With cold and flu season upon us I get asked a lot about how to keep little ones healthy.
Although there are many supplements that boost immune systems and herbal remedies that I recommend once kiddos are sick (you can read How to Keep Kids Healthy During Cold and Flu Season, here), the best line of defense is a healthy whole foods based diet.
I know it’s not easy to get kids to eat healthy, especially if they are used to eating poorly, but there is no supplement on Earth that will take the place of a good nutrient dense diet.
So today I’m going to share the things I do to keep my little one healthy and vibrant.
One more thing. The list below is a great place to start, especially if you eat a standard American diet. That said, it’s important to remember each body is different. For example one person may thrive on dairy, and another not so much. Some folks need more meat, others very little. Some people are sensitive to nightshades like tomatoes and peppers.
One thing my nutrition research has taught me is that there is no one size fits all plan, you more about that in this post The Diet Trap: Why There is no Best Diet for Everyone.
Yes, you should always eat as much nutrient dense whole food as you can, but the ratios and sensitivities vary.
Listen to your body. Watch your child’s reactions, energy levels, and digestive progress with each set of food. By doing this you will discover on what foods they thrive and what foods you should reduce or even eliminate.
I cover a clean eating diet in greater detail in my Beginners Guide to Clean Eating but for all you busy moms out there here is a quick and dirty list of what I feed my child to keep her healthy.
What I Feed My Child to Keep Her Healthy
• Organic vegetables (she especially loves them roasted)
• Leafy greens (think salads)
• Fresh organic fruit (we do big platters of fruit regularly)
• Healthy fats like avocado, chia seed, pastured butter, and coconut oil
• Small amounts of probiotic rich foods like raw coconut milk kefir, raw pickles, and raw fermented sauerkraut.
(Note some people are histamine sensitive and will react poorly to fermented foods, Suzy Cohen wrote a great article about this here. If a food doesn’t feel right to your body/child’s body don’t eat it or let your child have it)
• Presoaked nuts and seeds, think pumpkin seeds, almonds, pecans, and walnuts as well as chia seeds (many folks are sensitive to nuts so watch for subtle reactions.
• Small amount of organic (preferably sprouted) gluten free grains. I do a superfood basmati rice with a head of garlic, pastured butter, a bit of avocado oil, a dash of cumin, some pink salt, a bay leaf, and a handful of fresh (detoxifying) cilantro. Yum!
• Organic, grass-fed, pastured, and non-CAFO meat. Think grass fed beef and pastured chickens.
• Modest amounts of organic pastured dairy (IF your child doesn’t seem to have a sensitivity or autoimmune issues). My 4 year old doesn’t drink milk but loves pastured gouda cheese. I like the boost of K2 she gets from this yummy cheese (my family prefers raw milk dairy but that’s a personal choice).
• Small amounts of pre-soaked & properly cooked legumes like black beans, garbanzo beans, and split pea soup (While I don’t totally shun legumes I also don’t eat a ton of them. I do understand why paleo folks shun legumes, I’ve looked at the data, and in certain circumstances it makes sense. If you feel subtle symptoms after eating them or have an autoimmune disorder I would suggest trying an elimination diet to see if they are the culprit).
• Limited organic sugar, preferably from unrefined sources like maple syrup, dates, and raw honey (if they are over 1 year of age).
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- Treats for my little one are usually homemade paleo cupcakes or maple syrup laced, plain, full fat, organic, grassfed yogurt. Remember it’s all about balance.
Limited gluten. No gluten. There is a plethora of research on this and the bottom line is that conventional wheat is good for no one. However some ancient types of wheat (like Einkorn) can be well tolerated by some. I suggest you read Grain Brain and Wheat Belly to learn more about the effects of gluten on the body. My daughter and I live a gluten reduced diet because for the moment that’s what makes sense for our lives. I call it eating gluten aware. We do eat some gluten occasionally but it’s usually organic and in the form of Einkorn wheat. An ancient non-hybridized wheat which is lower in gluten and higher in nutrients. You can find their flour here, their pasta here, and their cookies here (my daughter LOVES the checkerboard cookies).
Update: Since writing this post I’ve discovered (at her pediatrician’s recommendation) that my little one is indeed gluten sensitive. She no longer consumes gluten and we are now a gluten free family (I’m gluten sensitive too!).
• Notice this what’s NOT on this list. No fast food, no soda, no highly processed packaged food, no artificial colors, no commercial preservatives, no artificial flavorings, no high sodium foods, no high sugar foods, no pesticide laden foods (if we can avoid them), and no microwaved foods.
We don’t eat these foods and in my opinion they are not part of a healthy diet, not even in moderation.
I get that this isn’t an easy transition for a family that’s used to a standard American diet, but there is no better motivation than the love we have for our kids.
If you are new to clean eating, I suggest you tackle one step at a time and build on your progress.
With kids you may have to go cold turkey on some things but remember that one day they will thank you for putting their health first.
How about you? Did I leave anything out? What foods do your kids love? How did you get them to eat healthy food? Share your tips in the comments below.
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