Whole Foods Nutrition for Healthy Kids

Kids need whole foods to be healthy. As parents responsible for our kids’ nutrition, we need to provide them with a variety of the freshest, organic, whole foods so their bodies can be healthy and develop fully. Whole foods are unrefined grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. Your child’s body relies on the nutrients from these foods for proper growth as well as mental and physical vitality. A deficiency of even one important nutrient can cause imbalances that can lead to serious disease. Whole foods also provide a wealth of protective compounds that can help prevent disease.

Whole Grains

Whole grains are much more nutritious than refined (white flour) grains. A grain is whole and unrefined if the entire kernel is left unaltered and intact. There are three parts to a whole grain – the endosperm, germ and bran. The endosperm contains mostly starch and protein. The germ is rich in unsaturated fats, protein, carbohydrates, vitamin E, B-complex vitamins and minerals. The bran provides a large concentration of fiber and also contains minerals and B vitamins.

Through the process of refining, the germ and bran are both removed, leaving only the endosperm. This process strips the grain of most of its nutritional value, including precious compounds and plant sterols that are important in preventing disease.

Many grains are now refined for commercial purposes. Refined products are white flour breads, rolls, baked goods and most crackers and cereals. Enriching refined products by adding back some vitamins and minerals (as some white breads and most children’s cereals do), does not make the grain whole again. Many other elements have been removed and lost through refinement. Nature created whole grains with nutrients and protective compounds that work together synergistically to provide all our body needs. Enriched grain products rob your child’s body of essential nutrition.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fresh, organic fruits and vegetables are essential to a healthy diet. The USDA Food Guide Pyramid says that we should eat 3-5 servings of vegetables and 2-4 servings of fruit each day. A serving is:

Age one to three years – one tablespoon per year of life

Age four to eight years – 1/4 cup fruit or vegetables or 1/2 cup salad

Age nine to adult – 1/2 cup fruit or vegetables or 1 cup salad

These wonderful whole foods provide important vitamins, minerals and enzymes as well as fiber to your child’s diet. In addition, there have been many studies done which show that fruits and vegetables are loaded with active compounds such as antioxidants and phytochemicals that can prevent cancer and other serious diseases.

Fruit Juice – Not a Whole Food

Fruit juice, which is consumed heavily by children, is not a whole food and adds little nutritional value. Juicing removes the fiber, and unless the juice is freshly squeezed and consumed immediately, most of the nutrients are lost. Commercial canned or bottled juices are mostly sugar (even if you buy unsweetened) and could contain pesticides. Excess sugar can cause health problems and make your child more susceptible to illness.

Many researchers and health care providers are now saying that a lot of fruit juice consumed every day can be harmful to a child’s health. This is due to the large, concentrated amounts of sugar (even though it’s natural) contained in the juices. In addition, fruit juices contain sorbitol, which isn’t absorbed well and can create gas and bloating or even chronic diarrhea. Apple juice has high sorbitol levels. White grape juice doesn’t contain sorbitol and may be tolerated better than other juices, although you still have the problem with sugar and pesticides. Drinking large amounts of juice can also decrease the appetite. If your children drink a lot of juice, they may not have an appetite for the food they really need.