This is part 5 of 6 in a series about building resilience in our kids. If you haven’t had the chance to read the first four, I will encourage you to do so.
If you have read our previous articles, you might have noticed that we have tried to make the connection for increased capacity for resilience in kids to relational and physical health. We believe that health in these two areas is an important factors for building resilience in kids.
Raising resilient kids is very important. Because the world is hard. It is essential for our kids to be able to navigate this world without having their souls crushed. Resilience carries forward into adulthood, which as all adults know all too well is needed almost every day.
As I write this post, I want to make the following disclaimer. I am not a nutrition expert. I am not up on all of the latest dietary trends and findings. There seem to be as many different opinions on nutrition as there are people on the planet. Diet trends come and go. What was good for you yesterday will kill you tomorrow. A quick google search on diet trends will send you down a rabbit hole from which you might not return. This post is not meant to promote on a particular diet over another. It certainly is not intended to be a definitive statement on what you should feed your kids.
I merely want to show that nutrition and building resilience are connected.
I also might share a few things that I am doing in my family as a means of encouragement.
The better our bodies are working, the easier it is to deal with difficult circumstances. If we don’t get enough sleep, or if we are overeating junk food our brains and bodies are negatively affected and will not respond as well to our circumstances. There have been numerous studies published that connect nutrition and our ability to be resilient in times of stress and difficulty.
Food is fuel. This makes sense. Most of us already know this. If we make better food choices, we end up feeling better. If we are feeling better, we function better. The same goes for our kids.
Food is also celebratory and fun. Some of life’s best memories are attached to meals and specific foods. I would guess that we all have foods we enjoy when we want to celebrate. I don’t remember the last time I enjoy a great birthday boneless, skinless chicken breast.
BALANCE IS KEY
When it comes to kids, nutrition, and resilience, I think it is helpful to think in terms of “everyday foods” and “sometimes foods.”
Everyday foods are those foods which help fuel the body and can help increase our capacity for resilience. Foods like lean protein (chicken and fish), whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are all foods that can and should be eaten every day. These are the foods that should make up the majority of our diet.
Let’s face it, sometimes you (or your kids) want ice cream, pizza, or French fries. These and others are foods that we should probably only eat sometimes, which means on occasion and not every day. Pizza, French fries, mac and cheese, doughnuts, even a soda all fit into food that can be enjoyed sometimes. I believe that kids should be allowed to have treats. The problem isn’t the treats, it’s the frequency with which those treats are consumed. If foods that we know should only be consumed sometimes become staples in our kids’ diets, we are not setting up our kids to function at their best. It will be harder for them to draw on the resilience reserves when they need them. Their brains will not perform at optimum levels during school.
It is essential to take stock of what we are feeding our kids and make adjustments if necessary. In our house, my wife and I noticed that our kids were eating more chips than we’d like. We didn’t merely want to make chips off limits, so we started buying the baked varieties instead. We talked to our kids about the change, and while they might not have been excited about it at first, they haven’t complained since. Are you eating enough everyday foods? If not, make a conscious decision to include more of them in your meals and snacks. Are your kids eating too many sometimes foods? If so, try to make a healthier food swap. Give your kids a variety of options that are good for them. Tell them that you are going to save the doughnuts for only a once in a while treat. Do you kids have a sweet tooth? Try strawberries, cherries, grapes (find the cotton candy ones when they are in season) instead of sour patch kids or chocolate cupcakes.
If you need to start making changes, give yourself some grace as you do so. Make small changes, which will eventually add up to significant changes.
If you have a super picky eater, we feel you. We have them too. There are lots of outstanding websites and articles devoted to picky eaters. A quick google search will provide lots of useful resources.
Enjoy food as a celebration.
Use food as fuel.
Stick with it.
Your kids will be better for it.