I was invited to participate in an interview recently with Dr. Keith Ayoob, a nutritionist who appears regularly on “Good Morning America,” CNN, and ABC news and who writes for SchoolMenu.com. One of my favorite articles of his is called “D Pressed;” it highlights the importance of Vitamin D to mental health. Anyone familiar with Julia Ross’s book The Mood Cure knows that a Vitamin D test is essential if you’re dealing with any mental health issues, and with most physical ones, too. Dr. Joseph Mercola has a great Vitamin D Resource Page on his website, Mercola.com.
When asked what foods he recommends for children, Dr. Ayoob said he’s always looking to get into people what they might be missing. Vitamin D is one of these important nutrients. Although some foods are fortified with Vitamin D, the Weston A. Price Foundation cites high-quality cod liver oil as a key source of this fat-soluble vitamin and raises concerns about synthetic forms of Vitamin D in this article.
Of particular concern to Dr. Ayoob was that all children and adults start their day with breakfast. Children who eat breakfast do better in school, he said, and everyone who eats breakfast is less likely to get tired in the afternoon. “You cannot have a healthy diet without breakfast,” Ayoob asserted.
Parents can get creative with breakfast, he said. Last night’s leftover chicken drumstick is a fine source of protein and has fat that will leave a child sated, the “stick-to-your-ribs” quality. In hot summer months, families might opt for cooked foods in the mornings and cooler foods in the evening.
When we do fire up the option, he urged, we should “over cook,” not in quality but in quantity. Don’t warm up the whole house for just a few baked potatoes; rather, plan ahead to cook many things at once that you can eat throughout the week with less effort.
This is a great strategy, but start early! I have been known to let dinner get way too late because I was determined not to start the oven until I had a chicken, four vegetables and my grain-free almond “bread” to bake all at once.
Another summer consideration is hydration. Dr. Ayoob wanted to remind parents that you don’t only drink water; eat your water too! Cool off with fruits and veggies that have high water content, like melons and cucumbers. Of course, many of these foods (including berries, peaches, apples, celery and green pepper) must be organic because they are on the dirty dozen list of worst produce when it comes to pesticide residue.
Back to time-planning, be sure to prioritize eating as a calm, community experience. Meals are a time to model social skills and manners. The more distractions kids have, the harder it is to enjoy eating. Even if breakfast seems to take only 6-7 minutes to eat, Dr. Ayoob said, plan for a 20-minute eating experience to show that you value healthy eating and family time as an important part of your day.
When I asked Dr. Ayoob about the importance of soaking grains for optimum digestibility, he suggested eating a piece of citrus with cereal instead. Dr. Ayoob’s interview was sponsored by General Mills, a company that produces many varieties of what Dr. Ayoob referred to as “ready-to-eat” cereal, or boxed cereal, including many gluten-free brands. This study shows that 86% of parents think cereal is a healthy breakfast choice, and it links to FAQ pages extolling the virtues of cereal and to the website cerealbenefits.com
In contrast to the concerns I raised about extrusion (the industrial process that creates boxed cereals out of making a slurry that is then heated at high temperatures) at the beginning of our interview and in posts here and here (concerns that were elaborated on in a recent post at Nourished Kitchen), Dr. Ayoob expressed a very positive outlook on whole-grain boxed cereal as a good source of nutrients. He first referenced it served with low-fat and fat-free dairy as part of a healthy breakfast.
When asked more about fat, Dr. Ayoob did admit that fat can provide satiety, and in later references to dairy he offered whole milk as a fine solution, though he did not support the drinking of raw milk, which had been in the news shortly before our interview.
He explained that his main concern when addressing issues of obesity is the number of calories. Having more than 25-30% of your calories from fat — a concentrated source of calories — would require one to reduce portions, Dr. Ayoob said, adding, however, that it’s important for children to get enough calories and enough protein in the morning. He suggested that keeping a hard-boiled egg in the fridge is a good way to have a quick source of protein for kids.
Overall, Dr. Ayoob was most interested in getting across the point that it’s important to eat breakfast of some kind for many reasons, including to stave off obesity.
For the full picture, check out our interview here!
For more on what it means to be into Real Food, as I mentioned at the beginning of my interview, visit Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday blog carnival