A great deal of research has been done that shows a child’s brain development and learning can be affected by a lack of vitamins and minerals—children who are vitamin and mineral deficient, and who eat diets high in unhealthy fats and sugars, tend to have lower I.Q. scores and overall academic, extracurricular, and behavioral performance than children who eat nutrient-rich meals and snacks.
For your child’s today and their tomorrow, raising Nutrition I.Q. will improve mental and physical performance, improve energy, stabilize moods, help maintain a healthy weight, help prevent disease and lessen mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and ADHD.
You can raise your child’s Nutrition I.Q.— here are ten tips on how to get that done!
1. Start Everyday Off Right
Mornings can be hectic—one of the most important things you can teach your child about nutrition is how to make healthy choices even when life gets busy.
There will be days that it’s all you can do to get your little ones dressed and off to school on time—these days are opportunities to show them how to plan ahead for busy times by making sure your kitchen is stocked with healthy breakfast options made with whole-food ingredients and free of processed sugars that will ultimately lead to energy crashes later in the day.
Have a checklist of things you want available in your kitchen and have your children help you take inventory and make shopping lists, and then have them restock the cabinets when you bring home the groceries.
Find a variety of convenient, healthy snacks to have on hand. Wild Zora Meat & Veggies bars are made with clean meats, fruits, and veggies for a quick protein and vitamin and mineral boost in a pinch. And Wild Zora Meals To Go can be easily prepared with a shake of the bag, adding some boiling water, letting it sit while your family gets ready to hop in the car, and then eaten right out of the bag on the way to school.
When your choice is eating in the car or not getting to school on time there’s no need for your child to start the day off hungry and without proper nutrition.
2. Did We Mention Be Prepared for Busyness?
Many families these days have busy schedules sunup to sundown, which has them grabbing quick and easy food on the run. There will always a mountain of unhealthy, convenient choices that are too hard to resist when they’re the only available option. Teach children how to plan ahead and have healthy, convenient, and tasty alternatives with them at all times.
Keep healthy snacks like Wild Zora Meat & Veggie Bars in the car, your purse, and in your children’s packs when you’re out-and-about or traveling. When we let ourselves get to the point that we’re overly hungry, defenses are lowered and we’re much more likely to eat just about anything—prioritize having healthy food options at your fingertips that will keep your children out of the Famished Zone!
3. Prioritize Healthy Meal-Times
Studies have shown that children who sit down to happy, encouraging, healthy dinners at home with their families on a regular basis have a greater sense of safety, life success, and quality connection with their parents and siblings. Making time for healthy sit-down meals as a family will help your child associate nutritious food with positive feelings into adulthood.
- Keep it healthy—Even when there’s some comfort food on the plate, make sure there’s also a good portion of fresh nutrient-rich food as well.
- Keep it positive—Encourage - Don’t criticize. Show interest. Laugh. Talk. Interact kindly.
- Play with Awareness—Occasionally take the time to have the family observe and talk about how the food smells, feels in the mouth, what sounds it makes when chewed, and of course... how it tastes, but be specific—not just does it taste good or bad, but is it salty, sweet, or sour. Many children and adults crave sugar but don’t think of a carrot as being sweet. When they take the time to be aware of the natural sweetness and delicious flavors in healthy foods, children can often begin to crave them.
4. Mix it Up and Lead Your Children on Some Food Adventures
Limited diets can lead to unhealthy food cravings and allergies. Introduce healthy new foods often and make it an adventure. Teach your children how the food is grown, prepared, and where it originates from. When food is about more than taste the interest in healthy food and variety can broaden and grow.
5. Help Children Make Healthy Choices When You’re Not Around
You can do your best to provide healthy meals and snacks at home, but what about when you’re not with your child and they’re making food choices on their own? Try to be aware of what your children are eating when they’re at school and with friends, and teach them to be prepared when they’re on their own.
A pantry stocked with healthy on-the-go food and healthy lunch options can help an older child pack a nutritious lunch instead of eating fast-food or less-then-nutritious cafeteria food. And when they have some delicious and healthy snacks in their backpack, they may be less tempted to eat the sugary snacks that their friends are eating.
6. Share Your Knowledge and Set an Example.
Talk positively about yourself, your body, your health, and how nutrition is impacting you in a positive way. Talk more about the dos than the don’ts when it comes to proper nutrition. Get excited about preparing and eating healthy food and show your children the pay-offs you’re having eating a nutrition-rich diet.
7. Get Them Involved
Have your children help you plan meals, the shopping list, and take them grocery shopping—teach them how to read labels and pick out produce and clean meats. When it comes to preparing meals, have younger children peel labels off of apples and wash fruits and veggies. Older children can chop veggies and make hummus.
Make slow food a family activity—put on some music and make some slow food with your children. Try setting aside at least one night a week to have some healthy cooking fun together and show your children that healthy choices are worth the effort and can be rewarding and fun.
8. Plant a Garden
Planting a garden is a great way to associate healthy food with a sense of accomplishment. Studies show that children who understand where food comes from and help to grow and prepare it are more discerning in what they will eat and want to eat. A child who picks a carrot in the garden is much more excited about eating it than one that was in the refrigerator drawer.
9. Get Some Help from Outside Resources
Just telling your children to eat their veggies won’t help them to develop their own conviction about the importance of eating a healthy diet. Teach them why it’s good to eat their veggies by sharing as much information and as many positive experiences as you can, and then add in some documentaries and online nutrition games to support what you're trying to instill.
10. Getting On Track
If you’re currently off-track with your family’s eating habits, make small changes as you shift to healthy eating. Stop buying the foods that don’t support your new eating goals. Make sure that you have lots of healthy choices ready-to-eat in the pantry and fridge. A drawer full of unwashed, uncut veggies isn’t enticing to a child, but a variety of washed fruit set out where they can see it and some cut up veggie sticks and hummus might be.
Get your children involved in the transition. Talk about the plan with them, watch one of the impactful documentary that will get the whole family motivated, and then have them help you clean out the fridge and cupboards, make the shopping list, and buy and stock the 'new' food.
Healthy Eating—a Family Affair
You can’t make a child want to do anything, but you can give them information and experiences that will influence their understanding of food and how it affects their body and mind. They may not buy into the idea right away, but the seeds you plant now will be there all their lives—many parents find that what children don’t take hold of early on, does take hold as they get older and in their child’s adulthood.
Why wait? Give your children the gift of a higher Nutrition I.Q. starting today!