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The Importance Of Proper Nutrition

by Dr Gillian McKeith

Childhood is a time of growth and learning. Physical and emotional fabric rapidly develops in kids. One of the most important things you can do for your child's future health is to give them a healthy diet. This means foods in as natural a state as possible. Processed and packaged foods, fast foods, refined foods and added sugar and salt should not be on the menu. Instead, kids diet should consist of whole grains, nuts, seeds, pulses, vegetables, fruit, fish, lean meat and eggs.

Protein is needed for growth, tissue repair, hormones and enzymes. The health of the bones, skin, hair, teeth and connective tissues all depend on getting adequate protein, including all the essential amino acids, daily.

Foods containing complete proteins include, fish, poultry (chicken & turkey), eggs, dairy products, tofu, quinoa and meats. Beans, pulses, nuts and seeds also contain protein; but in order to make them complete proteins they need to be combined with other foods that supply the missing amino acids. So in affect pulses combined with nuts or seeds or grains make a complete protein.

Carbohydrates (carbs) are a source of energy for the body. Carbs can be divided into complex and simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates break down into sugar very quickly meaning they cause a rapid rise in blood sugar followed by a dip with a consequent dip in energy and mood. The following foods are known as simple carbs and should be avoided for this reason: sugar, most commercial breakfast cereals, crisps, cakes, biscuits, sweets, confectionary, chocolate, white rice, white pasta, white bread, white flour products and pastries.

Complex carbohydrates are good carbs as they contain fibre, which slows down breakdown of the carbohydrate into sugar. These provide a steady trickle of sugar into the blood stream so that energy is sustained and mood is stabilized. Good carbohydrates to eat are brown rice, oats, whole wheat, rye, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, wild rice, fruit and virtually all vegetables such as sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, parsnips, yams etc.

The fibre in these foods is vital for a healthy digestive system and for internal cleansing, so please eat some complex carbohydrates everyday.

The Essential Fats are so called because they are vital for life, but cannot be made in the body so they must be derived from food. These fats are important for brain development and function, hormonal balance, skin, hair and nail health, growth and energy.

The omega Essential Fatty Acids (EFA's) are found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, herrings, pilchards and trout, flax seeds, raw shelled hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts and avocadoes. The cold pressed oils of these seeds are also a good source of EFA's. These fats are particularly important for the prevention and treatment of learning and behavioural disorders such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyper-activity Disorder) as well asthma and eczema.

Fats to be avoided are processed fats such as margarines, spreads and shortenings and fried or burnt fats.

Vitamins, Minerals and Phyto-nutrients

Some of the best sources of vitamins, minerals and phyto-nutrients (added plant nutrients) are sprouts, fruit and vegetables. Eating a variety of colours of fruits and vegetables helps to ensure you take in the full range of plant nutrients. Think of the colours of the rainbow and try to eat something from each colour daily. Aim for 5-8 portions of fruit and vegetables daily, but go heavier on the veggie intake than the fruit. For example:

Red: strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, red peppers, water melon, cranberries, goji berries, radish.

Orange: carrots, apricots, mango, peaches, nectarines, papaya, squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, yam.

Yellow: yellow peppers, yellow plums, melons, pineapple, bananas, sweetcorn, yellow squash.

Green: spinach, chard, kale, brussel sprouts, broccoli, chicory, celery, avocadoes, lettuce, rocket, peas, broad beans, savoy cabbage, watercress, herbs, asparagus, pak choi, courgettes.

Blue/Purple: beetroot, red kale, red cabbage, red plums, blueberries, blackberries, bilberries, kidney beans, aduki beans, red onions.


The importance of proper hydration is essential to feel well. Our bodies are 70% water. Water is needed for brain function, energy, good reaction times, strength, growth, elimination and detoxification. We cannot function properly without regular top ups of water. Get your child into the habit of sipping still water regularly throughout the day. Soft and fizzy sugary drinks should be avoided. Instead introduce freshly pressed fruit and vegetable juices to your child. These are not only hydrating but extremely nourishing, not to mention delicious!! At the end of the day, plain still water is the most important.