Here are my basic recommendations for children to get the nutritional foundation they need to support critical growth and development and to build a life time of optimal health. Of course, there are other nutritious foods not listed but these pack the highest health punch and cover all the nutritional bases.
Foods designated (o) means organic is important due to their heavier pesticide load which over time overwhelms the body’s ability to detoxify. For this very same reason I have noted where higher quality i.e. ‘grass-fed’ or ‘pastured’ foods are preferable but ultimately the choice is a trade-off between personal economics, availability and convenience. I have seen the pay-off of eating higher quality and variety of ingredients in fewer sickness events and consequently less healthcare costs, not to mention better moods, behavior and performance too!
- Apple (o), orange and banana – consume each daily.
- Seasonal Fruits – additional 1-2 servings per day (e.g. blueberries (o), cherries, strawberries (o), grapes (o), kiwi fruit are good choices).
- Green Vegetables – at least one serving per day of cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli (o), cauliflower, cabbage, kale (o), spinach (o), Brussel sprouts) or green beans and peas.
- Red/Orange Vegetables – at least 3 times a week (e.g. carrots, bell peppers, cantaloupe, papaya, tomatoes, pumpkin, squash, beets, sweet potato).
- Red meat – 2-3 times a week, preferably pasture-raised or organic (e.g. beef or lamb).
- Fish – 2 times a week (or take fish oil supplement ) of wild-caught fish (e.g. salmon, halibut, cod, canned sardines, jarred herrings).
- Shellfish – once a week/two weeks (e.g. US farmed-raised shrimp – the only farm-raised anything I recommend).
- Eggs – 3-6 a week, preferably pasture-raised or organic.
- Dairy/nut milk beverage – 1 glass daily in this order of preference: unsweetened (vanilla) almond milk then grass-fed milk then organic milk then non-homogenized (i.e. only pasteurized)
- Probiotic beverage – I glass daily of kefir made from goats milk or coconut water or any of the above dairy products.
- Cheese – cheddar from grass-fed cows (e.g. Kerrygold brand) or raw milk/ aged cheeses. Mozzarella – organic or local artisan brand
- Butter – from grass-fed cows (e.g. Kerrygold brand)
- Extra-virgin olive oil in dark glass bottles.
- Coconut oil – unrefined, organic.
- Avocados – use as a spread, in guacamole or chocolate pudding.
- Nuts and seeds – 1-2 ounce servings daily (good choices are brazil nuts (max 4), raw almonds, walnuts and raw cashews, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds (grind fresh and add to a smoothie or in baking).
GRAINS, COMPLEX CARBS and LEGUMES
- Wholegrain foods 3-4 times/ week (e.g. bread, oatmeal, bran flakes). Avoid products with lots of ingredients listed on label.
- Pasta – 2-3 times/week. If budget allows select artisan brands (quality of flour), bronze-die cut (avoid BPA) and some European brands.
- Rice – choose organic white rice (e.g. Lundberg brand) or limited amount (2-3 servings a week) of domestic brown varieties (due to heavy metal accumulation in outer bran). Mix with quinoa.
- Quinoa – good source of quality protein.
- Wild rice – gluten-free and good choice.
- Potatoes (o) – baked or boiled in skins (cook with fresh mint and add butter to increase appeal).
- Sweet potatoes – baked or roasted.
- Lentils, chickpeas (garbanzo) (e.g. hummus), black beans, cannellini beans – great protein and mineral content too.
- Sprinkle dulse flakes or Gomasio (from Eden) seasoning onto foods (great source of iodine if avoiding refined salt)
- Salt – only added in small amounts to season food to taste. Choose an unrefined sea salt with added iodine
- Nutritional yeast – add 1 tbsp to homemade organic popcorn or stir into any warm meal where you want a cheesy flavor – it’s loaded with B-vitamins (energy) and manganese (detox).
- Pesto – buy fresh or make in blender when basil is abundant. If store-bought look for one made with expeller-pressed canola or olive oil.
- Ketchup – good source of lycopene (super-nutrient) but choose organic and no high fructose corn syrup
- Mustard and mayonnaise – OK in small amounts but check the label and stay away from brands that have chemicals you can’t pronounce.
- Water – as a rule of thumb drink half your weight (in pounds) in water (in ounces) e.g. 80 pound child would drink 40 ounces. Add 6-8 ounces for every 15 minutes of intense exercise. Start the day with a large glass of water (and a slice of lemon).
- Juice – only recommended if child not eating fruit and keep to 1 glass per day preferably diluted with water.
FOODS TO AVOID.
- ‘Vegetable’ seed oils (e.g. canola, sunflower, safflower, vegetable)
- Added Sugar
- Food coloring
- Packaged foods with long list of chemical additives
If some of these suggestions are major changes for your child then I would suggest starting small. Just one change at a time repeated over 10 days will become a new healthful habit that will set your child up for a lifetime of health (and away from the doctors’ office) and give them the foundation they need to reach their highest potential.