Feeding Your Kids for Optimal Health

In this crazy world that we live in today, there is so much conflicting information out there about DIET. And when it comes to feeding our children, what is one of the most ESSENTIAL jobs as a mom quickly becomes a job that is overwhelming and frustrating, to say the least. Add to that the fact that it is something that you don’t just do every once in a while, but MULTIPLE times throughout the day, and it can be downright exhausting.

Let’s talk about some ways to disspell all of that angst around feeding your kids and getting them (and you!) to a healthy place.

First things first — STOP BEING A SHORT ORDER COOK!

You do NOT have to feed your family different meals every single day tailored to their tastes and whims. The fact of the matter is, YOU are the boss of your kitchen, and you can just shut that shit down RIGHT NOW.

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When it comes down to it, fed is best, so if your children (or spouse) are old enough to feed themselves, offer them the alternative — they may get up and make themselves a PB&J sandwich. But if family dinners are important to you (as many studies are showing that we are a nation coming BACK to the family dinner table at long last), then they must make their PB&J and then rejoin you at the table. Otherwise, they can just eat what you made!

One surefire way to avoid arguments at the table is to invite your children (and spouse!) to join you in the planning/shopping/cooking of meals. When you sit down to plan your meals out for the week, ask for their input, and be sure to include the meals that they like and request on your weekly menu. Ask them to help you compile the shopping list (or just teach them how to use Alexa so that they can add groceries to your list on their own!).

And then bring them into the kitchen with you to prepare the meals. Kids learn best through play, and sometimes play can mean cooking. Let them taste foods and see how they come together to make a meal. Let them set and clear the dinner table. If they can take ownership in some portion of that meal, they will be less likely to fight with you when it comes time to eat it!

Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of things. There are 4 main stages of human life — infancy (0-1 year), childhood (1-12 years), adolescence (12-18 years), and adulthood. Let’s take a look at each stage’s dietary needs:

Infancy: This is a point of FAST growth velocity. Most infants TRIPLE in size during their first year of life. During this stage, it is best to follow your pediatrician’s recommendations for breast/formula feeding and introducing solid foods.

Toddler (ages 1-3 years): During the childhood years, growth tapers off and begins to come in spurts. It is completely normal for children in the childhood years to go from ravenously hungry to not hungry at all. It is important to continue to introduce new foods during this impressionable time period, but to also understand that this is a time of independence for most children. They WILL refuse foods. Continue to offer them anyway. A couple of tips for introducing new foods at this stage:

  • a good rule of thumb for portions is 1 tablespoon of food for every year of life. Let them ask for more if they want more!

  • if the child loses interest in the food or begins to play with it, remove the food and give them another activity

  • at this age, children may eat 5-6 times per day. Space out meals every 1.5-2 hours apart, and make sure not to give a snack less than 1.5 hours before any solid meal — your child will not starve in 1.5 hours — they can wait, and will be more open to trying new foods if they are hungry!

  • offer the new food with a favorite food

  • put the new food on a small side plate so that the child can experience it — touch it, taste it, smell it

  • offer a new food 8-10 times with the stipulation that they must at least taste it before they decide that they don’t like it or want it

  • remember that this is the time when children are developing their tastes and preferences — offer a wide variety of foods from all food groups

  • avoid forbidding foods, as that makes the food more desirable and creates a bad relationship with food from the start. All foods have their place at our tables — even sweets. This is the best way to teach children how to have a healthy relationship with food!

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Preschool (ages 3-6 years): This is a period of social and emotional development for children, so the social/emotional environment around food is most important. During these years, children are mimicking their parents’ behavior and developing food preferences and establishing portion sizes. Come to the dinner table and have conversations. Keep healthy snacks on a low shelf or in a low drawer so that they can start to choose their own snacks when they are hungry and learn what kinds of snacks will be best for their bodies and fill them up. Teach them what it means to be social around the dinner table. Also, physical fitness should be incorporated into their routine at this age. It is recommended that children engage in at least an hour of physical activity a day!

School age (ages 6-12): School age children have lower energy needs during this period of time, but the quality and variety of foods is ESSENTIAL. Children quite literally ARE WHAT THEY EAT. Their bodies use the nutrients available to create the building blocks for their bodies and brains. Feed them a variety of good quality proteins, fats, fiber, and water! It is important to note here that ADHD diagnoses are up 250% since 1990 — and many studies are linking poor nutrition to the rise in symptoms and episodes. Consider including your school age children in the discussion about how the foods that they eat may affect their energy and focus in a school day.

Adolescent (ages 12-18): During this time, calorie needs increase with growth demands and vary by gender. This is the final period of rapid growth in the life cycle, as children’s sex organs develop and they reach full maturation. Girls require 46 grams of protein per day, while boys require 52 grams of protein. Vitamins A,C,D, and folate are often deficient due to inadequate fruit and vegetable intake. At this age, children give in to peer pressure more often, and spend more of their time out of the home than they do in, due to extracurricular and social activities. It is important to educate your adolescent about their unique nutritional needs at this age so that they can make smart choices when they are not at home. Stock your cabinets with grab and go foods, such as ready to eat cereals or whole wheat bagels with PB. Also, stock up on fruits that they can throw in a bag — bananas, oranges, and apples are good choices. ChooseMyPlate.gov for Teens is a great site for helping them to get educated about nutrition.

In the grand scheme of things, FED IS BEST. Let me repeat that for the people in the back — FED IS BEST. Allow your child to hear his or her own fullness cues. Break up with the “clean your plate and you’ll get dessert” bribery and mentality. Talk to your pediatrician about supplementation. And choose to do WHAT IS BEST for YOU AND YOUR CHILD.

And if they don’t like it — STAY STRONG. Remember that YOU are the boss of the house. YOU are the one in control. YOU are the adult. You CAN tell them what to do!

You know your child best. You’ve got this, Mama.

Ready to learn more about how I can support you in making the best possible decisions for yourself AND your growing family? Book a free discovery call with me TODAY and we will get you started on the path to true wellness!


Still not sure WHAT to feed your kids? Click HERE to grab my FREE Guide to Quick and Healthy Lunches!

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The information on this site is for educational purposes.  It is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Please contact a qualified health care professional for individual health and medical advice.  Jessica Groff shall not have any responsibility for any adverse effect, errors or omissions arising directly or indirectly because of the information provided on this site.  

This website is not meant to diagnose or to treat any medical condition. I encourage you to consult with your primary care physician or functional medicine practitioner to diagnose any medical condition and to discuss any changes with your doctor should you be concerned.  The information provided on this site should complement, not replace, the advice and relationship of your healthcare provider.

As a Holistic Nutrition Practitioner, I encourage all Clients to continue to visit and be treated by his/her healthcare professionals.