Macronutrients are building blocks that basically fuel our body. They provide energy and have specific functions in the body.
All foods consist of three macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
There is no question that macronutrients impact your child’s body.
Learning to balance every child’s individual needs with macronutrients is essential to having a healthy body and healthy mind.
The number-one rule to remember in nutrition 101 is to read all labels religiously so you know what’s going into your child’s body.
The rule of thumb is “if you can’t pronounce it, then most likely it is not food”.
You also want to avoid Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) foods, which are not a safe and healthy choice for your child.
If possible buy organic! Eat grass fed meats or grass fed butter. Eat whole, not processed, foods and learn the facts from the Environmental Working Group about foods, chemicals and pesticides.
Protein is brain power!
The building blocks of protein are called amino acids and they feed the neurotransmitters in the brain that send the messages to the brain cells to tell the body what to do.
When neurotransmitters are misfiring, it may be because there is an imbalance – too many or not enough amino acids.
Therefore, making sure your child is getting adequate protein and absorbing it is paramount to brain functioning.
There are two basic types of amino acids: essential and non-essential.
Essential amino acids need to be obtained from food, whereas non-essential amino acids are often produced by the body and not as important for your child to consume as often.
Protein is a great back-up energy source for the body.
It builds, repairs, and maintains muscle tissue.
Protein is also instrumental in creating healthy hair, skin and nails and important for muscle contractions such as in the case of digestion, nervous system function and bladder and bowel functions.
Protein can also function in different capacities: some proteins are enzymes, others are hormones, some provide structure, some are antibodies, while others maintain fluid balance, some transport nutrients and other compounds, and some maintain acid-base balance.
As you can see, protein has many versatile abilities in the body!
Choose protein on quality and density.
Some protein with every meal helps sustain energy levels.
A key point to remember is to make sure your child has protein every morning for breakfast.
Protein shakes are great for the morning and a more absorbable and easily digestible protein.
Clean protein bars are a great mid-morning snack for kids.
Protein helps sustain brain power at school and prevent a sugar drop mid-morning creating a vicious hypoglycemic cycle causing unwanted behaviors.
Think protein! Think energy!
There are two sources from which your child needs to obtain protein: complete protein and incomplete protein.
Complete proteins have all of the essential amino acids proportionate to what the body needs: beef, fish, poultry, cheese and eggs.
Incomplete proteins are lacking one or more essential amino acid in the right proportion: nuts, seeds, many vegetables, beans and grains.
So make sure you strategically combine both complete and incomplete protein for your child.
Children love carbohydrates, but they can be addicting.
Please note that carbohydrates should never be eliminated entirely from the body because the body needs glucose.
If there is not enough of a supply of glucose, the body breaks down anything it can to get glucose which is usually stored fat.
Feed your child complex carbohydrates and sources of dietary fiber unless your child has a specific diet to regulate the immune system and needs to avoid carbohydrates such as grains.
How do we choose the right carbohydrates? Carbohydrates come in two groups: simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates.
Simple carbohydrates are monosaccharides: a single molecule sugar such as glucose that is used to fuel the brain and body.
These are simple sugars present in certain foods such as fruit, milk and other unprocessed foods.
In addition, there are also simple sugars such as plant carbohydrates that are refined and added to foods such as syrups, sodas and desserts as a sweetener.
Simple sugars such as glucose are also an essential energy source fueling the body because glucose is stored in the muscles.
The brain and the nerve cells survive on glucose because they can’t store it.
So a certain amount of glucose is needed to maintain the body and brain.
Simple carbohydrates consist of:
- Refined white flour
- White pasta
- White rice
- White bread
- Refined sugars
- White sugar
- Corn syrup
Simple carbohydrates break down into simple sugars very quickly, fueling the body with very quick high energy.
The danger with an overconsumption of simple carbohydrates is the vicious cycle of sugar dropping (hypoglycemia) and fueling carbohydrate cravings to increase energy which eventually exhausts the adrenals, leading to hyperglycemia and eventually diabetes.
Although the energy boost is fast with simple carbohydrates, it’s not sustained.
Complex carbohydrates are sugars that contain more than two sugar molecules.
Short chains are called oligosaccharides and more than ten monosaccharides linked together are called polysaccharides, which may be hundreds of thousands of glucose molecules.
