Nutrition planning for clients with children can be tricky for health professionals. Many kiddos are picky eaters and stick to only what they like, while many parents lack any free time to prepare meals that both parents and children will both enjoy. Achieving a fine balance between the two is where Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant Deborah Morgan does her best work.
Deborah Morgan is the creator and head revolutionary at Kid’s Health Revolution, a resource and community for parents of kids with chronic health conditions. She works with parents to help make the changes that will support the future health and happiness of their children.
“Parents come to me because they want to use a gut healing, functional nutrition approach to help with a child’s health issue. The biggest challenge all of my clients face when looking to make these sometimes deep changes to their diet and lifestyle, is overwhelm. Most parents feel utterly overwhelmed at how to make it work, what meals to put on the table and what to pack in the lunch kit.”
That Clean Life helps Deborah put together approachable resources for parents so she can reduce overwhelm, meet her clients where they are at, and work towards their goal of helping heal their children's gut health.
“Meal plans are the best way to support my clients in embracing change, learning a new way to cook and eat, and discovering that real, gut-healing foods can be delicious.”
Today we are taking a look at the key considerations Deborah makes when meal planning for families and her favorite meals to include on kid-friendly plans.
Creating Kid-Friendly Meal Plans
There are three key considerations that Deborah always addresses when creating meal plans for families.
1. Meet Families Where They Are At
“First and foremost, it has to be easy and approachable. The most delicious and nutrient-dense meal plan will not be very helpful if they just don’t have time to implement complicated recipes.”
We recommend using our Meal Planning Assessment Tool when first meeting with your clients to understand things like their time restrictions, if they enjoy leftovers, and how often they can cook. This information will really help you create meal plans that are realistic for your clients to follow.
2. Maximize Nutrient Density
“I focus on foods that support gut healing, maximize nutrient density, and are tasty and appealing. For my families, this means focusing on whole foods like meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.”
Focusing on foods you can add to your clients' meal plans, rather than removing foods, opens up a world of possibilities for them. Focusing on many different colors is a great way to maximize nutrient density and squeeze in healing phytonutrients.
Many of the families Deborah works with are dealing with histamine intolerances in their children, so she often has to get much more focused on the foods she’s putting on her clients' meal plans:
“I eliminate all processed foods and sugars. Depending on the child’s health situation we may also remove all grains and legumes to allow the gut time to heal. Incorporating lots of gut-healing foods like meat stock and healthy fats is an important part of their meal plans.”
Deborah also chooses to stay away from fermented foods, like yogurt and kefir, until the gut-healing work is done, otherwise, they can make her clients' histamine intolerances worse.
3. Balance Familiarity & New Foods
“We need to balance making meal plans 'kid friendly' with the need to introduce children to new flavours and textures so they can expand what may be their picky eating horizons.”
Eating the same foods all of the time can result in picky eaters who aren’t getting the nutrients they need from a diverse range of ingredients. Balancing meals out week to week for your clients with children is so important.
Introducing new foods alongside already familiar and loved foods is a great approach. Be sure to consistently introduce new foods even if they aren’t loved right away. Kids need many exposures to new foods before they learn to like them.
Here are the meals that Deborah most often adds to her clients' meal plans to keep both children and parents supported in their health journey.
Whether it’s as a snack or main meals, foods that can be eaten with their fingers are such a hit for children. It also exposes them to the texture of the food with their fingers before putting it into their mouth, which is a great way for kids to explore food and their senses.
Deborah loves adding the Air Fryer Chicken Tenders to meal plans for her clients as they swap out breadcrumbs for nutrient-dense almond flour but still satisfy like traditional breaded foods.
“This is an obvious hit with the kiddos. I’ve not met a kid yet who didn’t love anything breaded. This recipe is a great way to give them what they love, keep it gut healthy, and bump up the nutrient density just by using almond flour.”
Another finger-friendly recipe that Deborah leans on is our Cinnamon Ginger Energy Balls, which are perfect for snacks.
“Just because we are eating to heal the gut doesn’t mean no treats! This is a great treat recipe that perfectly combines taste and the anti-inflammatory effects of ginger and cinnamon. If a child’s school is nut-free you can substitute seeds in place of the nuts. Dates are another nutrient-dense, gut-healing option for adding sweetness.”
Including foods that are bright in color is not only a great way to increase the phytonutrients and antioxidants of a meal or snack, but they are a great way to catch children’s attention and get them excited about what’s in front of them.
Deborah loves adding our Hibiscus Iced Tea as a switch up from standard juices.
“This iced tea is a superfood upgrade to the usual sugar-laden drinks. Of course, all that beautiful color means it is chock full of antioxidants which are so important for fighting inflammation. For kids just transitioning to a whole foods diet, I suggest adding a little gut-healthy honey or green leaf stevia.”
It’s no secret that parents have little-to-no time to spend in the kitchen. Meals that can be made in a large batch and then enjoyed as leftovers throughout the week, or even frozen for a later date, are crucial.
Bison Meatballs & Cauliflower Mash are such a hit with the kids. Deborah loves adding this recipe to meal plans because it can be easily doubled and stored as leftovers to maximize her clients time in the kitchen.
“This yummy dinner that can easily be batch cooked and frozen for another busy weeknight or taken to school in a thermos.”
Soups are also a great way to squeeze nutrients in. They freeze really well so they can be kept on hand for busy weeks. Deborah loves to add soup to her clients' meal plans, like this Pressure Cooker Carrot Ginger Soup, but as a breakfast replacement.
“I like clients to start thinking out of the “cereal” box for breakfast ideas. The sweet notes in this soup make it a warm, delicious, and gut-healing way to start the day. You can also swap out homemade chicken stock for the vegetable stock in the recipe for a gut healing protocol.”
It is well documented that many kiddos don’t like their foods touching, so these Vanilla Coconut Cups are a perfect solution to that conundrum! Deborah likes adding these to her clients’ meal plans as a replacement for yogurt.
“This is a great replacement for dairy yogurt, tastes great and the presentation is very kid friendly. It makes a great school snack or quick breakfast. Honey is a gut healthy sweetener because it is a single sugar digested higher up in the small intestine making it less likely to feed pathogenic and opportunistic gut bugs. The medium chain fatty acids in the coconut milk help keep the blood sugar balanced and provide good energy.”
Learn more from Deborah Morgan and Kids Health Revolution here.