Children and Wholesome Eating

The fall routine is in full swing. Schooling, including those home-schooled, private and public, is under way. Fall sports are also in full gear from soccer, field hockey, volleyball and more. The most important aspect of the beginning of a new school and sport year is the whole, nutrient-dense foods provided for the children to learn and grow with all the best intentions.

The healthiest foods are plant-based, supplying the gut and brain with optimal nutrients and fiber. These foods will also reduce the risk for later-in-life chronic diseases, obesity and constipation, a common problem for young children, and feed the healthy gut bacteria to help digest food and boost immunity. Incorporating 9-11 servings of mostly veggies and fruit daily will provide the needed nutrition. Kid-friendly chronic illness resources can also help them understand more about chronic illnesses and why eating veggies and fruits daily is important.

Children can sometimes be picky eaters, so incorporating these nutrient-dense foods can be a challenge. Let’s look at some great possibilities.

Apples

The old phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” means apples will provide fiber, crunch and sweetness supporting heart and gut health. An apple can be eaten alone, or cut up and dipped into nut butter, adding protein and fat to create balance. With apple season also comes applesauce. Applesauce is easy to make by simply cutting up the apples, adding a stick of cinnamon and a little water to the pot then slowly cook it down. Yum! Apples can also be added to smoothies and in baking.

Avocado

I also like to say “an avocado a day keeps the doctor away” providing nutrients for brain health and heart-healthy fats. An easy breakfast can be avocado on toast. Cut up, avocado can be added to a salad for lunch. Celery and carrots can be dipped into guacamole as a snack. And the creaminess does wonders to smoothies.

Carrots

A sweet and tasty crunch packed with beta-carotene and nutrients for brain health. Great for teething babies and teaching them to develop healthy taste buds. Later, dip carrots into hummus or guacamole for a balanced snack. Add sliced carrots to soups and stews, or roast with other veggies for a side at dinner.

Berries

Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and cranberries are anti-inflammatory, full of fiber, sweet to taste and great as a snack. Instead of using sugar-laden jams or jelly on toast or PB&Js, consider making this easy spread.

Chia seed fruit spread

Ingredients: 2 cups berries

2 Tbsp. raw, local honey or maple syrup

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

¼ cup chia seeds

Preparation: Combine first 3 ingredients in a bowl to mash the berries and combine. Or use a blender

Add in chia seeds and stir to combine

Place in a clean jar, cover and refrigerate

Chia seeds

As noted in the recipe above, chia seeds are full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids beneficial in heart and brain health, decrease stress and boost emotional health.

When combined with a liquid, chia seeds “swell” and thicken making a tasty pudding. To make chia pudding in a jar, combine 1 cup non-dairy milk, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract and 3 tablespoon of chia seeds. Shake well and refrigerate. Adding 2 3 tablespoon of cocoa powder for those craving chocolate is another option.

Bananas

High in fiber and potassium helping to regulate the bowels and possibly boost one’s mood, Bananas are to eat alone or add to smoothies. A great snack: slather banana with nut butter of choice (great for brain health); roll in sunflower seeds or hemp seeds then slice and freeze. Over-ripe bananas can also create yummy banana bread.

Sweet potatoes

Full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber, and anti-inflammatory, this brightly colored tuber is extremely versatile. Slices of sweet potato can be toasted then topped with avocado. Mashed sweet potatoes can be made into “burgers.” Cut up sweet potatoes can be added to soups. Baked sweet potatoes can be filled with a variety of veggies. And don’t forget to eat the skin which is also packed with nutrients.

Oats

This whole grain provides fiber, supports heart health, aids in digestion and may boost immunity. A great way to start the day:

Overnight Oats in a Jar

Ingredients: 1/3 cup oats

Toppings: 1/2 banana

small handful of almonds or walnuts

1/3 cup plain non dairy yogurt of choice

nut butter

1/3 – 1/2 cup non-dairy milk

cocoa powder or cacao nibs

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, maple syrup or honey

3/4 tablespoon chia seeds

Preparation: Mash banana in a bowl

Stir in oats, yogurt, milk, cinnamon and chia seeds

Mix until well-combined

Place in a jar, cover and store in the fridge overnight

In the morning, add toppings of choice

Beans

A plant-based protein high in fiber, vitamins and minerals come in a variety from chickpeas, black beans, edamame and more. Add to soups, roast with spices, topping for tacos and making hummus gives numerous ways to enjoy. Green peas are also a great finger food for babies and toddlers.

Beets and Beet Greens

So much goodness consisting of fiber, iron, vitamins A and C, folic acid and more. Beets can be eaten raw in salads, roasted to bring out the sweetness and pickling adds tang. Steam the greens and add a splash of vinegar to boost extra nutrients.

Pears

Sweetness multiplied…and immune- boosting antioxidants, too. Eat a pear as-is for a snack. Add to salads or put in a smoothie. Slice and sauté in a little coconut oil with cinnamon for a scrumptious dessert.

Introducing children at a young age to whole, nutrient-dense foods sets them up for a lifetime of eating healthy nutritious foods. Start them young and they will prosper in the classroom, on the field and in life.


Deborah Dittner is a family nurse practitioner and health consultant. Her mission is to transform as many individuals as possible through nutrition and lifestyle changes. For more information, check out her website at www.debdittner.com or contact her at 518-596-8565.

Deborah Dittner is a family nurse practitioner and health consultant. Her mission is to transform as many individuals as possible through nutrition and lifestyle changes.

For more information, check out her website at www.debdittner.com or contact her at 518-596-8565.