Food today isn’t as straightforward as it was many years ago. In the past, we ate purely what we grew and followed the seasons. Now our choices are seemingly endless. Our supermarket aisles are filled with packaged foods that are convenient, long-lasting and with lists of ingredients that would have the best of us scratching our heads. With most of us leading busy lives, especially those of us raising children, these foods too easily creep into our cupboards and can begin making up the majority of our child’s diet. But do these foods nourish a growing body? Have we become so busy and removed that we forget to stop and ask the question, “Are these real foods?”
The term ‘empty calories’ refers to foods that provide energy yet lack nutrients. Think of nutrients as fuel for your car; you wouldn’t put low octane fuel into an Aston Martin and still expect to get optimum performance.
Nutrients are substances found in food that provide the necessary means for the body to develop and survive. They act like the lock and key, allowing essential pathways to function optimally. It’s not just important for us to feed our kids a wholesome, balanced diet but fundamental in the support of healthy growing brains and bodies.
Let’s think about breakfast, for instance, the meal that gets the cogs turning and pathways connecting first thing in the morning. A piece of vegemite white bread toast appears to satiate your child, but lacks adequate nutrition to sustain energy for a day of learning.
‘Nutrient dense’ refers to foods that are high in nutrients, which in turn nourish the body. These are predominantly wholefoods, which are closest to their natural state, such as wholegrains, fruits and vegetables. A balanced meal contains all three macro-nutrients: quality carbohydrates, protein and good fats. Take that piece of toast and replace it with quality wholegrain bread and add a boiled egg. Voila!
Depriving our children of their daily nutritional requirements of macro and micro-nutrients can, in the short term, result in mood changes and impact energy levels. In the long term, it can contribute to a lack of emotional and physical growth and development, as well as disease.
Every meal is an opportunity to nourish our bodies and shouldn’t be missed. Don’t be fooled by the marketing masquerade and take control of your family’s health. Start to look at each meal and ask yourself, “Is this real food? Is this a balanced meal? Will this support my child’s development?” Take small steps to alter your food choices and meal preparation because the changes you make now will positively impact your children’s health for their rest of their lives.
Michele Chevally Hedge is a Nutritional Medicine Practitioner and dynamic health advocate who enjoys writing and presenting from an evidence-based medicine perspective. Her website is www.ahealthyview.com. She will be presenting a session at the Wellness@Work conference. Register for the conference here. This event is part of the Wellness Show co-located with the Digital Health Showand Happiness & Its Causes 2016.