As a new mom, I had high hopes for how I was going to give my children the best nutrition possible. I wanted them to have a diverse palate, eat lots of vegetables and be generally healthy due to eating high quality food. As with most moms, reality set in rather quickly, and the older they get, the more I understand how little control I have over nutritional content. I still, however, am a firm believer that quality nutrition can set a foundation for health. Therefore, I have made very simple changes to our diet to subtly improve our families nutrition. These changes are easy, and have not been met with (too) much complaining. Trust me, we still have our fair share of not so great food too. I try to keep a foundation of nutrition so that there isn’t too much guilt involved when these unhealthy choices present themselves. I am definitely not a nutritionist, but I continue to research and read about best practices in this area. With that knowledge, I have made the following simple changes to our families diet.
Sprouted Grain Bread
We have all heard of the benefits of whole grains in our diet. For a very long time I purchased 100% whole wheat bread, thinking it was the most nutritious option. Within the past few years, we have switched to sprouted grain bread instead. Ezekiel Bread is the most well known brand, but I do a lot of shopping at Aldi and they have a brand as well. According to www.healthline.com, in sprouted bread the grains and legumes have started germinating (or sprouting). Compare this to 100% whole wheat bread, which is made of refined (processed) grains, and the nutritional content is much better quality. It is also organic, and contains zero added sugar. Both bonus points in our house.
Reality is, however, it does not mean a thing if my family doesn’t eat it. They will all tell you that it’s not their favorite bread. I think all of us love a good slice of toasted white bread once in a while. But, they still eat it. From morning toast to PB&J, they eat sprouted grain bread most days without complaint.
My kids love anything fruit based. They would probably live off of it if I let them. Many snack foods are fruit based, and super yummy. Some family favorites are applesauce, fruit snacks and fruit leather These types of snacks are now a special treat in my family, while whole fruits are readily accessible. We always have apples and bananas in our house, but in addition to that our freezer is full of frozen fruit. During the summer, it’s as local as possible. During the colder months, it’s store bought. We always have blueberries, and typically add mixed combinations as well.
Having these always on hand makes for such an easy healthy snack. Frozen fruit is absolutely delicious, and often feels like a treat. Many nights we put a bowl on the table to add to our dinner. My kids love to eat it plain, or mixed with yogurt. We will sometimes warm them up to put them on pancakes or waffles. It is such an easy thing, but reaching for whole fruits, instead of processed alternatives, dramatically improves the quality of food my kids are putting into their bodies. And it’s delicious too!
I’m not going to lie, changing to almond milk was one of the last changes we made. I never thought I’d be able to convince my family. Our oldest has always had a bit of a dairy intolerance, but not enough for us to make a major switch. Then our middle child started to struggle with dairy as well. My husband and I never drank much milk to begin with, so it was really only our youngest drinking it. It very quickly started to spoil before we drank it all. I had already started buying almond milk for my coffee, so I just stopped buying regular milk. Now, it’s just a staple in our house. On the rare occasion that we need milk for something, almond milk it is.
That may not seem like a big jump, but it does hold some nutritional value for us. First and foremost, unsweetened almond milk has significantly less sugar than cow’s milk. According to Healthline, unsweetened almond milk has 0 grams of sugar per serving, while cow’s milk typically has 12 g of sugar. That’s a significant difference! Unsweetened almond milk also has 40 calories per serving, vs. 80-150 for cow’s milk. Also, there have been a lot of studies showing that dairy can increase inflammation and discomfort, which makes almond milk a nice alternative.
Now, I would be remiss if I claimed that almond milk was the end all and be all in terms of nutrition. It’s absolutely not perfect. If we could have more dairy in our house, I would lean more towards whole milk. Fat plays an important role in our health, specifically our brain health, and is a crucial part of our diet. Since we felt the need to eliminate dairy, almond milk has been a great alternative for us. Specifically, the lowered amount of sugar helps me feel confident that it is the right choice for our family.
Vegetables are not my kids favorite food. In fact, they avoid them like the plague quite often. Yet, we serve them with most meals. Also, we ask that they take at least one bite at every meal. This is an attempt to continue to expose them and to diversify their palates. I could easily hide these vegetables on them, and have them increase their vegetable intake in sneaky ways. Adding kale to smoothies, or broccoli puree to brownies would ensure they are getting the vitamins that they need. I absolutely do this sometimes, but do not rely on it.
Why, you might ask, wouldn’t I do something so simple to ensure my children are eating their vegetables, instead of fighting with them. Well, simply, I don’t want them to go off to college without knowing what broccoli is. It’s entirely possible that they may get more vegetables if I’m feeding it to them via brownies. But, as with anything, my ultimate goal is to lead them to make their own healthy decisions. So, if once a night I force them to eat a brussel sprout, eventually brussel sprouts won’t seem so awful. Or, maybe they will (I will never like onions), but at least they know they don’t like them. I can still put kale in their smoothies, but I believe if they eat kale by itself I’m setting them up for better success in adulthood.
Organic junk food.
You read that right, my kids totally eat junk food. I try to limit it, but the reality is I don’t have much control sometimes. If I am buying junk food for any reason, I often try to purchase organic. I will not pretend that I’m perfect at this, but it’s always a goal that I strive for. According to Karalynn Call, certified nutritionist, our food has dramatically changed since the 90’s. The organic processed food that we eat today, is essentially the same non-organic food we ate in the 90’s. Since the 1990’s, some things have changed. Specifically glysophate, a weed killer, has been sprayed on the corn used for our food. This food has been genetically modified to withstand glyphsate. Unfortunately, this is not just limited to corn, but also includes oats and grains. Processed food in 2021 includes a significant amount of artificial sweeteners, which according to Karalynn, was not the case prior to the mid 90’s. Essentially, when you buy organic today, you are saying no to all of this extra crud.
Therefore, for the most part, if I’m buying cereal or chips or something relatively junky, I try to purchase the organic version to avoid these challenges. It does not mean that this junk food is healthy. Junk food is junk food, but by buying organic, I’m trying to make choices to avoid the extra crap that was not in my junk food growing up. For more information from Karalynne Call, follow her on instagram @just.ingredients.
On the whole, I am confident that my children receive enough nutrition through food to create that healthy foundation that I strive for. That being said, tonight both children ate two snack bags of (non organic) Doritos. Many nights my daughter eats ketchup (but it’s organic!) for dinner. The key, as with everything, is to let go of the idea that we can be perfect. The more you learn, the better you do, and the better you do the more you learn. In the end, any attempt to improve your child’s (and your own!) nutrition, is a step in the right direction for their health.