How to help your family be healthier, Part 1: Blood Sugar

September 5, 2021

So you have a baby and decide, I’m going to raise our family to be so healthy. So they don’t have to worry about illness or body image or constantly wanting to lose weight. As parents we want our family to THRIVE, and thus the focus is usually on the best ingredients or products we can afford. But that’s only part of the picture.

We know after years of research that just consuming certain products (think organic vs conventionally grown) does not guarantee a healthy or disease free life, even if you start in infancy. While overall health is a huge topic, today I’m going to talk about why blood sugar control is a good area to put some focus. So how can you help your family be healthier and really support your family?

What is blood sugar control?

Quick physiology overview here. Each main nutrient we eat (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) are metabolized differently by the body – taking it from the composed item we eat into substrates of those nutrients which our body can use for a variety of functions including energy production. When our body breaks down carbohydrates (like in fruit, grains, dairy, etc) it uses insulin to get the carbohydrates into our cells for usage. The more glucose we consume the more insulin we need to get the glucose out of our blood and into our cells. When we consume too much glucose too often over a longer period of time, our body (the pancreas) struggles to secrete enough insulin to get it into the cells. When we have both too much insulin and or too much glucose in our blood it causes inflammation and can also cause more acute health issues. Being mindful of this process and connection can help us minimize common sources of dietary inflammation for our family. NOTE: This is not all about diabetes, we should all care about how we are maintaining blood sugar control though just being mindful of how we structure meals and snacks, including schedule is enough (no need for those continuous glucose monitoring apps/products you can now purchase without a diagnosis). If you want to learn more about blood sugar and diabetes in more detail, definitely start here Blood Sugar, Medline Plus.

Why grazing really is a problem

Here’s why helping your family be healthier isn’t just about the ingredients… You serve your kid a waffle with butter and an applesauce for breakfast. They eat half and then 20 minutes later are at the cabinet asking for a granola bar and you let them have it because obviously they’re hungry and didn’t finish their breakfast. They wander around with their snack while they play and it takes them about 30 extra minutes to eat it. Cut to lunch time and you serve them a couple pieces of chicken, some soup and a handful of grapes. Again they eat half, and 20 minutes later they are asking for crackers. You again comply since they didn’t finish and you don’t want them to feel hungry (or to be grumpy). They sit and watch a show with their snack while and it takes them about 20 extra minutes to eat it. That’s a day of grazing, but also a completely typical day of kid eating for MANY families. Grazing, or letting our kids (or ourselves!) snack or taste all day long does not give the body a chance to rest. We are constantly causing our body to release hormones (like insulin) to metabolize that food. Sticking to a regular meal schedule allows time to process and controlled release of hormones in the batches required to maintain blood sugar control and break down our meals appropriately.

Here’s what we know about inflammation in the body

So we learned above that a lack of blood sugar control can cause inflammation, and when it happens over a long period of time it turns into chronic inflammation. How does that relate to helping your family be healthier? Chronic inflammation has symptoms like: fatigue, chronic pain, depression or anxiety, altered GI function (diarrhea/constipation), weight issues or persistent infections. There are many things that can cause chronic inflammation, diet is truly just one piece of the puzzle but there are lots of foods we can consume that can help to negate those stress responses. You may have heard about anti-inflammatory or anti-oxidant foods, but why does that matter and how can we use them to support our health, and our family. Well anti-inflammatory and antioxidant foods are really cool because they take the chemicals that are released when the body is stressed and they bind to them (think of two magnets) and make them less stressful or harmful to the body. It’s like those anti-inflammatory/antioxidant foods neutralize a small bit of damage. Isn’t that super cool?!?!

How can you really help your family be healthier?

Okay, so now that we learned a bit about how things work in our body (the good guys and the sometimes not so good guys), we can really look at making adjustments to your current feeding plans. For my clients, my first line of attack is a two-pronged approach. We clean up the schedule and we restructure how we are offering the foods. This means having boundaries around what we offer and when we offer them. A head’s up that no where in this post will you see me saying you need to stop offering high carbohydrate foods to your family or to completely adopt a plant based paleo whole whatever diet. We take the foods your family enjoys and currently serve and I show my clients how to make them into a meal or snack that better supports blood sugar control and capitalizes on those antioxidant/anti-inflammatory properties.

When it comes to an eating schedule this is going to vary a bit for each family and the age of the kiddos. Younger kids may need to eat every 2.5-3 hours while adults and teens can go 4 hours. Growth spurts obviously change this because you cannot predict this, you just have to adjust when they’re showing you signs. What you can do is pick up on those signs and start to offer slightly larger portions of foods to help support them through the growth spurt. I always recommend starting with a bit more fat and protein when we need to support growth spurts because they’re more filling and are super packed with nutrients but if your kid really wants more waffle and you’re including the protein and fats go for it!

Now about what we offer on the plate… Every time you feed your child I want you to try and include protein, fat and fiber. These three nutrients are the heavy hitters for satiety (feeling full and satisfied), and when have our families eat those nutrients, they’re less likely to go looking for a snack soon after eating. That way it’s supporting our food schedule, it’s a built in support system for the two changes. Another great feature about including fiber in the mix you are getting in some antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods. Let’s think about what has fiber: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes. All of those are known to have fantastic health benefits including the ones we’re talking about today!

Help Your Family Be Healthier: Meal Time

So let’s look at the meals we shared above in our grazing example. Let me show you how I would advise my clients to adjust. For breakfast I would suggest adding some nut/seed butter on the waffle and possibly (if no time/safety concerns) thinly sliced apple instead of the pouch which would maximize the fiber and other vitamins/minerals. For the morning snack if still hungry it wandould have been the bar and some grapes. For lunch I would suggest adding in a bit of fat to the soup or a dipping sauce like hummus for the chicken. Then the TV snack would be some full fat cheese cubes. See those subtle shifts? A lot of times the family is concerned that by offering more at snacy k the kid won’t be hungry for the next meal but when we allow them to just have a quick snack option 20 minuets after the meal anyways they’ll avoid eating a reasonable amount. What I do recommend is offering smaller portions of the preferred snack food that gets balanced with the other foods. So tne half a granola bar with the grapes, or a small handful of the crackers with 2-3 cheese cubes. I have an entire blog post teaching how to do this with actual examples, so be sure to check it out here: rBuild a Better Plate Blog Post.

CouAnd if you’re feeling like you could use some help to make these adjustments, my family meal intensive session may be a good fit for you. You can schedule a complementary call to meet Courtney and learn more about the kind of support that would benefit your family: Book Now

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