It’s hard enough to get little ones to finish food we make for them, right? And as a growing person, we want them to eat the most nutritious foods they can get their hands on. So it’s doubly difficult to consider how their diet is affecting their chronic condition.
Let’s keep it simple then! Many chronic conditions are related to inflammation in the body. Focusing on key strategies to help our kids eat healthily will promote a reduction in inflammation. The goal is to keep our bodies balanced.
Our Favorites: Snacks!
Fresh fruits and veggies rich in antioxidants can help reduce inflammation. For a great morning (or anytime!) snack try a mixed bowl of blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries!
So your kids aren’t big on fruit? Try fresh veggies with a bit of low-fat sour cream dip (can’t have dairy? Try a plain soy yogurt as a substitute). Check out my own personal sour cream dip recipe we love. We love carrots and celery. Adding in things like broccoli, red peppers, or some cherry tomatoes are great too.
So you still struggle with getting the kids to eat both fruits and veggies? What’s up next then? How about some foods rich in omega 3. Nuts and flaxseed are great for that! Not sure about those things? Flaxseed meal or oil is easily added to a morning breakfast of oatmeal or cereal.
Our Favorites: Breakfast
Have you tried yogurt lately? Add a sprinkle of granola (low fat – and I will tell you why low fat in a few minutes), and some fresh blackberries on top! Delicious! My son is always excited for this breakfast. If your little one just loves their cereal try this for the morning snack . You can always top that cereal with a handful of blueberries or blackberries. Still no dairy? Try a soy yogurt.
Tip: Kids still not convinced to try these foods? Start eating it yourself. They will want it the next go around (or during your meal.) Works like a charm here.
Our Favorites: Lunch
We are in love with a “mixed plate” for lunch. It’s my son’s absolute favorite lunch meal! Our mixed plate consists of a fruit, some dairy, a carb and a bit of meat. He chooses what he would like for the day. An apple, a banana, blackberries or strawberries are his usual favorites for fruit. Raspberries are right up there and still rich in antioxidants. Oranges and grapes are also rich in antioxidants.
Next up around that plate is cheese “chunks” and pepperoni. We use full-fat cheese. Although we limit our fat, some fat is essential for growth and development. Low-fat cheeses have a larger taste difference as well. Because cheese is dairy it is an excellent source of calcium. Calcium is essential for growth and bone. If your child (or you) can’t have the dairy you can always substitute. Substitutes for cheese include combinations of oils and nuts, and I have even seen zucchini used to make cheese. Check out this neat paleo page that has many different ideas to nut free, dairy free and more!
The pepperoni is higher in fat as well. But again – some fat is needed for growing kids. Pepperoni also contains zinc and manganese which are nutrients our kids need. These minerals help protect cells and bones.
Parker also chooses a starch for the day. You may choose to make some type of potato (or our favorite is left-over potatoes rewarmed!) or a pasta. Carbohydrates are essential to energy and growth for your child. You can choose to make your own home-made pasta, or purchase a gluten-free version from the store. We love Aldi brand pasta including their livingGfree brand. (Although our son isn’t gluten sensitive, my husband is).
If a mixed plate isn’t your preference try a salad. Parker loves a nice salad. The leafy greens are packed with calcium and vitamin D. He loves homemade Italian dressing along with olives (black and green). If he hasn’t had a mixed plate we add a couple pepperoni and a couple cheese chunks.
Our Favorites: Dinner
One of our absolute favorite meals is a recipe I found from another blog I love – Live Simply. This kale, beef and potato casserole is delicious. The kale provides antioxidants and is rich in vitamin D. It contains carbohydrates from the potatoes and some dairy. You could substitute the sour cream and cheese in the dish as well. Although I do not use the whole milk and whole fat dairy products (I substitute lower fat products), it still tastes delicious. The best part about this recipe is the kale. It is another antioxidant, calcium-rich ingredient.
Is this meal too much for your kids? Try fish. Omega 3-rich fish like salmon is an option. Provide some fresh broccoli, or even green beans as a side. Add a bit of rice to round it out in carbs.
We are water household. When we go out for a meal Parker will order a juice or sometimes a ginger ale. But folks, water is the way to go. We are always staying hydrated to keep our cells functioning at their peak.
Your body is comprised of over 80% water. We need water for our body to work correctly. If your child is medicated, water is even more essential. Most medications need water to break down and also be distributed through the body. Sometimes the feeling of medication side effects comes from not enough water in the body.
Why do we avoid juice? We avoid juice because even natural juice contains sugar. And although some sugar is just fine, too much sugar can cause issues in chronic disease. Which leads us to…
What to Avoid To Minimize Effects on Chronic Disease
Avoid foods that aggravate inflammation. Consuming excess processed sugars cause your body to trigger an inflammatory response. When reading a label look for ingredients ending in “ose.” That is the sugar in the product.
So what’s my deal with fat? We all need fat in our body to promote cell function. However, with chronic disease full fat (including those with higher cholesterol) can aggravate inflammatory responses. Many people with chronic inflammatory diseases are also at a higher risk for heart disease later in life. Let’s start our kids out with a lower risk by offering some low-fat or nonfat foods. The percentage of saturated fats are labeled on all foods.
A note here about soy – soy is rich in omega 6. Omega 6 can actually (if consumed too much) aggravate inflammatory conditions. Nut, rice or coconut based products are alternatives to soy if you are finding you are consuming soy at every meal.
How to Make A Healthy Change
There’s no need to throw out everything in your pantry if this article was a shocker. We can ease into change.
Start with your refrigerator.
Get some fresh fruits, veggies and dairy (or substitutes) to make a change. Try yogurt, granola and berries for breakfast!
Move to your pantry.
What’s in there? Are there chips? Boxes of cereal? Cookies or more? You could throw them out, or look at them as an occasional treat versus a daily habit. The only items you need in your pantry are baking ingredients, spices, maybe some granola bars, and canned items that are safer to eat (like beans) from a can. Some other staples include salad dressing ingredients, oils, and vinegar.
Plan your meals
If you have a meal plan it will not only help with your grocery budget (slim that down too!), but it will help you stick to a healthy food plan. You will have the items you know you will be eating right in front of you. Then you don’t need to rely on that bag of chips laying in your pantry.
Just because your family is eating healthy foods doesn’t mean dinner has to be difficult to prepare. There are tons of fresh food meal plans that can be prepared in 30 minutes. You can also create your own. I gathered 60-100 recipes. I keep them in a binder and use those as a base to cook from. I make a calendar for a month and I pull those recipes from the folder.
Tip: Look for recipes with the ingredients fitting the criteria we have established as anti-inflammatory.
This is a great starting point! I hope you are feeling motivated to get started and try something new for the little ones.