Balanced Living

What are your children eating?

Posted by Arja on October 25 in Nutrition

I don’t think it should come as a surprise to most of us that diet affects short-term cognitive ability.  What may be a surprise, however, is that what your child is eating right now may affect his/her IQ scores 5 or more years from now.  The The National Post published an article earlier this year that reviewed the findings of a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health that tracked the types of food and drink consumed, as well as when they were consumed, by children at ages 3, 4, 7 and 8.5 years old.  They then measured the IQ scores of the same children at age 8.5 and found that those children whose diet was made up predominantly of processed foods had lower IQ scores.  The children who ate a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates showed higher scores.

So, what does this really mean?  Paying closer attention to the quality of food that your child eats in their earlier years will have a direct impact on their cognitive abilities later in life.  Feed their growing brains healthy, whole foods low in sugar, fillers, preservatives and artificial colours/flavours and you are positively affecting their development 5 years down the road.

This may seem like a tall order for some parents as toddlers are notoriously picky eaters.  Encourage them to make healthy choices by not offering the junk in the first place and do your best to lead by example.  It can take perseverance and creativity to get a preschooler to eat lots of vegetables, but there are sneaky ways around this.  Here are a few ideas to get the little ones eating more vegetables and whole grains:

- Kids love pasta, so make sure that when you feed it to them you’re using whole grain varieties.  If making the switch from white to whole grain, start slowly, mixing the two until the ratio is entirely whole grain. 
- Make your own pasta sauce using a few cans of whole tomatoes.  Start with a base of onions, garlic, diced celery and grated carrot and then add the tomatoes.  There are some easy recipes out there and making your own sauce ensures wholesome ingredients and no added sugar or salt.  You can add whatever vegetables you want and then blitz everything with an immersion blender.
- Make whole grain muffins and add things like diced apple and grated carrots.  There are a lot of decent whole grain muffin recipes out there.  Using whole grain spelt flour actually yields a much less dense muffin then by using whole wheat flour without having to mix in any all purpose.  Zucchini also makes a nice muffin addition
- Macaroni and cheese.  Most kids cannot get enough of the stuff.  Make your own, it’s easy and you can make batches large enough to freeze and then bake from frozen.  You can add frozen peas, broccoli, or if you’re trying to be really sneaky, steam some cauliflower, puree it and add it to the cheese sauce.
- Pureed vegetable soups are another easy way to get a large variety of vegetables into a picky eater.  Pair it with a nice grilled cheese sandwich on whole grain toast and you have a super toddler-friendly meal.

These are ideas from my own kitchen and while they may not all work for you, hopefully they give you some ideas about how to get your little ones on the right track for a lifetime of healthy eating.

arja pennanen lytle c.n.p. n.n.c.p certified nutritional practitioner

Arja is a Holistic Nutritionist with a passion for balanced living. She loves to help people sleep better, think better, feel sexier, and just generally feel better by putting the focus on eating foods that make you feel good. Arja uses whole foods, lifestyle adjustments, herbs, and some supplements to help people feel their best and achieve their health and wellness goals.