Importance of a Balanced Diet
Fruit and vegetables are just the beginning of a healthy, well-balanced diet. It also includes whole grains (such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice), protein (chicken, fish, turkey), dairy, and healthy fats (avocado, olive oil).
These food groups are intended to help us grow and become strong. I’m here to help you understand why eating a healthy and balanced diet is important for you.
Eating your fruits and vegetables shouldn’t just be done to please your parents; it also has a lot of benefits for you too. They help provide essential nutrients to help you grow and develop as you get older, in addition to supplying you with everything you need to be the best that you can be.
How many of you play a sport or participate in another activity, such as band or math club? A healthy diet contributes to how far you can kick a soccer ball or how fast you can solve a math equation. It might not seem like, but a balanced diet contributes to both your physical health and mental health by giving your body and brain the energy it needs.
Other balanced diet benefits:
- You will get sick less often
- Gives you the energy to get through the day
- Helps you do better in school
- Grow bigger and stronger
I’m sure you have all been told to eat a healthy diet, but what does that really mean? A healthy, balanced diet consists of a variety of different foods, of all colors and textures. You want to include all foods groups, such as protein, whole grains, dairy, and fats into your daily meals. A combination of all foods groups and including a variety of different ingredients are the key to eating a well-balanced diet.
Try experimenting with a new fruit or vegetable each week or try that meal your mom has been begging you to eat. You might discover a new favorite food while also providing your body with the energy it needs!
Fruits, Vegetables & Immunity
The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults consume 1.5–2 cups of fruits and 2–3 cups of vegetables per day. Only 9% of high school students meet their recommended fruit and vegetable intake.
Fruits and vegetables are a great source of antioxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin A. Vitamin C is notoriously known for immune system boosting properties. Although flu season is coming to an end, consuming enough of these antioxidant-packed fruits and vegetables year-round will help to provide your immune system with the tools it needs to protect against cold/flu viruses.
A few ways to increase your fruit & vegetable intake:
Antioxidant Packed Smoothie
- Frozen mixed berries
- 1-2 handfuls of spinach
- Greek Yogurt
- Unsweetened almond milk, skim milk or water
- Make this a smoothie bowl to eat by keeping the consistency thicker and add whole grain granola for added crunch and fiber!
Apples & Nut Butter
- Slice up apples into desired shape
- Dunk in peanut or almond butter and enjoy!
- All fruits are welcome in this fruit salad! Strawberries, apples, oranges are commonly known for their vitamin C content and are fantastic to incorporate.
Veggies & Hummus
- Consuming a variety of veggies such as broccoli and carrots to dip in hummus can be an easy, fun way to get a serving of veggies in!
Mindful snacking is a great way to satisfy your hunger between meals and is encouraged. Snacking is often viewed in a negative light as something that shouldn’t take place in a healthy diet but that is far from the truth. It’s all about what you choose to snack on and how much of it! It’s important to listen to hunger cues to ensure you’re eating enough but stopping when full.
Being aware of portion sizes can help promote mindful snacking behaviors and proper energy balance.
When snacking, take your time finishing your snack. It takes up to 20 minutes for our brains to get the signal from our stomach that we are full. Taking your time while snacking will also promote healthy digestion.
Try to aim for a snack that contains fiber, protein, and fat to help keep you satiated until your next meal.
Hydrate well between meals! 64oz of water per day is recommended to promote proper hydration and optimal digestion.
Mindful snacking examples:
- Vegetables and hummus
- Peanut butter and jelly made with whole-grain bread
- Rice cakes and almond butter
- Yogurt and fruit
- A handful of nuts
- Fruit salad
- Harvest Snapeas
- Dark chocolate in moderation
Goodbye 2020, Goodbye Dieting
As you may or may not have experienced firsthand, dieting doesn’t work and can have harmful effects. As we age, many of us get wrapped up into diet culture, which demonizes certain foods and ways of eating and praises or shames people based on how they eat and their body size. The diet mentality can lead to stress, feelings of failure, poor body image, low self-esteem, and eating disorders. Many diets are marketed as “lifestyles” but when you take a closer look, they are still diets— suggesting to restrict the amount of food one eats, to limit the variety of foods, and to use food rules and restrictions as a way to manipulate body size.
Intuitive eating is a way to free oneself from diet culture and promote a healthy relationship with food, the mind, and the body. Two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch wrote Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach, a book about “rebuilding a healthy body image and making peace with food.” The book goes through the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating:
- Reject the Diet Mentality
- Honor Your Hunger
- Make Peace with Food
- Challenge the Food Police
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Feel Your Fullness
- Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
- Respect Your Body
- Movement- Feel the Difference
- Honor Your Health- Gentle Nutrition
These principles are not meant to be strict rules. Intuitive eating is not a diet and is not about perfection. It is about honoring our hunger cues, approaching food from a place of self-care, not demonizing foods, and giving ourselves permission to eat all foods. It’s about prioritizing and honoring our bodies’ physiological, emotional, and social needs. We are all born intuitive eaters, and it’s possible to get back to our intuitive eating roots even if we’ve been consumed by diet culture.
It’s also possible to help your child to nurture their intuitive eating mindset by:
- Providing your child with meals and snacks regularly that include a variety of foods to choose from.
- Not labeling foods as “good” or “bad”- try talking about foods in a neutral way.
- Trusting your child to be the expert of their body- they know how much they need to eat.
