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Back To School Nutrition

From kindergarten to senior year, my mom would make me eat an Indian dessert called “Barfi” before I jumped on the bus or drove off in my Pontiac Sunfire (with no AC!).  It was made with almonds, ghee (butter), coconut, pistachios, cardamon, and a bunch of other delicious spices. She said it would make me smarter (but not as smart as my sis!).  Barfi has protein, healthy fats, fiber, sugars and spices (which many are now termed “nootropics” – brain nutrients).  As back to school arrives, here is what I’ve learned from my mom and being a formulator/nutritional biochemist for 20yrs!

Q: Is there a difference between Children’s & Adults supplements?

A: Yes.  Although they contains the same types of ingredients; Vitamin C is Vitamin C. Legally any supplement marketed to children must be in an easy to swallow form (gummy, liquid, etc..), due to risks of choking, the dosages should be lower, and most formulations will stick with only GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) ingredients. 

Q: Are they safe for all ages?

A: You can feel really good about taking supplements for kids over the age of 12 and/or 100lbs.  For ages/weights less than that, you need to be careful and let your health care practitioner know. Many times you see dosages that are either too high (causing toxicity issues) or too low (basically vitamin candy).  

Q: What’s the issue with toxicity?

A: As an adult, your bodies detoxing systems are mature and your buffering abilities are strong.  When you’re younger, this is not necessarily the case.  So if a child takes too much, they’ll have a quicker and more significant reaction.  Being careful of minerals, herbal extracts, and individual nutrient supplements would be prudent. 

Q: What are the key nutrients for children?

A: Macronutrients (Protein-Carbs-Fats) is more important that Micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc..). Growth and development is fueled by macro.  The right amount and the right type of calories is key, and this only comes from Macronutrients.  There is no calories in vitamins/minerals! Protein is #1, Fat is #2, and Carbs is #3 – just like when you’re an adult. 

Q: What are some healthy nutrition tips for kids?

A: Breakfast – Protein/Fats, Lunch/Dinner – Protein/Fats/Carbs.  Most kids don’t like to eat breakfast because they are revved up and “not hungry”, it’s because they have cortisol/adrenalin running through their system.  It’s natural.  But sneaking in protein – whether it’s peanut butter on toast, protein powder in milk/cereal, scrambled eggs in burrito is key.  Keeping the refined carbohydrates (sugars) is key in the morning, once their sugars/insulin spike, they will tend to stay up and cause them to be hungry or come crashing down 2-3hrs later.  Send them off with nuts and fruit.  Be careful of granola bars with are more sugars and carbs.