HEALTHY HABIT #6: MAKING THE FOOD : BODY CONNECTION

Children’s growing bodies crave an abundance of nutrients, vitamins, proteins, and healthy fats to develop properly.  Absent proper nutrition, many children never reach their full potential.  The good thing is that their nutrition is under our control. 
The food choices we make on behalf of our children have significant long-term consequences.  Did you know the brain develops faster during the childhood years than any other period of life?  Compared to healthy and properly fed children, studies show that malnourished children suffer from:
  • ·       Impaired intellectual growth
  • ·       Loss of cognitive skills
  • ·       Muscle atrophy
  • ·       Weakened immune systems
  • ·       Increased risk of death

Later in life, these children experience higher medical bills and require more support from their parents to find and keep a job.  Not how you envision spending your golden years?  Neither do we.
The effects of bad nutrition are especially apparent in our schools.  Ask any teacher, and they will tell you the difference between a child who has had a filling and nourishing lunch and one who has not.  The undernourished kids are easy to identify:  they tire easily and yawn through the afternoons; they retain only some of what they should; they are easily distracted and find it difficult to organize.  Unhealthy diets have a direct impact on academic performance, school attendance, and classroom behavior.
How does this compare with kids who receive proper nutrition? 
Studies show the link between children’s health and academic success manifests in test scores, absenteeism, concentration, and attitude.  In fact, kids with balanced and healthy diets receive distinct benefits over their less healthy peers. 
We at Wholesome Tummies and WT Café have identified 5 Key Benefits experienced by kids with healthy eating habits.  These benefits have a powerful effect on their well-being and self-esteem, both inside the classroom and out.  The 5 Key Benefits of Healthy Eating for Kids are:

1.     Energy Boost
Higher energy levels, more stamina, increased productivity
2.     Feel Great
Better night’s sleep, more regulated moods, higher self-esteem
3.     Good Health
Sick less often, longer lifespan, less stress, lower obesity rates
4.     Look Great 
Shinier and fuller hair, more elastic and healthier skin, stronger nails and teeth
5.     Good Grades 
Faster memory, greater concentration, better retention
Now that you know the benefits of healthy eating for your child, how can you help her understand it?  Not just pay lip service to it, but really understand it.  How can you help her draw the direct connection between the food she eats and the way she feels?  After all, knowledge is meaningless without motivation.
The After School Snack Experiment
Our recommendation is to start with the After School Snack Experiment.  Immediately after school for one (1) week, allow your child to pick her own snacks from a variety of choices (make sure you have healthy and unhealthy options available for this experiment).  Ask her to write down in a journal how she feels after consuming each one.  Did she feel like taking a nap or going on a bike ride?  Did she want to walk the dog or watch tv?  Was studying for her test easier or more difficult after she snacked?  It shoudn’t take long before she notices how active she feels with a balanced snack and how she doesn’t get hungry again until dinner when her snack is healthy.  It won’t take long before she realizes junk food brings her down, makes her moody, and fuels her appetite instead of satisfying it.  As soon as the light bulb goes off and she makes the connection between the food she eats and the way her body feels, a healthy eater will be born.
Opening your child’s eyes to the Food : Body Connection is only the beginning.  Once your child understands the impact food has on her body, she must be educated on which specific foods will get her the results she desires.  Read on to our second blog post – the Top 10 Super Foods for Kids – to learn more about which foods provide the maximum nutrition for your child. 
The end goal is to help your child make good food decisions when she’s with you and more importantly, when she’s not.   

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