Basic Nutrition Concepts for Kids with ADHD, Autism, Anxiety, and Behavior Disorders
In the last several decades we have gotten farther and farther away from good basic wholesome nutrition. There are so many convenience foods out there; it is almost impossible to keep your kids away. The difficulty is, these convenience foods are so laden with toxic chemicals we are actually creating problems in our children where there were none. With a little work up front and some changes in eating habits it is possible to find nutritious, delicious and convenient food options for your family that reduce the toxic load and boost health brain and body functioning.
There are some basic principles about good nutrition that can help you in determining what your child should be eating on a daily basis. One general rule of thumb to keep in mind when purchasing foods is – If it wasn’t available for purchase a generation ago then you probably shouldn’t be purchasing it now. If you keep these four principles in mind when purchasing and preparing food you will be on the right track toward more healthful and nutritious eating.
*Calories – children need the right amount of calories to grow and maintain a healthy weight. Most of the time in our country getting enough calories is not the issue, however consuming too many may be. If you follow the suggestions below the issue of sufficient calories should not be a concern.
*Protein – there are bountiful sources of protein including meat, fish, dairy, beans, nuts, soy, and even some grains. Children should be eating a ½ gram of protein per pound of body weight each day, and should be consuming the majority of their protein at breakfast.
*Carbohydrates – provide the energy our bodies need to function, especially our brains. The important thing to know about carbohydrates is what type, how much and when to eat them. They come in a variety of forms such as grains, fruits, vegetables and beans. If you are sticking to whole unprocessed foods then you are eating the healthy complex carbohydrates. When you fill your body with processed foods you are consuming simple carbohydrates, which cause blood sugar spikes and then crashes. These spikes and crashes cause cravings, which lead to more spikes and crashes. This cycle of highs and lows can lead to a whole host of medical issues including obesity and diabetes. A general rule of thumb is to stick to carbohydrates that come from whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. In general this will reduce the risk of sugar spikes and provide the body with the sustained energy it needs throughout the day. Eating a variety of complex carbohydrates throughout the day will ensure a stable blood sugar level and the sustained energy needed for learning and working.
*Fats – are essential for the health of our bodies. They play an important role in several areas of our body including providing energy, maintaining the health of our cells, supporting our immune system and transporting other essential nutrients throughout our bodies. Like carbohydrates, fats come in different forms including saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans fats. This is a lot to keep track of, but the one fat you should always avoid is trans fat. If it says hydrogenated anything on the label don’t buy and certainly don’t eat it. So, what about the others? Simply put, saturated fats are found in dairy, red meat and some oils including coconut oil. Saturated fats should be eaten in moderation. Monounsaturated fats are good for you and should be eaten daily. Sources of monounsaturated fats include olive oil, canola oil, nuts, avocados and olives. Polyunsaturated fats come from seeds and grains, corn oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil. Most of the time these are healthy and needed. Think of fats as the grease that keeps the engine running, a little bit goes a long way, but is essential for the overall performance of the vehicle.
Keeping these four guidelines in mind when planning, shopping and preparing meals and snacks for your family will assist you in providing good nutritious food that will help all of you to function at your optimum.
Written by: Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD, CNS
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