Youth Health Series: Is your child eating enough?
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I’ve had the opportunity to train many children from various age groups. Many things often go overlooked when working with kids and it’s typically along the lines of nutrition. With obesity being a big problem among young people, we often only consider the junk food that kids eat. Many times we also overlook the young athlete or the child that is not overweight at the moment, thinking they must be ok. The problem is with our communication. We never ask the right questions or dig deeper to find out what’s going on with our children.
The first thing I speak about with my young clients is their nutrition. Nutrition is such an important part of their everyday life, yet we tend to overlook it. What you’ll find with a lot of children (and adults alike) is that they don’t eat enough food during the day. It doesn’t matter whether they’re in shape or overweight, the same thing tends to hold true. The only difference is that the overweight kids are typically inactive. We’ll leave junk food consumption for another article.
The issue facing most of the kids I have spoken with has been time. We are placing such a burden on our children for time these days. Childhood is no longer full of freedoms and care free activity. Our kids are on a schedule that rivals our own daily professional schedule. They’re up at 5am, in class by 7am…going from class to class with barely 5 minutes between; after school meetings, practice, competitions, homework, tutoring, etc. The list goes on and on.
When speaking with one of my teenage clients, she told me that after breakfast at 6am she doesn’t eat again until nearly 12pm. During those 6 hours she’s in class straight through. During this entire time, her body is low on energy as she’s had no snacks or breaks in order to consume them. We are setting our children up to live the life we currently live. We are setting our children up on a path to obesity, poorly managed stress, depression and other lifestyle related health issues.
First things first, we should make sure all of our children leave the house with a solid breakfast. I know it sounds cliché, but breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day. I don’t know how many people I meet who have weight issues and the first thing they say is “I don’t eat breakfast”. A breakfast high in protein and essential fats can not only keep you full and focused, but contributes to increased mental acuity as well. This directly impacts performance in school, work and play.
Don’t make excuses for not eating throughout the day as well. Blood sugar tends to drop over time and can contribute to feelings of being tired, lack of focus, etc. Making sure you top up your energy with healthy snacks is a must. Start the good habits at an early age by providing high fiber, high protein snacks with low sugar. Stay away from packaged goods for your child’s daily snacks and give them things like an apple and peanut butter, yogurt, nuts and fruit.
Make sure your child has a serving of vegetables for lunch. The canteen can be full of lots of high fat, high sugar products. Teach your child to distinguish between what’s good for them and what’s wrong for their afternoon. A lunch full of heavy fat and bread can lead to an afternoon of drowsiness.
Finally, make dinner time family time. Schedule to eat dinner together as much as possible. Keep the meals consistent with fresh vegetables, a source of lean protein an occasional starch (potatoes), and a healthy grain choice like quinoa. Designate a particular night during the week where the entire family has a special outside the box treat.
Your children should be eating 5 to 6, even 7 times per day depending on their metabolism. This doesn’t mean consuming large quantities, but consuming often in small portions will keep them focused and productive in school and during play. I know they told you that your child has ADD, but sometimes their attention span and lack of mental acuity simply boils down to their daily eating habits.
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