Food for thought during every walk of life

Children (1-10):

As summer winds down and children are back in school, you may think the hassle of stocking up on snacks, introducing new foods and sneaking veggies into favorite meals is over—well, think again. According to studies, the nutritional habits of school-aged children are defined during this crucial time because of growth requirements and physical activity.

Although amounts vary, children and adults require the same daily nutrients. And because children are rapidly growing, it is important to plan meals and snacks that provide the recommended amount of servings each day. A variety of vitamins and minerals support growth and development during the childhood years. Children tend to eat what’s available. Unfortunately, a lot of kid-friendly snacks are packed full of sugar, artificial ingredients and chemical fillers.

To keep your children satisfied nutritionally, here are ten healthy snack ideas:

  • Homemade tortilla chips with salsa
  • Flavored rice cakes (low sodium) with nut butter
  • Homemade fruit roll-up
  • Low-fat cheese stick
  • Air-popped popcorn
  • Fruit smoothies with spinach, berries, skim milk and/or banana
  • Homemade trail mix—with raisins, nuts, dried fruit
  • DIY ice pops—with coconut water and fruit
  • Low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese topped with fruit
  • Veggies with hummus or low-fat dips
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    Teenagers (11-19):

    Teenagers are a unique breed. Curious, but stubborn, many teens choose comfort and convenience before nutrition and benefits. By introducing healthy, whole foods early on, studies show the habits will stick with them for life. Slowly but surely, start buying less and less processed food, junk food, soda and refined food and replace them with their alternatives (see my post on health substitutions here). If it’s there, they will eat it, so make sure what is available is nutritious and filling.

    Encouraging rebellious teens to eat healthy, organic foods can be exhausting, but laying it out in tangible terms seems to be effective. Demonstrate what processed foods are made of by doing experiments like this one here, talk about the costs of healthcare and how whole foods are helping counteract diseases/illness or even do a family challenge to cut one unhealthy item a week and share the struggles and how you all feel afterwards.

    Here are ten tips to help teens discover the importance of real food:

    • Introduce them to the kitchen early. Show them how to use the oven to bake/cook their own food instead of relying on the microwave to heat up frozen meals.
    • Explain to them the difference of sauteing, steaming, baking or grilling your food instead of frying, smothering and breading (and how to order healthier foods in restaurants by avoiding terms like battered, crispy and creamy).
    • Talk about portion control! A common way many teens put on weight in their high-school/college years is by simply eating too much for their daily consumption needs.
    • Share the differences between whole foods versus processed foods. Instead of them grabbing an applesauce pouch and a bag of chips, explain to them that a whole apple and a bag of freshly cut veggies will not only be more nutritionally satisfying, but also keeps them fuller longer.
    • Instead of buying sugary juices and sports drinks, show your teen how to make delicious smoothies/juices. Experimenting with smoothies/juices is not only fun for curious teens, but also helps teach them the importance of getting the recommended amount of veggies/fruits.
    • Whether it is pizza, nachos, pasta or chicken tenders, put a homemade and healthy spin on teen favorites to show them how easy and fun it is to make it their own way. They may not want to go back to the greasy, high-fat versions.
    • Make a family challenge to cut out one unhealthy food a week and replace it with a healthier version (ie: white pasta for quinoa, processed peanut butter for whole almonds or cow’s milk for almond/coconut milk) and see what the consensus is.
    • Try at least one new food a month. Branch out and try something as a family that no one has tried before whether it be an ethnic dish, a super-food or a new kind of meat, it will be fun sharing the experience together.
    • Toppings like full-fat cheese, bacon, croutons, butter and salad dressings are not only full of extra fat/sugar/salt, but also add almost no nutritional value to meals. Instead encourage your teen to choose toppings that are flavorful and pack a healthy punch like avocado, nuts/seeds, veggies, extra virgin olive oil/coconut oil, organic mustard and salsa.
    • Explain ingredient labels and nutritional facts to teens. Many times drinks like Powerade, Snapple and Arizona Teas or frozen foods like pizza rolls, chicken wings or burritos are 2-3 servings each—deceiving to a teen who thinks there is only 60 calories in the entire bottle/package.

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    Young Adults (20-35):

    Young adults are always on the go. Whether hurrying to class, preparing for a wedding or welcoming a baby into this world, nutrition often times takes a back burner. Although many young adults know what is healthy and what isn’t, many on their own simply cannot afford healthy choices or simply aren’t aware there are alternative options. Good news is that there are staples that can be purchased in bulk (see my list of must-haves for clean eaters), saving weekly trips to the grocery store, time cooking meals every night and most importantly—money.

    Browsing through Pinterest boards, I’m finding a lot of young adults are also looking for convenience and getting the most bang for their buck. Crockpot meals, bulk frozen meals and prepping weekly meals/snacks are some of the most commonly searched topics as well as trendy diets/fads like wheat-free, dairy-free and meat-free entrees.

