The Kingsbridge Guest Blog Hub with Treenatritious
During these uncertain times, it can be easy to get caught up in all the ongoing media stories or overwhelmed when scrolling through our newsfeeds.
However, with schools closed and many people working from home, this can actually be a good time to focus on ourselves and our family and to introduce a new daily routine into our homes.
Recently, we spoke to Guest Blogger Treenatritious, a Health Coach from Templepatrick around what good health is to her. She also gave us some advice on how we can introduce a more colourful variety of foods into our children’s diets, why we should encourage a healthier diet for them and how we can get them involved.
What is good health to you?
Good health is much more than just the absence of illness, injury or disease. It involves bringing balance to the whole self - bringing yourself back to wholeness. This includes great nutrition, regular movement and deep and restorative sleep, but it also includes mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Bringing balance to all of these areas helps us to feel truly alive with deep fulfilment and excitement for what is yet to come. Food is where I started my journey and definitely where a lot of my clients choose to start.
Why would you encourage healthier food choices for children?
Due to the nature of the rapid growth of children in their early years, they need a lot of calories to support this. If they are provided with empty calories - that is, foods high in calories, but devoid of actual nutrition - they will be receiving high volumes of energy (sugar) with little to no real nutrition.
Why is this important? Because the food we eat (Protein, carbohydrates and fat) provide the building blocks necessary to support a growing body. They contain vital information that is essential to the healthy growth of our cells. Children’s organs, bones, tissue, muscles, blood, brain, cells... are still forming and growing, and so it is vital that they receive optimum nutrition for healthy formation and growth. As we get older, we naturally gravitate back to the foods we ate as children, especially when we feel emotional or are seeking comfort. Therefore, if we can instill a healthy diet in childhood, we will be supporting our children’s future by giving them a nutritionally beneficial blueprint to live by.
How does healthy food benefit children?
Children’s bodies are constantly growing and evolving and need the correct ‘fuel’ in order to do so. When we can make optimal food choices, this supports their energy, their immune system and aids sleep, helping them to concentrate better, avoid getting frequently sick and improve their ability to handle their emotions.
By eating a variety of coloured fruits and vegetables, we help to feed and grow the good bacteria in our gut which helps us to digest our food properly, supplying nutrients to the rest of our body. This also regulates our mood as 90% of our serotonin is created in our gut! Bringing balance to our gut microbes helps to diminish sugar cravings and balance our energy levels (as opposed to the ‘normal’ craze & crash associated with a sugar rush). With childhood Obesity and Diabetes on the rise, it is imperative that we act to prevent this by providing an optimally nutritious diet, rich in colourful fruit and vegetables in order to combat future illness and disease. By creating a strong foundation now, we will be providing our children with the best possible start in life.
With schools currently closed, how would you suggest getting children excited about healthier alternatives and how can we get them involved?
Getting into the kitchen with your kids is probably the easiest and most effective way of getting them involved. A lot of us now have more time available and so can afford the extra time needed when cooking with kids. (Having patience and a relaxed attitude to mess will also help a lot!) If kids are empowered to make choices and have an input in the kitchen, they are much more likely to eat the food being made as it wasn’t just forced upon them. This is also great learning and counts as home schooling as you are teaching them valuable life lessons and can incorporate mathematical skills into the equation at the same time!
To try to stay healthier, I would encourage them to help in the kitchen at lunch and dinner time, getting to have an input with the daily menu, rather than just baking cakes and treats. This allows children to think about the variety of foods and the style of cooking required for each meal. You could challenge them to create dishes with as many colours of the rainbow as possible? Or to create designs with their fruit and veg on their plates. (Personally, I like fruit in a salad with dinner as it adds a fun and fresh twist!) Or very simply, making a crepe mix together of 1 banana to 2 eggs, can be a fun Sunday Brunch treat. Serve your crepes with warmed berries and coconut cream or natural yoghurt.
Children love colour and variety. They love different tastes, textures and shapes. Therefore, if you can’t get them into the kitchen, I would choose a selection of colourful fruits and vegetables, cutting them up into fun shapes (you could use cookie cutters or even icing cutters for smaller foods) or make fruit or vegetable kebabs with various dips. (One of my clients uses baby food pouches as ‘dips’ for her kids’ dinners to get more vegetables into them!) Invariably, if there are no unhealthy options on the table, children will generally eat whatever is available when they are hungry. (Avoiding countless ‘snacks’ during the day will also help to build a strong appetite for dinner)
As a Health Coach, can you share with us a few top tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, that will benefit both the parents and the children?
For me, the most important thing about helping your children to eat well is to set a good example yourself. We cannot expect a 5yr old to eat their greens if no one else does. Eating together as a family is also very beneficial as a simple way to spend time together and to connect to one another. Giving everyone plenty of time to eat together also aids better digestion and not eating too late allows more restful sleep.
I highly encourage children to be involved in the shopping and selecting process as well as the preparation. This helps the child to be excited about what they will eat, and they are much more likely to eat it if they have helped to prepare it.
My 5yr old son is a living testimony to this as he loves to cook and loves healthy food and has never really eaten sugar and as a result is never ill! Feeding a variety of colour and choice to a child from a young age will strengthen their microbiome which will support a much healthier body and mind throughout their whole life. This is something I am passionate about as I can already see the results with my son.
Children are naturally curious and so if you begin to make small changes to your own diet, they will learn from you and begin to make changes for themselves. Starting small and building up is the easiest way to proceed for the whole family. Children learn to walk before they can run, so apply the same analogy to your diet and the progression will be natural and hopefully a piece of (*healthy!*) cake!