A balanced diet is important for the whole family, especially for your child.
In the earliest years of life, a child’s mind and body grow incredibly fast, which requires proper fuel: nutrients from food!
Every human body needs protein, fiber, dairy, fat, and carbohydrates.
The three macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) are needed for a balanced meal and are required in larger amounts regularly than both fiber and dairy products.
Ready to learn more? We’re here to give you the 101 break down, on the importance of each to your overall nutritional health!
Carbohydrates (carbs) provide fuel and energy for both the body and brain. Carbs can be broken into two types: complex and simple carbohydrates. Simple carbs consist of things like white bread, pasta, fruit, and other sweets which will be digested in the body quickly, resulting in a spike in blood sugar and sudden drop after. On the other hand, complex carbs take longer to break down. Eating simple and complex carbs at the same time is a great option, allowing the body to slow digestion and balance blood sugar overall.
Look for carbohydrates packed with other nutrients such as oats, lentils, or potatoes (starch). Most vegetables and whole grains are also complex carbohydrates, while foods such as honey, fruits, and sugary products are simple carbs.
Protein is another essential building block for the body, repairing tissues for the muscle, skin, and blood. Not only does it heal parts of the body, but protein also helps to balance blood sugar. Getting protein in with our breakfast and throughout the day can help satiate hunger, improve our physical health, and help improve our mood. Great sources of protein include animal products, such as beef, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Do not eat animal products? Do not worry! Vegetarian and dairy-free protein options include nuts/nut butters, soy products, seeds, and beans (legumes).
The third macronutrient to focus on consuming daily are fats! Fats are a reliable source of energy and help to keep us feeling satisfied after a meal. This nutrient can help to protect our organs and fight against diseases. A specific example of a fat to sneak into your diet is omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in fish, flax seeds, and various nuts. Monounsaturated fats (avocados or olive oil), polyunsaturated fats (sesame seeds, peanuts, canola), and saturated fats (butter, coconut, and heavy cream) are great fats to incorporate into your diet!
A good rule to remember is that everything is good for you in moderation. Things such as packaged or fast food are not usually a great option for nutrient dense meals and may contain excessive amounts of sodium or sugar. While this is fine to have occasionally, too much can cause long term issues such as high blood pressure or chronic dehydration. On the other hand, overnutrition can cause issues in the body as well and too much of a nutrient is not healthy either.
Portion size is also another fact to pay attention to. Often restaurants will serve portion sizes that are too much food for an adult, let alone a child. Keep in mind that children have the ability to eat intuitively, and you should not force them to clear their plate.
A quite common issue with children’s nutrition is selective eating, which is believed to be a very natural phase in young children. It can be immensely helpful to find “safe foods”, so that your child has an option that is comfortable for them. Another great option is to find nutrition shakes that they will enjoy and that will put your mind at ease. If these two options do not help support a balanced diet, it might be time to visit a nutritionist who will guide you and your child in the right direction.
Having a healthy mindset towards food is just as important as understanding proper nutrition. Avoiding a type of nutrient is not recommended. For example, avoiding all fats. Our bodies need fats as fuel and other vitamins. Food should not be used as a reward for burning calories or treated as an enemy; food should be celebrated as fuel for living life and doing activities that we love to do!
At The Nest Schools, wellness is one of our core values and a cornerstone of our programs. We focus on providing balanced meals for growing healthy bodies and minds. School meals include delicious, nutrient-focused options such as oatmeal and baked pears or our favorite, the brilliant bento box (ham & cheese/veggie option, Greek yogurt, whole grain crackers, snap peas, and apple slices).
Whether you are a nutrition expert or just getting started on living a healthier lifestyle, it is important to incorporate basic nutrition into your family meals to support growth and to feel your absolute best.
Take your child along the journey and learn with them which foods help us to live to our fullest capacity. Appreciating food in this way can truly encourage a healthier relationship with food, which is an invaluable tool your child will use for the rest of their life.
Looking for a delicious and healthy meal ideas for your family? Try our Broc’N’Roll Chicken Sausage Bowl!
- Long grain, seasoned rice
- Frozen broccoli
- Chicken sausage links
- Mozzarella cheese (vegetarian option)
- Cook Rice according to package instructions
- Cook broccoli according to package instructions
- Bake sausage links in oven based on package instructions. Dice links.
- Combine cooked rice, cooked broccoli, and diced cooked sausage
- FOR VEGETARIAN OPTION: set aside enough rice and broccoli mixture without adding sausage for vegetarian meals. Add shredded mozzarella.