Glucose molecules link together in the form of starches and fiber such as:
- Whole grains
- Other legumes
- Root vegetables
The body can digest and break down complex carbohydrates into glucose, and store it as glycogen.
The human body can’t digest fiber so well, so fiber doesn’t fuel a lot of energy but instead is used to help maintain the colon, relieve constipation and lower cholesterol.
Complex carbohydrates do not provide a sudden surge of energy, but rather a slow-moving, steady energy that doesn’t create peaks and hypoglycemia.
Therefore, complex carbohydrates are much healthier source of energy for the body than simple carbohydrates.
Over the years, fats have gotten a bad rap.
What we now know is that fats are so critical for many roles in the body especially brain functioning.
What is important is eating the right type of fats – natural, good and wholesome fats.
Some children benefit from a high-fat diet such as children with:
- Sensory Processing Disorder
- Learning disabilities
- Other neurological disorders
- Failure to thrive
- A poor appetite
Fats have many benefits; they:
- Are an energy reserve in the body
- Provide essential fatty acids for the immune system and brain
- Calm the nervous system
- Transport fat-soluble nutrients to the cells
- Hydrate the body both intracellular and extracellular along with minerals and electrolytes
- Stabilize cell membranes
- Heal the brain
There are different types of fats:
- Saturated fats
- Trans fats
- Unsaturated fats
- Monounsaturated fats
- Polyunsaturated fats
Saturated fats are found in animal fats such as:
- Dairy fat
- Coconut oil
- Palm oil
- Pork lard
- Beef tallow
- Chicken schmaltz
- Duck fat
While these fats have been falsely linked to heart disease in the past few decades, research from the Weston A. Price Foundation shows that these traditionally used fats are indeed healthy and the best with which to cook.
MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil from coconut is an excellent fat that the body utilizes in many ways.
Coconut oil is an excellent source to help heal the gut from Candida and yeast overgrowth.
Coconut oil and cold pressed extra virgin olive oil are excellent fats to heal the microbiome.
Studies have also been done on ester ketones produced from coconut oil, which have been shown to reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Trans fats are considered by most experts to be the most dangerous they contribute to insulin resistance and are highly inflammatory.
Food manufacturers prolong the shelf life of processed foods by hardening the oil in a process called hydrogenation, creating trans fats, which are found in:
- Hydrogenated oils
- Partially hydrogenated oils
Trans fats are often found in processed foods.
Harvard Medical School has stated that “there is no safe level of consumption” of trans fats, as they can stiffen cell membranes and contribute to mitochondrial dysfunction.
Consumers need to beware that processed-food manufacturers are legally allowed to round nutritional levels to the closest whole number.
The problem with this practice is that if a food has 0.49 grams of trans fat per serving, it can legally be listed as “trans fat free”.
In this case, it is better to read food labels and look for trans fats in the list of ingredients, or better yet, avoid processed foods altogether.
Unsaturated fats can improve blood cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity.
There are two categories of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated fats are in foods such as:
- Olives and olive oil
- Sesame seeds
These fats are a healthy choice when uncooked because they can:
- Protect against heart disease
- Improve insulin resistance
- Help the body to utilize fat properly
- Help with weight loss
- Improve mood
- Strengthen bones
Polyunsaturated fats are important for:
- Digestive disorders
- Brain development
Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat, are known to:
- Reduce inflammation
- Improve neurological functioning
- Maintain cell membranes
- Regulate mood
- Aid in hormone production
Omega-3’s that have been studied for their beneficial health effects are ALA (alpha linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
ALA can be found in:
The body doesn’t produce ALA so it needs to be in your child’s diet.
ALA converts to EPA and DHA, but it is better to get EPA and DHA from other sources such as:
- Lake trout
- Sea vegetables
Omega-6 fatty acids are important in the diet as well, although they are typically over-represented in the typical western diet, which relies heavily on corn for use in processed foods.
Corn is a source of omega-6 fatty acids, but corn can be highly inflammatory for many people, so it is not recommended as a source of omega-6’s.
Healthy dietary sources of omega-6 fatty acids are:
- Brazil nuts
- Pine nuts
- Sesame seeds
In conclusion, make sure your child has a diet of good beneficial whole food fats such as:
- Grass-fed butter
- Grass-fed meats
- Grass-fed ghee
- Raw nuts
- Raw seeds
- Coconut products
- Wild salmon and other wild-caught fatty fish