    Here are ten wonderfully easy, cheap and healthy recipes (most are kid-friendly!):

    And for those who don’t have access to an oven, grill, stove or crockpot (I’m talking to you college kids), here is a list of healthy microwavable recipes (please, for the love of God, stay away from Ramen, Kraft Mac ‘N’ Cheese bowls and frozen dinners).

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    Middle-Aged Adults (40-60):

    Nutritional needs of middle-aged adults differ greatly from those of children and young adults. At this age, older adults are mostly done growing and developing meaning maintaining healthy and active lifestyle becomes a main priority. By staying fit and meeting nutritional needs, older adults lower the risk of developing age and weight related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.

    Dietary needs should also be established during this stage of adult life. Although well-educated about nutrition, many adults are consuming too much of the wrong things like saturated and trans fats, sugar, salt and artificial ingredients because it is what they were brought up on. Adults wanting to achieve a healthier lifestyle need to makeover their staple foods and tune into their knowledge of food, nutrition and exercise to help meet their goals.

    Here is list of ten food no-no’s (and their healthy alternatives):

    • Ice cream—loaded with fat, sugar and calories (try dairy-free ice cream or frozen Greek yogurt)
    • Condiments like ketchup, BBQ sauce and sweet-and-sour sauce—loaded with sugar (try mustard, horseradish, salsa, hummus or lemon juice)
    • Creamy salad dressings like ranch and Caesar—loaded with fat and calories (try balsamic vinaigrette, olive oil and vinegar, or lemon juice)
    • Restaurant-style French fries—loaded with fat, simple carbs and salt (try homemade sweet potato fries or mashed redskin potatoes)
    • White pasta—loaded with simple carbs and calories (try quinoa, brown rice, wild rice or orzo)
    • Soda and sugary juices—loaded with empty calories and sugar (try flavored waters or sugar-free/calorie-free natural soda or homemade juice)
    • Spreads like butter/margarine or mayonnaise—loaded with fat, salt and calories (try healthy-fat spreads like avocado, hummus or Greek yogurt)
    • White bread—loaded with simple carbs and fat (try sprouted grain bread, whole wheat or oat-based breads)
    • Table sugar and salt—loaded with artificial chemicals (try stevia or pure honey for sugar and use kosher sea salt, Himalayan pink salt or salt-free herbs for table salt)
    • Coffee-based drinks and store-bought smoothies—loaded with sugar and fat (try black coffee, hot tea or homemade smoothies with fresh berries, greens and almond milk)

    Remember talk with your doctor to see if taking a multivitamin and/or supplements like omega-3, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin C for heart health, strong bones and a healthy immune system works with your diet.

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    Elderly (65+):

    Elderly adults’ diets are often times not well-balanced. Along with getting the recommended amount of veggies, fruits, grains and protein, many older adults should incorporate supplements and vitamins to boost overall health. While some elderly adults live in assisted living homes, many are home-bound and are conflicted with incorrect nutrition information. It’s important at this age to schedule regular doctor’s visits and and establish your personal needs, proper nutrition and any health risks that come with aging.

    Here are 10 tips to maintain and improve senior citizen health:

    • Talk with your doctor about taking supplements such as calcium, omega-3 and vitamin D which reduce heart disease, cancer, arthritis and preserve bone health to ensure a well-balanced diet.
    • By limiting sodium intake, you reduce hypertension/high blood pressure, a common ailment of the elderly. Avoid processed or frozen food as well as restaurant food and incorporate more fruits and veggies into your diet.
    • As you age, you become less thirsty. It’s important to hydrate your body with the proper amount of water (6-8 8 oz. cups a day).
    • Incorporate changes gradually if there is a sudden medical condition such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes with the proper nutrition.
    • Be creative with meals by making smoothies to ensure you’re consuming the necessary nutrients. Make sure you don’t do this for all meals or it could cause malnutrition or diarrhea.
    • Get enough sleep each night. Elderly adults should be getting around 7-8 hours of sleep a night. As you age, you may have trouble sleeping. Talk with your doctor about an over-the-counter natural sleep aid or a special pre-bedtime diet.
    • Although you may not feel hungry during mealtime, it’s important to consume the necessary nutrients otherwise malnutrition can set in. Try eating with others, talking with your doctor about medication side effects and establishing an eating schedule to follow.
    • Even if you currently don’t have any medical conditions, it’s important to speak with a nutritionist or doctor about nutrition information for the elderly.
    • To reduce uncomfortable bloating and constipation, eat plenty of fiber. Good sources of fiber are whole grains, flax seed, beans, popcorn, oats, nuts and vegetables.
    • If you are not able to prepare your own meals, call for help! Many programs like Meals on Wheels deliver food for home-bound adults. Programs like these prepare healthy and fresh dishes that conform to the NIH guidelines and typically store in the freezer.

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    -Kailee

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