We’re focusing on family nutrition this month. We started covering this topic in last week’s post on what to do with picky eaters, energy requirements for kids and teens, and how to plan meals for athletic children. This edition of Thanyapura’s “Family Nutrition Guide” will touch on nutrition plans for athletic families, what low glycemic index snacks are, recommendations on the best carbs to consume, and the difference between healthy and unhealthy fats.
If my family are athletes, how can we increase muscle mass? Should I give supplements to children? When can they start?
A balanced, well-planned diet goes beyond muscle and protein. Most families consume enough protein throughout the day. Children require less than 60 grammes of protein per day – and this is easily achieved through normal diets. Vegan families pay special attention to plant-based protein sources and still satisfy daily nutritional requirements.
Respected paediatric entities advise against protein supplements for healthy children and teens under 18 years of age. Many studies show kids and teens consume more protein than needed. There is no need to consume extra dosage. These supplements are made based on studies on adults, not children.
Why should families consume low glycemic index snacks over sweets and processed foods?
As your family members go to work or attend school, the brain needs correct fuel in order to function. The brain requires 20 percent of our daily energy intake. Knowing what edifies the brain will help it function better. The brain demands carbohydrates as fuel, but not through sugar since it can damage brain cells. These carbs should come from low glycemic index carbs – in the form of whole grains and fiber-rich fruits.
Low glycemic index snacks and meals won’t cause any sugar spikes and crashes in our body. It regulates energy levels and staves off cravings for sweet and processed foods.
What are the best carbs to feed your family?
The best kinds of carbs are whole grains (brown rice, buckwheat, spelt, millet, quinoa, oats), legumes (beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils) and fruits high in fibre.
What’s the difference between healthy and unhealthy fats? What’s the best type of fat for cooking?
Our bodies need fat as a source of energy. Fat absorbs other nutrients and helps to structure cells in our body. Healthy fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are found in natural or plant-based foods. Unhealthy fats are artificially-made trans fats. (Trans fats are altered polyunsaturated fats that are solid and lasts longer). Saturated fats are in between good and bad fat. Past studies suggest that a diet with more than 10 percent of saturated fats can increase heart disease while recent studies have suggested no significant evidence supports this claim.
Avoid trans-fat at all costs. On food labels, these are written as “partially hydrogenated oils.” This is bad for cooking and consumption as recent research has shown they’re linked to cancer and heart disease. Industrial animal fats are a bad option (examples include lard and bacon). Animal fats should come from grass-fed cows, which are not commonly found in regular industries.
Families should consume more of monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, avocado, canola oil, and nuts. Polyunsaturated fats are also recommended and commonly found in Omega-3 (oily fish, flaxseed, other kinds of seeds, and cold-press seed oils).
To reduce heart disease risks, use coconut oil for cooking. Coconut oil is mostly made of saturated fats and makes it resistant to heat for cooking hot dishes. The body uses this fat for energy and also kills bad bacteria in the stomach. In Thailand, organic and fresh coconut oil is easy to find.
Family Nutrition Guidelines
These are general guidelines to help you get started on formulating your family nutrition plan. Nutrition consultations are useful for analysing a family’s eating habits. Group sessions with a nutritionist and dietitian for the family are beneficial and make healthy choices based on your family’s lifestyle.
About the Author
Marcela is a Nutritionist and Dietitian, with a specialisation in Sports Nutrition. She earned her undergraduate degree in Human Nutrition at the University of Costa Rica in 2008, then completed her master’s degree in Human Movement and Integrative Health with emphasis on Athletes and Sports Nutrition in the Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica in 2010. Marcela dedicated the past ten years to Muay Thai and holds the WBC Asia World Championship.