Cooking for one or two people seemed hard enough before you had kids. Now that you have a household full of little mouths to feed, the task is almost overwhelming. Without fail, your kids have different food preferences, different nutritional needs, and different medical conditions to account for. While taking all of this into consideration could be overwhelming, it’s important that it not be overlooked. At the end of the day, it’s important to note that you do your family a major service when you consider the nutritional needs of each family member and act accordingly.
One of the biggest reasons that the nutritional needs of each family member could differ is because of allergies. Food allergies are quite common, and severity can range from mild to severe. Parents should act with caution in the first few years of a child’s life as they navigate giving their children foods for the first time. You might find that your oldest child loves peanut butter, but your youngest has a severe allergy to it. You’ll need to be careful to be sure that you give each child what they need, but even more careful that they steer clear of what might hurt them.
You’ll learn very quickly that children have preferences just like adults do. Usually, these preferences indicate that they’re interested in what tastes good to them – coincidentally that’s usually sugar, salt, and fat. Beyond that, you might learn a lot from what your children prefer. A child or adult who prefers red meat may be low in iron, someone who craves fruit may need the boost in immunity or vitamin C, someone who craves whole grains and oats may need the fiber. Our bodies have a unique way of getting what they need, whether we know we need it or not. So the next time you discover that a family member has a healthy craving, or blood work shows some sort of deficiency, consider catering to that nutritional need in a different way than everyone else’s.
Food should be consumed in a way that supports our overall health. Though moderation is a great thing, different people will require different boundaries in terms of food. For example, your family member who’s overweight may benefit from a plate full of a protein and green veggies instead of a protein and mashed potatoes. On the contrary, the child who can’t seem to put weight on might benefit from eating an extra avocado. Is someone pregnant? She might benefit from eating twice as much as usual, and more red meat to support her iron levels. Medical conditions do a lot to determine how we should eat, and as someone who manages a household, it’s important to take this into consideration.
To think that every family member will benefit from the exact same diet is to simply deceive yourself. The best way to support a variety of nutritional needs is to always choose healthy options – lean meats, leafy greens, hearty whole grains, and healthy fats, and to curtail each unique plate to include (or not) the specific items necessary.