The Food Pyramid is a blueprint for which food to consume for a healthier lifestyle. However, in real life and when it comes to kids, it’s not always so easy to pick the best option and get all the necessary nutrients. Plus, kids have specific needs since their nervous system is still developing. Here are 5 tips to improve kids’ food and nutrition.
1. Try the Harvard healthy eating plate instead of the food pyramid
Think of the food pyramid as your shopping list. It shows the kinds of food a healthy diet should include. However, it might not be very easy to decide how much of each to eat in a single sitting. That’s why, nutrition experts at Harvard School of Public Health have developed the Harvard Eating Plate as a supplement.
The Harvard Plate makes it easier to see the proportion of what should be on a healthy plate. It provides a visual guidance to ensure that you get it right. With a single look, you can check whether your plate contains the right combination and ratio of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy proteins, and oils. It also makes sure that you drink enough water.
The portion will differ for adults and children but the proportion is the same. That means, you can use this guide for your kids, as well as yourself and other adults in the household.
The breakdown is like this: at least half of your plate should consist of fruits and vegetables. The more varied these are in type and colour, the better. Veggies and fruits will be the main source of vitamins and minerals in your diet. The quarter of the remaining half of your plate should be made up of proteins. The best and cleanest source of proteins is always fish, eggs, poultry, legumes, and dried fruit. Try to avoid processed meat like sausages and cold meat. The rest of the plate should consist of carbohydrates, which will give you and your kids long-lasting energy. Potatoes, whole grain cereals such as rice or quinoa, or their by-products are good sources of carbohydrates.
2. Choose the cleanest protein
Did you know that it’s harder for our body to process certain proteins? So much so for children, whose body functions might be more susceptible to being overworked. Therefore, to avoid distressing your children’s organs of elimination (kidneys and liver), you should choose the cleanest proteins available.
Keeping this in mind, you may want to consider serving one of the day's meals with protein from vegetables and the other, from animals. The cleanest animal proteins come from fish and eggs and it’s always a better idea to serve them with vegetables. This will complete your and your child’s protein intake and help your bodies to eliminate waste with more ease.
3. Don’t forget to include healthy fats in every meal
Fats are essential for a child to grow up healthy, but they should be carefully selected. The best fats come from extra virgin olive oil, dried fruits, seeds, egg yolks and avocado. Virgin olive oil is also the best choice for cooking healthy. Other kinds of fat, like saturated fats, trans fats, and refined vegetable oil, and butter are not as innocent and should be avoided.
4. Superfoods with calcium
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when we say calcium? If it’s dairy products, you’re right. But also, wrong, too. It is true that dairy products are rich in calcium but they are not the only source. This should come as good news for parents of kids who have dairy allergies or other health issues that require them to stick to a certain diet that excludes dairy products.
Thankfully, nature offers plenty of other nutritious food that are also calcium-rich. For instance, a glass of milk can easily be replaced by a serving of broccoli, a spoonful of sesame seeds, two handfuls of almonds or two or three small sardines. And to help calcium lodge in our bones, there's nothing better than spending a little time in the sun every day.
5. Whole is always better
Cereals are still the main source of nutrition in many countries. The key here is to always go for whole grains instead of refined ones. Cereals are found in whole grain form in nature. Whole grain rice, bread, and pasta are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, oils, and protein.
Refined grains are processed and this means the loss of many nutritious elements. The remaining product is rich in carbohydrates but not much more. Refined or "white" grains provide us with only "empty" energy – low on nutrients and they are therefore much less desirable.