Balanced Meals: What’s a Healthy Carb for Your Kid?



This week, we’re tackling how to balance our plates (for meals and snacks) to help your child THRIVE.


A perfectly balanced meal or snack includes:

  • food to help your child GROW and develop
  • food to SUSTAIN their energy and active minds, and
  • plenty of color to allow them to LIVE brightly.


With a balanced plate of GROW, SUSTAIN and LIVE food, your child is more likely to experience optimum growth, development, and overall health. Think it sounds a little too scientific for your cooking skills? Nah.. It’s MUCH easier than you might think and so worth it!


GROW foods are proteins and healthy fats critical for growing minds and bodies.

Check out our list of favorite GROW foods; they should cover about ¼ of your plate (remember everyone’s needs are different, this is a just a rule of thumb.)


Today we’re filling another ¼ of your plate with healthy carbohydrates – these are your SUSTAIN foods. Why SUSTAIN?


SUSTAIN foods (healthy carbs) provide critical energy to keep your children learning, assimilating and moving all day. Without enough of the proper SUSTAIN foods you can expect sleepy, moody, whiny children.


And so, we reach the age old question: To carb or not to carb?

Unfortunately, it’s the WRONG question, especially for kids. Your body cannot function without carbohydrates because glucose is the main source of fuel for your cells. And, carbohydrates are essentially glucose.


So instead ask: Which carbohydrates are worthy of a spotlight on my child’s plate?

Without being too confusing, let me start by explaining that some GROW foods like lentils and beans are also SUSTAIN foods. As most of us know, lentils and beans are nutritious gems – unless of course you have gut dysbiosis or gut inflammation. (Stay tuned…Dr. Sue will tackle those “digestive disasters” in another post very soon.)


Let’s talk about grains and starches.

If you’re anything like a typical American family, you’re lovin’ white potatoes. Who wouldn’t, right? They’re usually fried up as chips, french fries or tater tots. But, if your family’s focused on this processed version of white potatoes, they’re missing out on some high value nutrients, plus getting exposed to unhealthy, toxic fats. Instead…


Focus on the WHOLE potato.
REAL potatoes, both sweet and white, are worthy of family meals! Add the rainbow of root veggies, pumpkins, and even plantains to make a complete list of healthy starches that’ll SUSTAIN your family’s activities AND provide a hefty dose of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.


Now, onto the elephant in the room: GRAINS.

Grains are found in virtually everything that comes in a box from cereal and crackers to bars and even baked beans. Most of them are just sugar disguised as flour.

Whole grains in their “whole” form can be a powerhouse of nutrition (if tolerated). But, a whole grain is vastly different to your body than the “flour form” of a grain. For example, the body processes rice and oats differently than rice flour or oat flour. To your body, wheat flour (or enriched wheat or white flour) has no resemblance to its whole grain form (i.e., wheat berries.)


What makes rice, oat and wheat berries so different from their evil stepsisters (a.k.a. flour)?

Whole grains have three major components: germ, bran and an endosperm center. The germ and the bran contain all the fiber and nutrients, whereas the endosperm is essentially the starchy or sugary center. In the whole form (as nature intended), the endosperm is protected by the germ and the bran. This protection ensures your body doesn’t get a rapid dose of glucose, but instead absorbs the carbohydrate slowly and efficiently.


Whole grains are loaded with B vitamins, fiber, phytonutrients and more.

If you don’t have gut dysbiosis or gut inflammation, they are a healthy food that can SUSTAIN your family. (Note: Gluten-free grains are ideal as a growing body of research is showing that gluten from American crops is a very tough protein to process. More to come on this topic.)


Now, mill that whole grain into a flour and you’ve got a sugary powdery mess – literally!

When the whole grain is milled into flour, the endosperm center explodes and is no longer protected by the bran and the germ. Your body gets a heavy dose of starch immediately instead of gradually. If your body doesn’t need that much sugar at that moment (and it usually doesn’t), then the sugar is quickly converted to triglycerides and stored as fat. Grrr…Plus, you (and your kiddos) may get all the side of effects associated with sugar highs and lows, a.k.a. the sugar roller coaster! So…


Check out this list of our favorite SUSTAIN foods to start serving your family:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Russet, gold or red bliss potatoes (definitely organic)
  • Carrots  (preferably organic, look for purple and yellow versions)
  • Parsnips (preferably organic)
  • Winter squashes like butternut, acorn, delicata and kombocha (organic, if possible or local)
  • Beets (preferably organic)
  • Pumpkins
  • Plantains (yummy!)
  • Quinoa (organic) –  technically a GROW food too!
  • Gluten-free oats
  • Ancient gluten-free grains like millet and amaranth


It’s not easy to examine your family’s favorites and find the ones loaded with flour (a.k.a. sugar in disguise). But, if you’re still reading, I know you’re brave and ready to…


A.C.T (Action Changes Things):


Think about your family’s favorite SUSTAIN foods.

Are they worthy?

Do they need an upgrade?

Choose 1 or 2 foods and give ‘em the BOOT!

And replace them with one of our favorite SUSTAIN foods listed above.


Need help finding a good alternative to your favorite crackers, cereal or more?

I’m here for you!

Tell me in the comments what I can do to support you on this journey.


To life, love, and REAL food,

Love, Danielle


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