The optimal way for children and adults to eat is to center their diet around fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains. Legumes, which include all the dried beans such as garbanzos, lentils, lima beans, split peas, kidney beans, and so on, are the highest source of vegetable protein. All the fresh vegetables and fruits give you vitamins and minerals. The grains, such as brown rice, millet, buckwheat and amaranth provide protein and fiber.
When these foods make up your diet, you’re on an optimal plateau. When you choose to add meat, fish, or dairy to your diet, you may lessen the benefits of a proper diet. The way most people eat today is a radical departure from what will promote good health.
I’m not trying to tell you that you can’t have a special treat now and then. There will always be special occasions. A family birthday or holiday party is a time when you may want to indulge yourself and your children. The occasional deviation from your healthy eating plan isn’t going to ruin your health. The danger is that you begin to think that one slip didn’t hurt so two or three slips won’t hurt either. This can lead to establishing new unhealthy habits that snap back at you later.
Children can be kept on an optimal food plan for several years without much effort. Up to the age of three or so, you simply tell the child, “We don’t have any cookies in the house. We don’t eat candy. Our family doesn’t eat meat.” Children during these years will eat what is fed to them.
Around age three, you will probably have to do more explaining. This is when you can begin to talk about growing strong muscles so they can run fast and play hard. When they’re old enough to go to parties and preschool, they’ll become aware of other food choices. That is the time to explain why they must continue to eat the way they’ve been taught at home.
I agree that children must learn to make their own choices. But if those choices involved crossing the street or playing with matches, you’d quickly take the right to choose out of their hands. To my mind, allowing a child to select unhealthy foods is just as dangerous.
Young children don’t think of the long-term effects of an action. For that matter, neither do teenagers. That’s why it’s so important to instill proper eating habits into your children early so proper food choices are second nature by the time they are ready for high school.
Usually when a parent comes into my office with a child suffering from an intestinal disturbance, they already know about the “BRAT Diet.” The letters are an acronym for Bananas, Rice, Apples and Tea – the traditional foods used to soothe intestinal discomfort. I modify the BRAT Diet to include toast instead of tea, and tell parents to use it while serving no protein to children with intestinal disturbance.
Instead of just making the BRAT diet a remedy, parents can make it the healthy foundation of their children’s daily diet. I suggest they add in other fruits and grains and a variety of other vegetables. This is the food you can give a child not only while he’s sick but every day for the rest of his life. This is the diet that promotes both healing and optimum health!
Be gentle as you are making dietary improvements for your family. Some families do well with a drastic and complete change and some require a more gradual approach that leads them to a very occasional indulgence of a favorite food. Find what works for your family as you walk this path to improving your health by improving your foods.