5 Principles of Holistic Nutrition that Have Changed the Way I Parent
Lately I've been reflecting a lot on exactly how this nutrition journey has impacted my life (see my first article to learn why I got into nutrition), and I think the best way to describe it is through some of most salient fundamentals of the holistic approach.
As a parent to two toddlers, I (try to) follow my gut, make the most of the information I have and hope for the best during times of uncertainty.
My training in nutrition has expanded my breadth of health knowledge and allowed me to better appreciate the human body and its many processes.
This appreciation is what has helped me grow into a better parent.
I feel grounded in appreciation of my own body and I've learned to be more understanding of the fact that my requirements are different than (but equally as important to) those of the rest of my family.
In today’s post I will be discussing how a few principles of holistic nutrition bring everything together perfectly & provide a foundation for wellness in every life stage.
Principle #1 - Start with whole foods
What it means: Whole foods are those in their original form - they aren’t packaged or refined and they’re colourful, rich & highly nutritious.
While there is of course room for all sorts of foods in your diet, whole foods are often the best sources of nutrients for your family.
Having a variety of whole foods in the diet results in the consumption a wide array of micronutrients, vitamins & minerals for growing bodies.
How I apply it: I started small with my kids, worked in more fresh foods at snack time and shifted away from breakfast cereal and towards more nutrient-dense foods such as oatmeal in the morning.
When I make oatmeal I play with the ingredients and can tailor this dish to our needs. My boys love berries/fruit, so I always throw some in and sweeten it with banana or maple syrup. To further increase the functionality of this meal, I add hemp seeds & ground flax for fiber, omega-3s and extra protein.
Check out my go-to oatmeal recipe on Instagram.
Principle #2 - Practicing intuitive eating is beneficial at every age
What it means: Listening to your body is key to health & longevity. Intuitive eating is a skill that requires practice, but it’s one that can be developed anytime, even by busy families with differing needs.
Understanding how your body feels before, during and after eating can clue you in to how certain foods are impacting it. Even kids can learn to understand when their body is not fan of something or when it really craves something else.
How I apply it: By removing pressure, stocking up on our favourite nutrient-rich options & building a solid routine, I encourage myself and my family to tap into the intuition that will guide our bodies towards what they need most.
We talk often about how food makes us feel and I try articulate some of the benefits that different foods offer us.
I do not talk negatively about foods that could be deemed “unhealthy” because I don’t want to strain my kids’ relationship with food, nor do I want to bias their opinion of them.
I am quickly becoming passionate about intuitive eating so stayed tuned for a future blog post on this topic!
Principle #3 - Good nutrition isn't just about food
What it means: Holistic nutrition is all about balance in the areas of body, mind & spirit.
It's about marrying good dietary habits & a healthy lifestyle with an appreciation for mental health and acknowledging that eating well is much easier to accomplish when you tackle it from a place of calmness (or as much calmness as you can find!)
There’s an understanding that each of these factors plays a vital role in the cycle of wellness.
How I apply it: I remind myself that it’s the strength of our relationships, the joy we share, the environment we create and the habits we keep that affect how my family eats & thrives.
Sitting down around the table together, relaxing, talking positively about food and promoting intuitive eating all have a huge impact on our overall health.
Principle #4 - Gut health is the key to overall health
What it means: Gut health is reflective of overall health, and vice-versa. The beneficial bacteria (probiotics) that live in our gut play an important role in digestion, immune health and even mental health.
How I apply it: I include as many fruits, veggies and fibrous, whole grain sources in our diet as possible and I try to continually introduce new foods.
Through this, we are feeding those good bacteria with prebiotics, promoting bowel regularity, increasing our intake of nutrients, and diversifying our microbiome.
Keeping gut health in mind is an important part of any wellness journey.
Principle #5 - Stress always needs consideration
What it means: It goes without saying that mental stress can make us physically unwell.
You can eat all the right foods but if you’re overwhelmed or over-worked your body will respond accordingly.
Living through stressful times means that our bodies can exist in “flight or fight” mode for long periods of time.
This response is meant to be short-lived because it shunts energy away from bodily functions that are not necessary for survival when there’s impending danger.
For example, digestion is severely impacted by stress and, overtime, blood sugar and even blood pressure can be, too!
The take away? We all need stress management & a beneficial lifestyle in order to be truly healthy.
How I apply it: I apply this in two distinct ways.
First, I set a balanced routine for my kids that includes exercise, fresh air and lots of sleep.
For myself, I set aside time to be alone – to leave the house, to take a breath and to recharge – and I make sure to get to bed on-time.
Stress management doesn’t have to be complicated, but its necessity does need to be acknowledged before it can be properly implemented.
Life is hard and we all need a break sometimes.
There can be a lot of pressure felt by parents to ensure their families are eating well but with these simple principles, the challenge can feel a little more manageable.
Studying nutrition has really opened my eyes to the inter-connectedness of diet, lifestyle and mental well-being and my hope is that these posts will help you to feel more enlightened as well.
Ciara Morin, R.H.N.