We read all the time about increases in autism, ADD/ADHD and other behavioral issues in our children of today compared to years ago, but in our world today:
(1) there are more growth hormones, pesticides and harmful chemicals going into our foods, and therefore into our bodies
(2) there are more fast food options now for busy families on the go....and they are cheaper (e.g. Hong Kong has one of the cheapest McDonalds in the world, therefore you can get a meal there for a lot less than it would cost to buy ingredients and the time it would take to cook that meal). Families are busy, and sometimes there simply isn't time to do what we want to do.
(3) parents and caregivers don't always know what the right foods are and clever labeling from manufacturers is often misleading.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO
1. Become a master food label interpreter! More to come on that below...
2. Take charge of your child's eating habits and involve your child in what you are doing. Educate your child as you are educating yourself! We all have to learn these things, and we have no control over the pollution in the air that we breathe going into our children's bodies, but we CAN control the nourishment that goes into their little bodies. SOLUTION: weekly meal plans! They do not need to be burdensome, and they can be recycled every few weeks (or even every week) to save time. They will also take the guess work out of figuring out what everyone is going to eat each day, which is amazingly freeing! If you have a caregiver/friend/relative looking after your child, give them the meal plan, and make sure they follow it. As I have found with my own experience, caregivers from other countries sometimes use their own views about foods and infuse their own cultural whispers on the situation and don't necessarily believe or buy into what our views are. You need to be FIRM but respectful here. You are not asking them to change their own views, but you are asking them to respect that you think differently, and just like any job, they do need to follow your rules.
3. Cut out ALL sugar and processed foods and find alternative "treats". A tough one and will likely have some resistance from your child, but this is so important for the welfare of these children. To put it simply, there have been studies to show that parents have had their children labelled as ADD, ADHD or even Autistic AND then given medication for their children. Just by changing their diets, cutting out sugar, gluten, wheat, dairy and monitoring their food intake for a few months, they were able to dramatically reduce the behavioral symptoms, and in some cases eliminate them altogether.
4. Buy ORGANIC where possible. Now I realize that this means your food bills may go up, but do some research in your area as there are far more resources available nowadays to provide organic pesticide-free options for our tables e.g. farmer's markets, organic farms, online organic companies to name a few.
BECOME A MASTER FOOD LABEL READER!
Here are some tips:
1. Every packaged food product needs to have a label. No label - don't buy it.
2. Ingredients are listed in order of quantity e.g. if a label has "sugar" as the first ingredient, then that's the main ingredient in the product.
3. Your enemies - SUGAR, SUCROSE, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, HYDROGENATED or PARTLY HYDROGENATED OIL, MSG or E621 (monosodium glutamate...present in a lot of Asian foods, sauces and flavorings for crisps), "E" numbers or "flavour enhancers" - check them out first so that you know exactly what they are, TARTRAZINE, ALL soft fizzy drinks, most fruit juices as they are made from "concentrate".
Invest in a juicer and juice your own - your child will love doing this too. For example, my daughter drinks a small glass of carrot juice every day, and 3 fairly large carrots go into making that one glass.....it would be a tall order to coax her into eating 3 carrots a day!
www.thesneakychef.com - brilliant website and recipes with hidden healthy ingredients that your child would be hard pressed to figure out
Jessica Seinfeld - "Deceptively Delicious" - good recommendations from fellow parents and friends and again, some delicious recipes
Find vitamins specially formulated for children containing omega-3s, whole food nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in convenient liquid and chewable forms.
Dole Yonanas (www.yonanas.com) - a great little machine that uses frozen bananas and other fruit and converts them into something similar to soft ice-cream (but without the sugar and cream etc). A guilt-free treat!