There are plenty of suggestions on the internet about how to create balanced meals. But I’ve found the only way to make balancing your family’s meals a priority is to understand WHY each component is so important to your kiddos’ health and happiness.
A perfectly balanced meal or snack includes:
- foods to help your child GROW and develop fully
- foods that SUSTAIN their energy and active minds, and
- plenty of color to allow them to LIVE brightly.
Put simply, every meal or snack should include foods from the GROW, SUSTAIN and LIVE categories! This week, we’ll be talking in more detail about each category. Today we will focus on GROW foods.
GROW foods include your proteins and healthy fats.
Protein and fat should encompass about ¼ of your plate. (Every person is different though). Think meat, fish, eggs, beans and nuts.
Proteins are made up of essential and nonessential amino acids. Our diets MUST include foods containing all ESSENTIAL amino acids. Depending on age and overall health, there are 10 essential amino acids. The remaining 10 amino acids are nonessential meaning the body can make them as needed.
A lack of adequate essential amino acid intake can lead to physiological problems.
The media gives them plenty of fanfare for good reason. In fact, a growing body of research is linking deficiency of tryptophan, an essential amino acid, to ADHD and autism. Tryptophan is used by the body to create serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a hormone that promotes feelings of calm, concentration, comfort and overall well-being. Without enough serotonin, you can imagine how a child might lack attention or feel more anxious than calm. Melatonin, another hormone that requires tryptophan to be produced, regulates sleep. Low melatonin can disrupt sleep – something we all so desperately need, especially growing children.
Protein (amino acids) are the essence of human life, but fats cannot be ignored!
Fat (fatty acids) are used by the body for a host of physiological needs from energy production and immune support to brain development. I like to remind families of the importance of fat by the saying: “You need healthy fat to be SLIM, SMART and NOT SICK.”
I understand that children’s appetites are inconsistent at best.
That’s why it’s pretty easy for them to miss out on essential amino acids and healthy fat.
Check out this list of our favorite GROW foods to start serving your family:
- Meat (ideally grass-fed beef and lamb and pastured pork)
- Poultry (definitely pasture-raised and/or organic)
- Fish (sustainable and wild-caught)
- Whole eggs (preferably pasture-raised)
- Soaked nuts and seeds, if tolerated (organic as much as possible)
- Whole dairy yogurt or kefir (organic, no question)
- Lentils or beans, if tolerated (served with plenty of healthy fat)
To make a complete serving of GROW foods, ADD HEALTHY FAT OFTEN.
Though many protein-rich foods like pasture-raised chicken thighs and wild salmon are a natural combination of protein and healthy fats, others are lacking in critical fatty acids. You can baste, marinate or finish protein dishes with healthy oils like pure olive oil, avocado oil or virgin coconut oil to be sure you’re serving enough fat.
Now, it’s your turn …
A.C.T. (Action Changes Things):
Think about your family’s meals and snacks.
Choose 1-2 GROW foods that are missing or need an upgrade.
Make the switch this week.
Which GROW food(s) did you choose?
Do you struggle with creating balanced meals + snacks?
Please share your journey so others are inspired to ACT too!
To life, love, and REAL food,