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Healthy Is Not a Bad Word, Kids!

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Haylie Pomroy: Our kids are bombarded with junk food options every day. They see it in commercials, at some schools, maybe even in their lunches. I get a lot of referrals in my practice for childhood obesity, diabetes, or just picky eaters. With my own kids as well as with my clients' kids, I like to try to empower them with knowledge about foods that are healthy to choose.

girl eating chicken

Even when my kids were teeny tiny, I would talk to them about the impact food has on the body. I would say, "Gosh, they can run so fast or jump so high because they have eaten something healthy." Kids of all ages can begin to see the relationship between healthy choices and healthy bodies. My niece and nephew, pretty grown-up kids, were over the other day, getting ready to jump on the trampoline, and my nephew said to me, "Aunt Haylie, what foods can I eat to jump higher?" Here are a few great and healthy things to teach kids to look for in their food choices.

Proteins
Proteins form the building blocks that build the house we call our bodies. I talk a lot to kids about strong muscles, bones, hair, and teeth. When mine were little, sometimes we would take bites of healthy proteins at the dinner table and then I would have them see if it would make them jump higher or run faster or challenge them to arm wrestling. To this day, my son is very aware of how his protein intake plays a roll in his sports performance. Great foods that have tons of protein are organic chicken, turkey, dairy products, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes. I have a great list of protein-rich foods on my website, hayliepomroy.com.

Healthy Fats
With the fats, I always talk about brain power and good moods. The healthy fats are so important while kids are laying down so many new tracks neurologically in those ever-growing brains. We talk about smart lunches and study snacks in our house.

Pistachios, almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, avocados, and nut butters are some great healthy fat-based snacks. I had a diabetic client of mine e-mail me the other day. I began seeing him when he was eight, and he is now away at college. He was all fired up because he was taking a science class and he told his professor that he had already learned about how fats work on the brain way back when he was eight (insert proud tear here).

Natural Sugars
I like to talk to my kids about times when sugar can actually be good for you: when you get it in the form of "natural" sugars. For my kiddos, this is kind of a fun one because in many schools, teachers and staff are beginning to talk to kids about sugar being bad for them -- our schools don't even allow cupcakes or cookies at birthday parties anymore. My kids feel awfully smart when they say, "Well, my mom is bringing a ton of sugar to my party: fruit." Whole fruits contain lots and lots of this wonderful natural sugar! Whole fruits provide vital nutrients to keep up with kids' rapid rates of growth and development. I don't advocate a lot of fruit juices for kids, though, because in this form, the sugars become too concentrated. If you must do juice, I suggest you half it with water.

The other day, my daughter crawled up into my lap and said, "Mama, I want to stay little forever -- can I have some caffeine?" I just cracked up, it was so cute. I am sure somewhere along the way I had told her that drinking coffee would stunt her growth, and obviously she was listening!


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