Grow Foods or Whole Foods
Have you ever heard of a “grow food”? Grow foods are what most would call whole foods – foods that come from nature, not from factories. Less processing means more nutrients stay in the food. Chemicals that do nothing good and may even be harmful are left out. Everything about a grow food is good for you.
The term “grow food” was coined by the Sears family to explain to children which foods were good to eat and why. The term “grow” is used because it is an action word that children normally associate with getting taller, running faster, becoming smarter, and getting bigger. Kids want to grow, to get taller and smarter, and better at everything, so they react enthusiastically when you explain that certain foods will help them do this. They quickly understand and agree that grow foods or “grow big foods” are good for them.
Here’s what it takes to be a grow food.
- It must be nutrient dense. Grow foods have lots of nutrients in every bite relative to the number of calories in the food. for example, 1/2 cup of raw broccoli provides vitamin A and C, plus fiber, and relatively few calories. A serving of potato chips offers little nutrition but many calories. The broccoli is nutrient dense, and it will help kids grow lean and healthy. The potato chips can, over time, make them fat and sick.
- It must be a fill-up food. Grow foods are satisfying and don’t leave you feeling sluggish and overly full. Fruits and vegetables are filling, as are high-protein foods. Sweets often leave you wanting more. High-fat foods can make you feel too full.
- It must balance blood sugar levels. Grow foods are digested slowly, so the energy from the food is released into the blood at a steady pace.
- It must be free of unhealthy ingredients and artificial additives. These things don’t help you grow and can be put into the “red light food” category!
When thinking about whole foods or grow foods, you can reference the “nourishing nine” – foods that are eaten close to nature’s original form:
The Nourishing Nine
- Nuts, nut butter
- Lean meats, e.g., turkey
- Vegetables, steamed or raw, and legumes, e.g., black beans, peas, lentils
- Whole grains
- Yogurt, organic
When explaining grow foods, try not to label food “good” or “bad.” This may create guilt or shame around wanting unhealthy foods and set our child up for eating disorders later on. Instead, call foods like broccoli and whole grains “everyday” foods and cookies and cakes “sometimes” foods.