When faced with this question we all automatically and emphatically answer “Yes”! We love our children, right, so of course we are all making the right choices to provide them with the healthiest life they can have, aren’t we? But if we think about it carefully, are we really?
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I regularly give my child fast food or takeaway food?
- Do I rarely give my child meals that are fresh and cooked from scratch? So no pre-packaged foods like fish fingers or tinned foods.
- Do I give my child sugary food or drinks most days? This includes ‘fruit straps’, ‘muesli bars’ and poppers.
- Do I give my child dairy desserts (ice cream, etc.), grain desserts (cookies, cake, doughnuts, etc.) or whole milk most days?
- Do I give my child the same food every day for breakfast, lunch or dinner?
- Does my child often see me eating unhealthy foods?
- Does my child eat alone or at a separate time from me?
- Does my child hear me talk about dieting because I want to lose a few kilos?
- Do I give my child antibiotics immediately when they are sick rather than waiting to let their body fight the illness?
- Do I give my child medication when they have a mild temperature?
- Do I drive my child from A to B when we could easily walk instead?
- Did I wean my child early?
- Did I eat high-fat or sugary foods when I was breast-feeding?
- Is my child exposed to environmental contaminants i.e. pesticides on fruit and chemicals in their shampoo and soap and laundry powder?
- Do I feed my child predominantly organic food?
- Have I ever had my child tested for food intolerances?
Of course we don’t intend to make you feel inadequate as a parent; what we are trying to do is to raise your awareness of some of the things that will have an outcome on your child’s long-term health! What you feed your child will not just affect their health in the short-term but also in the years to come. Diets high in processed foods, fat and sugar result in children with lower IQs, and set the scene for obesity, behavioral problems, asthma, eczema, inflammatory conditions, and auto-immune diseases like arthritis plus illness like diabetes and cancer.
You need to be conscious of what you feed your child because the types of foods that you regularly give them when they are young will influence what they choose to eat as they get older since repeated exposure builds taste preferences that will stay with them. Also be aware of the impact your behavior around food will have on your children. You will not create children who enjoy healthy food and have a balanced mindset around food and health if they see you eating unhealthy food, doing fad diets, or even talking about diets, self-image and food in negative ways.
When your child is sick try to delay the antibiotics unless it is absolutely essential! The same applies to all medications – obviously you must use them if essential and if directed by your doctor but do not get into a habit of using them routinely for a mild headache, sore throat or fever. Remember, medication just deals with symptoms but does not ‘kill’ the bug. Antibiotics and other medications increase the likelihood of your child developing food intolerances. Repeatedly feeding your child the same foods further adds to this risk. If your child suffers from unsettled sleep, frequent regurgitation of food, colic, hiccups, excessive crying, poor appetite, flatulence, stuffy nose, frequent ear infections, watery eyes, frequent colds, noisy breathing, scratching, diarrhea or constipation, eczema, ADHD or concentration problems or stomach aches, then you should get them tested for food intolerances.
Take on board the fact that food intolerance is a rising problem in our world and it is no coincidence that it is rising fast alongside rates of diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other chronic illnesses. Why? Because most of us aren’t making great choices in terms of nutrition, lifestyle and medications taken. This leads to leaky gut syndrome which is basically a damaged gut which allows food proteins to get into the blood stream and food intolerance then occurs.
As a parent, one of the best gifts you can give your child is a strong nutritional start. Your child will not know which foods are healthy unless you teach them. Give them a varied diet, based on fresh whole foods, where meals are cooked from scratch. Don’t beat yourself up over the occasional treat. To truly look after your child’s health your must first value your own health! Lead by example to help your child develop a love for whole fresh foods that will last them a lifetime.
I recently visited with a friend who I always thought was a healthy eater and she openly states that her children eat a great diet. However, I realized that she, along with a lot of other people, have the wrong idea about what is healthy. For instance, wheat is not a health food. It is highly processed no matter what the weetabix box says or how strong your muscles will be if you eat Nutrigrain. Dairy is not a health food – the calcium molecules are too big to be absorbed by the human body and pasteurization has killed any nutrients left in the liquid. Orange juice is not a healthy drink. Pasteurisation has killed the vitamin C and it’s usually got a lot of sugar in it. Even natural sugars are not great in large amounts. That’s not to say you can’t consume wheat or dairy sometimes, but many parents will give their children wheat 6 or more times in a day – cereal, muesli snack bar, sandwich, flapjack afternoon tea, pasta dinner, cheese and biscuits pre-bedtime for instance. These foods are all processed and unhealthy and eating them so regularly triggers food intolerance. The usual culprits are wheat and dairy but once food intolerance starts, the body can become intolerant to healthy foods like broccoli and pineapple.
Her children suffered from regularly blocked sinus, stomach aches and eczema. I’m certain that they have food intolerance which, when cured, would reverse the symptoms.
Here’s an example of what my family (children under 10) regularly eat:
Breakfast of Scrambled egg with ‘hidden’ zucchini & cauliflower, organic yogurt (probiotic) followed by apple pieces (remember protein is what fills them up, not carbohydrates)
Snack of gluten free crackers with cashew nut spread
Lunch of organic, wholemeal sandwich with tuna and lettuce plus a mango hedgehog
Snack of frozen grapes, almonds and cucumber dipped in homemade avocado dip
Dinner of organic chicken casserole using pureed carrot, broccoli & red peppers as the ‘sauce’ over a bed of mixed brown and basmati rice (yes, they find pure brown rice a bit chewy still).
I promise you, armed with advice and recipes, you can do it too! But first, check for food intolerance because if it’s left untreated, you or your child’s current symptoms will remain and more severe symptoms will develop over time.
Disclaimer: The use of this information is not a substitute for health advice. Please consult your doctor, pharmacist or health care provider for specific medical advice. The information should be used in conjunction with guidance from your medical practitioner as he/she will be aware of your unique personal medical history.