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Dietary Recommendations and Meal Ideas for Healthy Children


Dietary Recommendations with Meal Ideas for Healthy Children

I spend a lot of my time thinking about feeding my family. I think about what they need to fuel them, aid with digestion, help them focus, fight whatever bugs are floating around at school, and what they will enjoy. There is a lot we can do with nutrition to support the growth and development of our little ones, without compromising taste and their enjoyment!


My number one recommendation is whole foods - and a variety of them.

I often hear from parents that their children are picky eaters. And I hear from my children “I don’t like this or that.” That’s ok… We try it again a week or a month later and often get a completely different response. As they grow, their tastes will grow. So don’t give up.

My thought process behind meal planning is based on two key factors: 1) energy requirements and 2) scheduling. I think about when we will need focus, when we will be most active, and what is easy to eat between commitments.

The specific nutrients I think about when feeding my littles are essential fatty acids (specifically Omega 3), protein, calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamins A, Bs, C, D and E, choline, and selenium. This sounds like a lot, right? In a nutshell, these are all elements that help with growth, brain development, nutrient absorption and offer protection against pesky free radicals.

Are you ready to find out how a day goes at our place? Let’s dig in!


#1 - BREAKFAST


As we start our day I want a meal that will allow my kids to focus, so we can actually get out the door on time! Also, I want them to be ready to take on their day.

It is key to start kids really young with an important focus on breakfast, and to always try to have a protein source as part of this meal. This will feed their growth and help them maintain even blood sugar throughout the morning (which will keep their energy and mood nicely on point).

We have a few standard breakfasts in our house that include protein. Some take time to prepare and offer a hot option, while others are pre-made grab and go options for busy days.


The Standards - 

Eggs

When breakfast protein is mentioned the common assumption is usually eggs. Eggs are an excellent option! When able keep the yolk soft - this make a nice of choline the most bioavailable.

I don’t know about you but eggs every morning is not enticing for me. I feel like most kids would think the same so we need to be making these healthy meals attractive to our littles, too.

Eggs and toast is absolutely a family favourite for us on lazy weekend mornings but too much of an undertaking for weekdays. I do however still use eggs as our breakfast protein with these quick healthy delicious balanced pancakes (Banana Cashew Chia Pancakes), or in a pre-made batch of homemade grain free waffles, that can be heated up the toaster.


Breakfast Bowl

And then there are the days where eggs are not our protein. A quick breakfast bowl that starts with Plain Grass-Fed Yogurt then topped with fruit, seeds and nuts, sometimes it’s a simple Quinoa Porridge or Sunflower Seed Butter Oatmeal Balls.

All of these options also include our EFAs (essential fatty acids). Fresh ground flaxseed is added into waffles and oat balls, sprinkled on top of yogurt and porridge and chia seeds are part of our simple pancake batter.


Smoothie

One final option we use as breakfast, snack, lunch or even dinner sometimes is a smoothie. These are a great way to get kids making their own meal and talking about each element as you add it.

Ours look like this.

Kefir *Protein and probiotics
+
Frozen Cauliflower *Carbohydrates and micronutrients
(sound weird and like an absolute no for your kids?? My kids won’t eat cauliflower on their plates but they will happily add it to the blender for their smoothie. You don’t taste it and it replaces ice for a creamy consistency.)
+
Frozen Strawberries *Carbohydrates and micronutrients (Vitamin C)
+
Raw Cacao Powder *Micronutrients (Magnesium)
+
Almond Butter *Protein, Fats and micronutrients (Calcium)
+
Flaxseed Oil *EFAs


#2 LUNCH


I think I am one of the only Moms I know who enjoys packing school lunches (and this was definitely one of the drivers behind Lunch Love, I am seriously passionate about it - and want to help you out!)

Lunch has got to be nourishing to help our littles get through the second half of the school day and beyond! Plus, school lunches definitely have to be enticing. Once our littles are on their own at school they have a bit more choice as to whether they eat or not. It can be very challenging when we’ve spent our evening or morning packing a nutritious lunch only to have it come home almost untouched at the end of the day.

I always try to offer a lot of variety for lunch, and never too large a portion of anything. This ensures our littles will likely get in multiple foods groups, which is important (I don’t like to avoid any particular food group for myself or my littles). If I provide a sandwich and some fruit but my little Mr. decides he doesn’t like the sandwich that day, he will still be sustained on fruit alone, for example.


