Alyssa Bauman, Guest Contributor

Nourished Kids.

Image: Alyssa Baumann

Image: Alyssa Baumann

We are almost a month in. Back to whatever that may be for you—Back to school, work, back to the running around, the activities and more of a routine that hopefully becomes sacred ritual.

I love this time of year for just that. I find with the lazier, freer days of summer just behind us, this is the best time of year to set the tone making healthier living an intention.

Studies have shown that mentally and physically, we are ready for it.

Starting the school year off by giving your kids the nourishment they need, not only helps them flourish in school and play, it helps them emotionally thrive and keep stress at bay.

Check out my top tips that will pave the way towards better health for your whole family.

(Don’t stress about it either. If you are new at this, and we all were at one time, take it one step at a time and slowly add another until they just become habit.)

Sit as a family at least once a day and eat a meal.

This is a biggie. And probably the most important. So make it the first on your priority list. The whole family—kids included— will feel more connected to each other and their food, eat better and feel overall healthier.

Studies show that kids who eat with their families feel safer, are better prepared emotionally and physically for school and are also less likely to get depressed, anxious, develop eating disorders or use drugs.

Depending on the age, it might be hard at first, but trust me, after a couple weeks, your children will look forward to meal time, all together.

Avoid Fast Food all together. 

Nutrient void thos food does more harm then good. Did you know that a fast food chicken nugget could have over 30 ingredients in it, some of these not even food substances? We live in a world surrounded by food. So seek out the healthier alternatives for your kids, even if that sacrifices a couple extra minutes.

If there is a McDonalds close by, there is a gas station, where most the times you can find fresh fruit and a high fiber cereal. Think outside the typical dinner ideas.

Eat as close to the whole food as possible.

What does this mean? Choose an apple rather than an apple flavored jam bar; a baked potato rather than French fries. With a little effort, this will become second nature.

Stash nuts, seeds, popcorn and whole fruit in the car for emergencies.

Choose only whole grains. 

A grain is considered whole when all three parts–bran, germ and endosperm–are present.

Whole grain-based foods are rich in complex carbohydrates and are one of the body’s key energy source.

As the body’s key fuel, they provide brain, heart and nervous system with a even and constant supply of energy. Great grains: oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, rye, kamut and bulgur.

Eat breakfast.

One that is high in protein and complex carbohydrates. Research shows that children’s brain function improves up to 80% when they consume protein first thing in the morning. They will have energy to function properly and won’t become tired and moody.

Breakfast eaters are more likely to focus, participate more in class discussions and have higher concentration than breakfast skippers who are more likely to be inattentive and lethargic. Makes total sense.

 Limit sugars and packaged foods. 

Most processed convenient foods are loaded with sugars, preservatives and dyes and made up of bleached and refined white flour, stripping all the good stuff out of the grain. Leaving it nutrient void and calorie and sugar dense. If you don’t stock these in your house, the kids won’t eat them. I SWEAR BY THIS.

So biggest advice I can give—Instead of buying the processed boxed bars, spend that same money on produce. If you have it—they will eat it. That goes for whole food, like an apple, or a packaged bar. Only give them the healthy options. After awhile they will forget about the snacks.

Treats will be just that, and what they should be—occasional treats.

Avoid high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners.

Aside from the fact that there is absolutely nothing nourishing in them, artificial sweeteners are a carcinogenic and children don’t have a developed system to process them. Read the labels and avoid them at all costs.

Eat the colours of the rainbow.

This has to be one of my all time favourites because it makes eating healthy fun for kids. Once it is fun, it takes all the stress off you or whomever the central caregiver is. Again this means whole foods, not Lucky Charms.

Eat the brilliant greens of leafy greens and broccoli; reds in tomatoes, peppers and berries; yellows of root veggies and bananas; and blue-hued berries. These colors reflect the different antioxidants and phytonutrients that are bodies need to run optimally and also protect against chronic diseases. The more varied of a rainbow on the plate, the more fun. Plain and simple.

Encourage grazing.

Children simply run out of fuel. Children’s behavior often deteriorates in the late morning and late afternoon, an hour or two after a meal. When blood-sugar levels go down, stress hormones kick in to raise it up again, causing behavioral problems and diminished concentration. To smooth out the blood sugar mood swings, have nutritious foods to snack on throughout the day.

For small children, take an ice cube tray, fill it with different small finger foods—cubed cheese, halved grapes,apple slices, carrot wheels, diced peppers, whole grain cereals, berries, avocado boats, green leafs, dip, etc. Then have this on the counter or table so kids can graze on only healthy foods. Remember snacks make up 50% of children’s calories, so serving healthy snack is just as important as serving healthy meals.

Editors Footnote: In #mybackyard we love Alyssa Bauman’s food.  It’s not hard to “eat clean” — for more amazingly simple and doable healthy eating advice and free recipes go to xo Jody

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