Written by Brittany Scanniello, RD
School is back in session! For some of us, we have been counting down the days before school starts to once again rejoice in the structure, routine, and day to day balance we miss during the summer months. For others, with school comes added stress of how to balance pick-ups, drop-offs, packing lunches, healthy snacks and fixing dinner. With the proportion of children and adolescents falling into the obesity category trending up here in the U.S., now at 17.8%, the importance of choosing whole foods, limiting refined sugar and making the healthy choice the easy choice is that much more critical.(1)
Nutrition for children is based on the same principles we aim for in adults, like you and me. We all need the same type of nutrients – carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals. What differs, is the amount of these specific nutrients by age. We are going to break this down further to help those of you in the latter category above, to hopefully streamline your meal and snack planning with wholesome, real foods that fit you and your family’s lifestyle.
Throughout the year, each child will have periods of rapid growth and big appetites. To aid in healthy growth and development, we have highlighted some of the most nutrient-dense foods to focus on providing(2):
- Protein maintains, builds, and repairs body tissue and muscle. This is especially critical in a growing body. Aim to provide seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, beans, dairy, seeds, and nuts.
- Fruits and Vegetables. Encourage your child to eat a variety of fresh, frozen, dehydrated, or dried fruits and vegetables. Aim to provide a variety of fruits and vegetables, including dark green, red, and orange, starchy and others, each week. The old adage “eat the rainbow” is a fun way to incorporate your child or children when deciding what to prepare for meals and snacks and ensure they are getting the appropriate amounts of potassium, folate, vitamin A, vitamin C and so many other important nutrients critical in immune health, development and growth.
- Healthy Fats. Fats found in nuts, seeds and oils are predominantly unsaturated fats. These healthy fats not only provide sustained energy for these growing bodies, but support brain and neurodevelopment as our children age. Fat is one of the most critical nutrients to include in your child’s daily intake to support neuro-cognitive health.
- Grains. Choose whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, popcorn, quinoa, brown or wild rice. Limit refined grains such as white bread and white rice. Grains are a wonderful source of B-vitamins which are critical in almost every step of our metabolic process.
- Calcium. Encourage dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese. If you are a dairy-free household, ensure your dairy alternatives are calcium and vitamin D fortified. With growing children comes growing bones and adequate calcium and vitamin D is important throughout all of life’s many stages.
- Iron deficiency anemia in children is one of the most common health problems throughout the world.(3) Foods highest in iron include: beef, chicken, fish, beans, dark green vegetables and enriched foods. When consuming high iron foods, it is important to consume foods rich in vitamin C as these aid in total iron absorption. Pair iron-rich foods with oranges, potatoes, tomatoes, or peppers as some examples.
While we have covered the nutrients you want to include when feeding your littles, we also must cover the foods we want to limit from our children’s daily intake. These foods provide empty calories and are lacking nutrients important for growth and development.
- Limit Added Refined Sugar. Sugar is naturally found in many foods, including fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, nuts and seeds. These are not added sugars. Table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are two common examples of refined sugars often added to processed foods. Check nutrition labels. Choose food items with minimal added sugars. Look for sweeteners such as coconut nectar or honey, as these are naturally occurring with added health benefits such as being rich in antioxidants and naturally antibacterial. Avoid drinks with added sugars such as soda, sports drinks, energy drinks and juice. If your child drinks juice, make sure it's 100 percent juice without added sugars and limit his or her total servings.
- Eliminate Trans Fats — meaning avoid foods that contain partially hydrogenated oil, in a nutshell, processed foods. Choose whole food ingredients with nourishing nuts and seeds and oils as the fat choice.
- Sodium. Most children and adults in the U.S. consume an overabundance of sodium in their daily diets. Encourage snacking on fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables to satisfy cravings.
It is no surprise that meal and snack prep come with added stress and angst. Here at Supernola, we aim to bring healthy options to you and ones that are pleasing to the entire family. Supernola superfood clusters are organic, plant-based and made from whole food ingredients. An alternative to bars, Supernola will satisfy cravings with its delicious fusion of real fruit, nourishing nuts and seeds – hitting on some of the most important nutrients discussed in this article. For some quick and easy meal and snack options, keep reading:
- Superfood Smoothie Bowl Popsicle
- Add any Supernola cluster pack to your favorite smoothie, yogurt, acai bowl or as a salad topper
- Sprinkle on top of your whole grain waffle or toast with nut butter
- Golden Milk Yogurt Chia Pudding
- Quick Supernola Stacks
- Add to banana bread for some extra crunch
- Simply rip open one of the cluster packs and enjoy all by itself!
Trust us! Supernola Cluster packs are kid tested and parent approved. Feel good about providing your littles a nutritious snack with clean ingredients.