Healthy Eating for Healthy Kids

Children | | September 28, 2011 at 4:00 am

Dr. Heather Manley

Kids are very visual when it comes to eating. This makes feeding them easy if you create a rainbow of food. However, this can be challenging if you’re not the visually creative type. Here are some tips on putting together healthy, nutritious, and colorful meals for kids. The most important aspect of feeding your child is to add as many whole foods as possible and avoid anything overly processed. Unfortunately, processed foods and their fabulous colorful boxes and bags can persuade children to gravitate towards them. Do your best not to have these types of things in the house.

Talk to your kids about whole and processed foods. Ask them where they came from: store, tree, bush, or vine? These questions can lead to very lively talks at the supper table.

Why color?

Colorful foods are packed with many nutrients that allow us to function optimally everyday.

  • Red: Folate, lycopene, and flavonoids. Lycopene has been shown to fight cancer cells. Folate helps to prevent birth defects, depression, and irritability. Certain types of flavonoids (or bioflavonoids) are known for their active and powerful antioxidant activity. Your heart will appreciate red colored foods as they may help to fight heart disease.
  • Green: Lutein is an antioxidant found in the eye, therefore associated with sight. Eating lutein-rich foods will decrease risk of blindness. Green foods are packed full of nutrients and fiber. There are many green fruits and vegetables to choose from: avocados, spinach, broccoli, kale, kiwis, and many more.
  • Yellow/Orange: Vitamin A and beta-carotene. Yellow foods are packed with beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. Vitamin A keeps the respiratory, urinary, and intestinal tracts healthy. This is a great help for the immune system.
  • Purple/Blue: The flavonoids found in purple/blue foods aid in maintaining strong blood vessel walls. Eating blueberries may also help memory.

Next time you’re at the market, think about filling your cart with as much color as possible. This is easier if you keep to the edge of the store. With each meal you prepare, think of ways to color it up, perhaps by adding vibrantly colored peppers to your salad or blueberries to your morning cereal. Have the kids help you with this — they love to be creative and have a great imagination.

Introducing these colorful foods at every meal will set your child up for optimal health now and in their future. It will also allow for fewer sick days, which all parents appreciate!

HeatherDr. Heather Manley received her medical degree from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon in 2001. She is a practicing physician whose primary interest is preventative healthcare for families. She is the author of Human Body Detectives, her children’s educational series of story-telling books, ebooks, and iPhone/iPad apps. She also promotes wellness and naturopathic healthcare on her website drheathernd.com. She lives on the Big Island of Hawaii with her husband and two daughters. She is currently at work on the next Human Body Detectives adventure and is very excited for her upcoming launch of HBDs Go to School elementary curriculum. Follow Dr. Heather on Twitter and Facebook!

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