Childhood Nutrition – Taking a Closer Look at the Mixed Messages We Send Our Kids
Children’s nutrition is a loaded subject. At no other time in our lives is building a solid foundation for health more important. Yet, at no other time in our lives are we so completely at the mercy of others making decisions for us.
That means it’s up to the grown-ups in a child’s life to understand the importance of healthy food (and beverage) choices in order to introduce healthy habits to their children.
Easier said than done! It seems as though, in the case of children’s nutrition specifically, the simplicity of healthy choices becomes muddled with strange connotations of what a “happy childhood” should be and what our oftentimes skewed views of food are as adults.
Our society is familiar with the concept of an early window of opportunity to teach children things like foreign languages or a skill, like playing a musical instrument. We’ve heard that children are at peak developmental stages very early in life, and therefore we should maximize their opportunities by teaching them these advanced concepts at early ages.
Whether you agree or not, have applied it with your children or not, it’s a socially acceptable concept that seems to make sense to most people. It’s peculiar that, as a society, we don’t yet understand that the very same principles apply to the health of a child.
The early developmental years are a critical time for creating a solid foundation for nutritional health, as well as movement and mindset. What we feed our children (or what we passively allow them to eat or others to feed them), and what we teach our children about nutrition NOW will impact their health for the rest of their lives.
Our family is certainly not perfect in any way, including our nutritional choices. But, we stick to a few basic principles overall in an ongoing, concerted effort to make the healthiest choices possible. We apply the simple Wellness Formula to all of our lifestyle choices, including the nutritional ones.
The Wellness Formula describes how health is created and how sickness is allowed to develop. In order to create optimal health and function, we must make pure and sufficient choices. As described by Wellness expert, Dr. James Chestnut, these are things that meet our body’s innate genetic requirements for health. The two types of choices that move us unequivocally away from health are toxic and deficient ones. Toxic choices are things that work against our body’s efforts to create health – they are not requirements for health.
In applying this to children’s nutrition, we simply talk about what food choices the body truly needs in order to build a strong, healthy body and a brilliant mind, as opposed to which choices are interfering with our body’s efforts and are leading to a loss of health. Kids get this. There are building blocks for health, and then there are things that come by and destroy what you’ve been building. You get to choose.
Another concept that works around here is, “fill up with health first”. It’s not about saying you can “never” have that cookie or that birthday cake or that less-than-healthy food choice. It’s about making sure you’ve given your body what it needs first – the raw materials for building health. If you know you’re going to be eating something more toxic later in the day, then make sure you fuel up with lots of healthy choices first, that’s all.
It’s also about teaching responsibility and accountability to kids when it comes to their health. There are limitations to matter! They can’t fill up with health first, then choose toxic garbage every single day. That’s too much for our physiology to overcome. A toxin is a toxin, no matter how much broccoli preceded it!
As grown-ups, we sure do pass on some odd beliefs and customs to our younger generation regarding food. One example is how we talk about food. When a food choice obviously doesn’t create any health, and in fact moves us away from health, should we really be calling it a “treat”? Isn’t that completely mixed messaging we’re sending our children (and ourselves)? It’s not a treat if it’s contributing to chronic illness!
Let’s call it like it is. How about a “tasty toxin”! (Thanks to Dr. Chestnut for that little gem!) Sure, it tastes great… and you should go ahead and enjoy it in that moment once you’ve made the choice. But let’s be perfectly clear – it’s not good for you and making that choice with any regularity has devastating consequences over time.
That’s the crux right there. If we truly understood the consequences of the choices we’re making on behalf of our children, we’d choose differently. If we clearly understood the consequences of that toxic choice, maybe we’d pass on it. If we clearly …