Fatty Acids
Children must have a proper balance of essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are fats that the body cannot manufacture. So vital to life, humans could not live without these essential fats. Two types of fatty acids are considered essential. They are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) of the omega 3 family and linoleic acid (LA) from the omega 6 family.
Essential fatty acids are part of the cell membrane. They are needed for cells to carry out their normal functions. A sample of the roles essential fatty acids are involved with:
*brain and retina development
*regulate pain and inflammation
*skin, nail and hair health
Physical signs of essential fatty acid deficiency or imbalance
Dry skin, cracked skin
Soft nails, nails that break easily
Dry, listless hair
Poor wound healing
“Chicken skin” on back of arms
The importance of fatty acid balance
Think of a scale with the omega 3 fatty acids on one side and the omega 6 fatty acids on the other. To maintain a balance, there must be a proper ration between the tow fats.
The problem with most children in our modern society is that this scale is tipped in favor of the omega 6 fatty acids. This imbalance can lead to a whole host of problems, including behavioral changes, decreased immunity, cardiovascular problems, joint problems, skin problems, and a variety of other medical conditions. In her book The Omega Plan, Dr. Artemis Simopoulos states that the “western diet contains approximately fourteen to twenty times more omega 6 fatty acids than omega 3’s”.
One of the keys to a healthy diet is to make sure your child is getting enough fiber on a daily basis. Plant foods are the only source of fiber. There are two sources of fiber. Soluble fiber means the fiber dissolves in water. An example would be oat bran or dried beans and peas. This type of fiber helps to slow the absorption of glucose from the intestines into the bloodstream and thus improves blood sugar balance. It also helps to lower cholesterol. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and helps to bind water and bulk up the stool to allow for efficient bowel movements. It also helps to bind excess fats and toxins in the digestive tract to be excreted out with the stool. Populations that consume a lot of fiber have less risk of colon and other cancers. Fiber also gives your child a sense of fullness without empty calories. To calculate how much fiber your child needs, use the following formula: age of the child in years + 5. So a 3-year-old would require 8 grams of fiber a day. Most foods contain a mixture of soluble and insoluble fiber.
Constipation, straining to have a bowel movement, abdominal pain, or hard stools can all be signs that your child is not getting enough fiber. Children with a sensitive digestive system (bloating, gas, cramps, etc.) often do better with the steaming or cooking of fibrous vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower. By including 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day, you can attain enough fiber for your child. Essentially, try to get in a good source(s) or fiber with every meal.
Adequate water intake is very important for both children. The majority of our body is water, making it a critical substance for all the cells, organs, and tissues of the body to work properly. This includes the brain. Mild dehydration can interfere with concentration and cause headaches. Most children do not consume enough water on a daily basis. Infants should consume 1.5 ounces of water per pound of body weight daily. Infants that are breastfed do not need to drink water as they get plenty in the breastmilk. Children should consume an average of 40 ounces a day. Warm climate, exercise, soft drinks, and high sodium foods lead to the loss of water in children. A child needs more water to help recover when he/she is sick.
Note: Do not rely on a child to tell you when he/she is thirsty. By the time a child feels the need for fluids, they are already somewhat dehydrated. Regular purified water intake throughout the day is encouraged.
Foods are one of the few substances that get into a child’s body that we can control. It’s hard to control the air your child breathes unless you move to a different area. But we can control the safety of our children’s food to a certain extent, and it starts by going organic.
Organic foods refer to foods that have not been sprayed with synthetic chemicals and have been grown in safe soil. Look for foods that are labeled “certified organically grown.”
Vital Study: one study compared the amounts of healthy and toxic minerals in organic and conventionally grown foods. The following are the results that highly favor organically grown foods:
Boron-70% higher organic
Cobalt-same n both groups
Rubidium-28% higher in conventionally grown
Aluminum-40% higher conventionally grown
Cadmium-5% higher organically grown
Lead-29% – higher conventionally grown
Mercury-25%higher conventionally grown
Please work with your children to improve their diets. Improvements in their health can often be noticed in a matter of days or weeks!
 Skinner JD, Carruth BR, Houck KS, Bounds W, Morris M, Cox DR, Moran J 3rd, Coletta F. Longitudinal study of nutrient and food intakes of white preschool children aged 24 to 60 months. J Am Diet Assoc 1999 Dec;99(12):1514-21.
 Ringsdorf W, Cheraksin E, and Ramsay R. Sucrose, neutrophilic phagocytosis, and resistance to disease. Dent Surv 52, 1976, pp. 46-48) (Bernstein J, Alpert S, Nauss K, and Suskind R. Depression of lymphocyte transformation following glucose ingestion. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 30, pp.613, 1977.
 Simopoulos, A. The Omega Plan. P.5. New York, NY. Harper Collins, 1998.
 Smith B. Organic foods versus supermarket foods. Element levels. J Appl Nutr 45:35-39, 1993.