Healthy Food Choices
• Fresh vegetables, especially broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, watercress, parsley, collards, spinach, swiss chard, kale, daikon radish, beets and beet tops
• Fresh fruits, especially apples, avocados, cherries, grapes, oranges, grapefruit, figs and berries
Some of your child’s favorite fruits may not be available during certain times of the year, so substitute with the organic frozen version. (Note: modern freezing techniques do not significantly diminish the nutritional value of foods.)
Frozen berries and grapes are great served in a little dish with a spoon (blueberries, in particular, are a big hit with kids and are nutrient powerhouses). Cold, crisp apple slices with raw, organic, unsalted almond butter are often appealing and provide protein, fiber and vitamins.
• Freshly made stewed fruits, especially apples, pears, prunes and apricots
• Fresh vegetable and fruit juices
• Smoothies made from any combination of:
- fresh or frozen fruit (especially berries, peaches and bananas)
- freshly made or unsweetened fruit juice
- almond, coconut, oat milk, plain whole milk Greek yogurt or kefir
- raw almonds which have been soaked overnight
- raw, unsalted almond butter
- a handful of leafy greens
- pea, hemp or whey protein powders
• Clear broths, vegetable and miso soups
• Legumes, including lentils, peas and beans
• Cooked whole grains, including oatmeal, wild rice*, barley, millet, buckwheat and bulgur
• Sourdough breads or breads made from sprouted flour, sprouted whole grains and seeds
• Pastas made from whole grains and seeds, including corn, quinoa and buckwheat
• Nuts and seeds, especially almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, coconut, macadamia nuts, sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds and cooked quinoa
• Raw nut butters
• Seaweeds from Maine coast sources, certified free of contaminants
• Wild fish that has been certified free of contaminants. Smaller fish, like sardines and anchovies are less contaminated in general than larger fish and very nutritious, so it’s worth seeing if your child likes them.
• Organic grass-fed poultry & meats
• Organic eggs from free-range chickens
• Unrefined, unfiltered organic virgin olive oil and small amounts of unrefined, cold-pressed flaxseed, sesame, almond, macadamia and coconut oils.
• Raw unfiltered honey, pure maple syrup, blackstrap molasses, barley malt syrup and date sugar can be used sparingly. (Note: to prevent the possibility of infant botulism, honey should never be given to children under one year of age.)
* Residues of arsenic are commonly found in rice and rice products due to contamination of soils and rice growing practices. Until there are substantive changes in these practices, consider using it sparingly, especially for children. (See recommendations for reducing arsenic content in rice through cooking practices at Helping2Heal.org). Traditionally harvested lake grown wild rice is a nutritious and healthy alternative.
• Encourage your child to help with the preparation of meals and snacks if they feel well enough. Studies show that children are more likely to try new foods if they play a role in their selection, preparation and cooking.
• Learn to make soups with lots of vegetables, miso or vegetable broth, seaweed and legumes. When soup is pureed in a blender or food processor, “objectionable” ingredients often become undetectable. Soup packs a huge nutritional punch in a bowl! It’s also easy to eat and digest, even when stomachs are not feeling very well.
• Juicers are inexpensive and widely available and can be used for most fruits and vegetables. Experiment with combinations until you find a few your child really enjoys. Carrot, apple, celery and cucumber is a good combination to start with. You can even add a handful of leafy greens, like parsley, kale or swiss chard, without changing the taste.
• Learn to make healthy substitutes for favorite snack foods. Kale chips and baked sweet potato “fries” are delicious, and kids generally like them even better than the unhealthy versions of chips. Carrot, celery and pepper sticks with homemade hummus, bean spread or guacamole for dipping are filling and satisfying and can even be a light meal. You can also experiment with other tasty and crunchy vegetables, such as cabbage, fennel, turnips, broccoli and cauliflower.
• Prepare snacks ahead of time so they are always available. Wash bunches of organic grapes and freeze them for a refreshing cold treat, or mix favorite nuts, seeds, raisins or dried cranberries and package in small paper bags for eating at home or on the go.
• Introduce plant-based meals consisting of a cooked whole grain and legume, a dark green leafy vegetable and two other vegetables, such as beets and winter squash.
• And finally ... smaller and more frequent meals are often tolerated better three meals a day.
Foods to Avoid
• Refined and concentrated sweeteners, including white or brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, dextrose, glucose, invert sugar and maltodextrin.
• Artificial sweeteners, flavors, dyes and chemical preservatives
• White flour (wheat) products, including pasta, bread, pastries, bagels, cookies, cakes, crackers and pretzels.
• Conventional dairy products, including milk, cheese, ice cream and butter. Since these foods are common in children’s diets, small amounts of the organic versions can be offered. You and your child can experiment to find appealing and healthier fermented organic dairy products, like yogurt and kefir.
• Fried foods, including chips, French fries and chicken nuggets.
• Microwaved foods
• Processed foods, which are more likely to contain genetically modified (GM) soy and corn products as well as partially hydrogenated GM oils, high fructose corn syrup and chemical additives.
• Canned foods and drinks in steel and aluminum cans which are treated with the known endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemical, Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA leaches into the contents of the cans.
• Processed or deli meats include sausages, hot dogs, salami, meat jerky, ham and cured bacon. These meats typically have been smoked, salted, cured, fermented, dried or canned through the use of different processes requiring the addition of chemicals that are linked to chronic health problems. Sodium chloride, heterocyclic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and nitrosamines (from sodium nitrate) are some of the chemicals of concern in processed meats that are not found in fresh meat. An occasional breakfast with bacon is fine, but it would be a good idea to avoid eating processed meats every day.
• Fruit juices are almost universally perceived as healthy drinks, but they actually have a very high sugar content, almost equal to a sugary soft drink of the same size. In 12 oz portions, Coca-Cola has 10 teaspoons of sugar and apple juice has 9.8 teaspoons. Importantly, fruit juice does not contain any of the beneficial fiber found in whole fresh fruits. But even more concerning is the recent discovery that heavy metals like lead, inorganic arsenic and cadmium are commonly found in juices at unsafe levels, especially apple, grape and fruit juice blends. The American Academy of Pediatrics says parents should avoid giving children younger than 1-year-old any fruit juice. After that, the daily maximum amounts are: ages 1-3, 4 ounces; ages 4-6, 6 ounces; 7 years and older, 8 ounces.
• Farm-raised fish - Many modern fish farming practices often result in worrisome levels of chemical contaminants, particularly in farm-raised Atlantic salmon. However, if you know of a reliable source of farm-raised fish, enjoy this healthy food!
• Genetically modified (GM) foods *
• Partially hydrogenated and hydrogenated vegetable oils - this category also includes margarine, a highly processed food product that was advertised for many years as a healthy alternative to butter. Margarine is made from hydrogenated vegetable oils, with the addition of many additives, including stabilizers, bleaches (hydrogenated vegetable oil is grey, so it is bleached and then colored yellow), and artificial flavors. The high temperatures needed for processing the oils as well as extraction processes result in contamination with free radicals and industrial solvents.
• Refined and processed polyunsaturated oils, especially corn, soybean, sunflower, safflower and cottonseed.
* Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide RoundUp, is the most widely used pesticide for genetically modified (GM) crops. Recognized as a possible carcinogen by the World Health Organization and the state of California, glyphosate is now found in most, if not all, food products, including baby foods, where the hazard to health is much greater due to the special vulnerability of children. Even though low residues of the chemical have been found in organic foods, eating organic remains the best way to reduce exposure to glyphosate and pesticides in general.