When I started eating well it was only natural that my family would follow suit, after all, I do the grocery shopping. Taking a left turn from cereal for breakfast, school lunches and macaroni and cheese for dinner was not easy, mostly because it took time and effort. At the time I assumed that if I ever got real serious about my kids eating right it would add extra work time and effort on my part. As it turns out, I was right, it did. Frankly it’s embarrassing to think that I allowed poor eating habits to fester based on convenience but let’s be honest when life hits you “what’s for dinner” is the first thing out of the window. That was the case then and that is the case now. So the first key is to be prepared, you have to plan some meals that you can whip together on the fly. Even back in the dark days my kids ate fruits and vegetables so some of it was simply a matter of keeping those foods in the house which is even more of a challenge now. So let’s start with some simple rules that my family uses to eat well.
Rule #1, Everything in your house should be good for you
If there are 100 things in the house and 1 of those things is a food that does not add value to you nutritionally that one thing will be the first thing eaten and it will be eaten until you replace it. If you continue to replace it do not be surprised if the other 99 things go uneaten. It’s not that kids do not like oranges or beef jerky but Captain Crunch is a whole lot better and if it’s available the oranges and beef jerky will rot.
Rule #2, If it’s a treat it does not get kept in the house
Every Monday my family and I eat Ice Cream, we schedule it, sometimes we go out or sometimes we buy Ben and Jerry’s and eat it at home. Just enough so there are no left overs (which typically is not a problem). We do this for a number of reasons, a healthy lifestyle does not mean restriction all of the time, in fact, I am pretty sure most people would think that is unhealthy (or at least they should). This approach is also helpful because it accentuates the value of moderation, I suspect that for most people eating unhealthy occasionally was never their issue. Part of a healthy lifestyle is doing exactly that and trust me, your kids will like Ice Cream Monday’s or whatever your families equivalent happens to be.
What my kids eat for breakfast
When a person first wakes up they have technically fasted for 8 hours or more, that is what the word breakfast means after all, you are breaking your fast. Sleep serves a lot of functions as it relates to repair but once you wake up your body is said to be insulin sensitive, what this means is that your insulin is on high alert to store whatever nutrients you put in your body. Eating sends a signal to your body that everything is fine, so don’t be so sensitive insulin (that was a joke). Which brings me to more rules.
Rule #3, start your kids day with a balance of fats and proteins with some carbohydrate from things like fruit.
Every gram of fat represents 9 calories, that’s a heck of a lot of energy for 1 gram and your kids can use that energy for a lot of reasons. There are two things that blunt the insulin response (remember insulin is on high alert in the morning to store stuff for later) fats and fiber. Fats in this instance are incredibly important because they are an energy source and they keep you full long term. I think it goes without saying that protein is important because it is used for your child’s growth, if you feed your child protein in the morning it will get used to the best of their bodies abilities as a general rule. If there is any time of the day that children should be conscious of carbohydrate intake this would be the time that said if they are also eating some fat they will get a more stable insulin response which will mean they will be able to concentrate better in school until lunch time.
Three quick and easy meals my kids love are great examples of what I mean:
Eggs (fat and protein, win win) cooked in butter or ghee, bacon (I would technically rather this be a pork chop, bacon is not particularly protein dense and while the fat in bacon isn’t preferred taste matters) and a half of glass of whole milk. That’s right whole milk!
A banana with some chocolate almond butter (man this article is making me hungry)
Whole Greek Yogurt (I swear to you my kids love this stuff) with blueberries or strawberries.
Rule #3.5 Why my kids do not eat skim milk, cereals or oatmeal for breakfast regularly
Please notice that I said regularly, actually they rarely eat it but not because they can not, they actually like the other stuff more. Why no skim milk? Firstly, they aren’t on a diet so calories are of little concern to them but if they were on a diet I would certainly recommend skim milk, especially in the morning. The reason is simple, lactose is a sugar, sugar in the absence of fat is not blunted causing a more acute insulin response. Turns out nature has evolved with fat in all forms of animal milk for a reason, nature is so smart. If you said to most people on a diet do you eat sugar most would be aghast at the very idea while eating their skim milk and low fat yogurt. Similarly cereals and oatmeals break down to glucose in the blood stream, fiber helps this a bit but not a ton. So cereal with skim milk for your child for breakfast is not something I recommend, even whole grains.
So this is a no for your child: Cocoa Puffs with Skim Milk or really even Cheerios with Skim Milk. Carbs make you sleepy and are not a great energy source long term so your child might end up getting hungry and distracted before lunch.
This would be better but not great: Oatmeal, 2 eggs cooked in butter or ghee.
Rule#4(though technically this is more of a guideline) I like my children’s breakfast to be balanced with about 75% coming from Fats and Proteins and 25% coming from Carbohydrates.
I should also mention that similar to Ice Cream Monday we have French Toast Sunday’s, which is why #4 is a guideline and not a rule;-)
This is how I feed my family, I base this off of research I have done and I change it often
I suspect that the things I do for my family will differ greatly from the things you might do for your family but let’s be clear about one thing, nothing I do now related to my families nutrition is by accident. It is not based solely on convenience any longer.
Let me also say that my kids did not like converting from cocoa puffs to greek yogurt with berries. Oh well, I vividly remember an argument with my daughter where she said “would you rather I not eat” and when I said “yes actually”, she knew I meant business. My kids take a great deal of pride in how they eat, certainly if given the option to eat bad choices they would take that every single time but other children often ask my children for advice on what and what not to eat. They take pride in that and they should, they are great kids and have learned well.
I will end this article here, in the next article I will talk about lunch, school lunches, snacks and dinner. Hopefully I can get it all done in one article.