According to SPINS, over 100 new items targeted at children's nutrition hit the shelves in the past year. But if you're looking for a game-changing ingredient, you're going to be disappointed. The biggest thing in kids' nutrition isn't a children's vitamin or supplement.
In searching for innovations in the children’s health category, while no ingredient or delivery system has stood out to me, it has become clear that the real innovation in kids’ nutrition is happening at home and at school. It’s not a vitamin or a supplement, though there are plenty of those. It’s an idea about how we feed ourselves and our kids.
Oddly enough one of the most innovative ideas out there right now harkens back to a time not all that long ago, though it feels like millennia—the family dinner. With busy schedules, both parents working and the encroachment of technology into every facet of our lives, it’s a wonder we even talk to each other anymore. Conversations on Facebook don’t count; neither does texting.
The point is to slow down, to put time and thought into what we put in our bodies, and to take the time to enjoy it. In a recent article about children’s nutrition, Mark Hyman, MD, writes: “Research shows that children who have regular meals with their parents do better in every way—from better grades to healthier relationships to staying out of trouble, and are 42 percent less likely to drink, 50 percent less likely to smoke and 66 percent less likely to smoke pot.”
The recent legislation regarding potatoes in public school meal programs is a great illustration of the shift that’s happening in our collective thinking. The USDA proposed a new rule to limit starchy vegetables served in school cafeterias, primarily in an effort to reduce the amount of french fries our kids can eat.
A noble gesture, certainly, but as Senators Mark Udall (D-CO) and Susan Collins (R-ME) argued in their effort to quash the bill—which they did—it missed the point. If French fries are the enemy, why punish the potato? Potatoes can provide nutritional value when prepared in a healthy way and when eaten as a part of a nutritionally complete meal. In other words, we don’t need to ban less healthy foods to get better nutrition. We just need to choose, and to teach our kids to choose, to prepare and consume healthier meals.
Sure, our kids ought to be supplementing their diets with vitamins, omega-3s and critical minerals like calcium to keep them active and alert. But all the vitamins in the world aren't going to save them from the irreparable damage caused by the daily consumption of processed foods, sugars and unhealthy fats. We in the natural health industry understand this better than anyone else, so as I continue my search for innovative ingredients and products in children’s health, here’s a shout out to the real innovators—the ones changing the way we feed our kids.