Now, let’s see if we can get away from lunch even having to include a sandwich. I’m not saying sandwiches are all bad, there are just so many other options. Soups and stews are a beautiful winter season switch-up. Kind of the same thing… protein, grains and vegetables all in one dish.

Or lettuce wraps. Bento box style picnic meals. Zucchini meatballs with guacamole. The possibilities are endless

I try to make their lunch kits vibrant and tempting with colour and shapes. Let’s be honest, we all judge food by its appearance initially. I don’t do fake colours, so  instead I use bright coloured fruits and vegetables as much as possible. I make food fun by cutting foods into different shapes and using molds for homemade gummies.

The bases I focus on covering first are the Macros. I think about having a protein source and I like this to be something my kids can identify as their protein. This helps them take responsibility for fueling themselves. They know they need protein to grow (from the many conversations we have about it). I think about having whole grain carbohydrates as well as fruits and veggies to give them energy for their daily play and activity. And I think about making sure there are good quality fats because, well, I don’t want my kiddos to have “skinny” brains.


For protein we like organic chicken sausage, zucchini meatballs, stews, soups, boiled eggs, quinoa pizza bites, leftover pulled chicken, steak or burgers.

For carbohydrates I include homemade gummies, muffins or cookies, whole grain crackers, plantain chips.

For fruits and vegetables, offer variety often. There will likely be favourites - for my littles it is cucumbers, carrots, peppers and pickles (added bonus = the super powers of lacto-ferments). These can be the staples and then whenever you can, offer something new. We have a “You must try it” rule… and sometimes I’m forced to recite Green Eggs and Ham. If they don’t enjoy it they don’t need to have more…this time.

For good fats, I include nut or seed butters into oatmeal balls, coconut flour, ground flax or chia into baking, grass-fed butter wherever I can get it in… the littles would eat it out of the dish if I let them. We do salmon for dinner often but I leave it out of the lunch kits

 

#3 DINNER


My biggest recommendation at dinnertime is: “Think about energy requirements!” For us, dinner is often the smallest of all meals. Sounds counter-intuitive, right? Keep reading, it will make sense, I promise.

Our kids are moving from the time they wake until the time they go to bed. If we let them eat intuitively this is just how it happens… they eat a big breakfast, and everything we put in front of them at lunch (and it’s substantial), but come dinner they are often happy with a simple plate. I encourage you to try this out, and see what happens!


We like:

  • Chicken thighs or chicken wings baked with rice and veggies
  • Homemade waffles from the freezer, warmed and served with pickles
  • Homemade barbecued grass fed beef burgers with salad
  • Quinoa spaghetti with a kale mushroom marinara sauce
  • Local grass fed steak and green beans
  • Sourdough 2 year aged grilled cheddar cheese sandwiches

 

We do try to throw a small scoop of sauerkraut on their dinner plates often. This is where we like to make sure they have a ferment -  to let those bugs work while the body rests..

Dinner can be as kid-friendly as you want it to be. It is all about the quality of the ingredients. I feel like you can upgrade anything you love to make it super nutritious. A favourite meal of mine has always been nachos and cheese. We now use plantain chips, sautéed grass fed ground beef seasoned with homemade taco seasoning, onions and peppers topped with 2 year aged cheddar cheese and dipped in lacto-fermented salsa. Yum!!!

Dinner can get a bit more complicated as they grow. The plan has to shift as needed, with sports. When I say energy requirements this is what I’m running through my brain: What will give them enough energy to perform but not be too heavy (digesting while playing) and what will help them refuel after activity but still allow them to get a good night’s sleep.

My basic rule is easier to digest carbohydrates with a bit of protein before sport, a more substantial protein with a bit of carbohydrate and veggies after. We might do something like homemade oatmeal balls before and a greek rice bowl after, or a simple smoothie before and chicken vegetable soup with a piece of buttered sourdough bread after.

Nourishing a family can seem like a big challenge but it doesn’t have to be. Start by filling your house with healthy whole foods. And EAT them! The greatest influence on your children’s health will be the example you set. Here is my one final and most important dietary recommendation - LEAD BY EXAMPLE.

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