- Not focusing on your child’s weight.
- Encouraging movement that brings joy. Exercise should not be a chore or have the focus of losing weight.
- Recognizing any issues that you may have with food or your body and work on addressing them.
- Following Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Eating.
Intuitive eating is evidence-based. Research has shown that intuitive eating is associated with greater body appreciation, positive emotional functioning, greater life satisfaction, unconditional self-regard and optimism, and psychological hardiness (Bruce, et al, 2016). It is also associated with improved blood pressure, blood lipids, and dietary intake (Van Dyke & Drinkwater, 2014). Studies have found that intuitive eating during teenage years is associated with better mental health and eating behaviors in adulthood.
Want to learn more? Check out these books and podcasts:
- Intuitive Eating
- The Intuitive Eating Workbook
- The Intuitive Eating Workbook for Teens: A Non-Diet, Body Positive Approach to Building a Healthy Relationship with Food
- Your Child’s Weight: Helping Without Harming
- Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense
- Bruce LJ, RicciardelliLA. (2016). A systematic review of the psychosocial correlates of intuitive eating among adult women. Appetite.96:454-472.
- Van Dyke N, Drinkwater EJ. Relationships between intuitive eating and health indicators: literature review. Public Health Nutr. 2014 Aug;17(8):1757-66. doi: 10.1017/S1368980013002139. Epub2013 Aug 21. PMID: 23962472.
The Science of Baking Cupcakes
Have you ever wondered what the purpose of baking powder in a recipe is? Or eggs? Believe it or not, baking is science! Try this experiment with your kids to learn about the purpose of baking powder, eggs, and sugar in cupcakes.
Choose a cupcake recipe, such as this one, and divide the recipe to make each of the four variations:
- Prepare the batter as written in the recipe (with all ingredients) for the control cupcakes.
- Prepare the batters with missing ingredients:
- One without egg
- One without baking powder
- One without sugar
- Bake the cupcakes following the recipe.
- Compare the cupcakes with missing ingredients to the control cupcakes. Notice how the variations differ in appearance, texture, and taste.
***Remember to not try the batter before baking, as raw egg and raw flour can be harmful.
Purpose of egg: Eggs are a source of both fat and protein. Eggs act as a binding agent– the protein in them provides structure. Their fat makes baked goods tender and richer. Too much egg leads to a low rise because there is too much protein structure, while too little egg results in baked goods not being tender because of the lack of fat.
Purpose of baking powder: Baking powder is a leavening agent. It contains sodium bicarbonate and cream of tartar, which is an acid. The cream of tartar reacts with the sodium bicarbonate when mixed with a liquid (the batter). The reaction is activated once again when exposed to heat (put in the oven). This reaction between sodium bicarbonate and cream of tartar produces carbon dioxide bubbles, leading to a light and fluffy baked goods.
Purpose of sugar: Sugar attracts and holds water, which helps to make baked goods soft and moist. When creaming butter and sugar, air bubbles are created. The air bubbles expand during baking, which makes the baked goods light in texture. Sugar is also used in food because of its sweet taste. The sweetness that sugar provides often makes food more palatable. Cupcake recipe: https://prettysimplesweet.com/vanilla-cupcakes/#wprm-recipe-container-11988
Sports Nutrition for Young Athletes
Active kids need food to fuel their workouts. Three to four hours before exercise, a meal containing carbohydrates and a moderate amount of protein will provide the energy needed to fuel athletes. Closer to the start of exercising (30-60 minutes prior), a snack consisting of easy to digest carbohydrates and a small amount of protein is best. If athletes do not eat enough carbohydrates, their performance will be impaired. Avoiding high-fiber and high-fat foods before activity will help to prevent an upset stomach. Pre-exercise snacks that contain both carbohydrates and protein include:
- Turkey roll-ups and an apple
- Grapes and cheese
- Low-fat yogurt with granola and fruit
- Cereal with milk and fruit
When participating in physical activity for more than 60 minutes, carbohydrates are needed during the activity to help maintain blood glucose levels and delay fatigue. Here are some snack ideas for refueling during exercise lasting longer than 60 minutes:
- Fruit juice
- Orange slices
After exercise, carbohydrates and protein are needed to replenish what is lost. The best carbohydrate to protein ratio post-exercise is 4:1. This will help to restore glycogen stores and promote muscle protein synthesis. It is ideal to refuel within 60 minutes after exercising. Great snack ideas for post-physical activity refueling include:
- Chocolate milk
- Fruit with peanut butter
- Crackers and string cheese
- Smoothie with fruit and yogurt
- Hummus and pita
- Turkey sandwich
Staying hydrated is also very important. Fluids are needed before, during, and after exercise— every 15-20 minutes. Water will suffice for most young athletes. Adding fruit to water, such as lemons, limes, and strawberries may help to encourage hydration in those who do not like plain water. When exercising for longer than 60 minutes, replenishing sodium may also be necessary. Pretzels or saltines are two easy options that will do the trick.
It is necessary for young athletes’ calorie needs to be met. They should still be gaining weight normally, despite their increase in activity. Children are natural intuitive eaters, so when their caregivers provide them with food to eat, they are good at regulating how much they need. Adequate nutrition helps kids to feel less tired and have more energy, helps them to grow, and can help to prevent injuries. Focus on helping your child to fuel their body with foods that they enjoy, help them to feel good, and help them to be able to perform their best!
I Tried It and Liked it!