Updated: Jul 14, 2022
Let’s start with the basics. Macronutrients refer to carbohydrates, fat, and protein.
Micronutrients refer to vitamins and minerals.
I will explain what is healthy and unhealthy in each category and suggest ways to
improve. Macronutrients can affect our health positively or negatively. The results may
not appear until years later. I'll start with what makes up the bulk of our diet - carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates - the Good the Bad and the Ugly
Healthy Carbohydrate Sources
Carbohydrates come from plants, dairy, and processed foods. They include sugars,
starch, and fiber and are made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. When eaten, they are
broken down into sugar to provide energy.
Carbohydrates can be simple (refined) or complex. Complex carbohydrates include
starches and fiber. These carbs come from whole plant foods and include vegetables,
some fruits, legumes, and whole grains.
When we eat simple or complex carbs, they break down into glucose which enters the
bloodstream to cause a rise in insulin. A blood sugar rise can occur quickly, as with simple carbs, or slowly and steadily, as with complex carbs. The fiber in complex carbohydrates
contributes to a slow, steady rise. This is healthier as fiber helps to maintain stable blood
sugar. Fiber also helps prevent insulin resistance, the first step toward type 2 diabetes
Complex carbohydrates in whole grains can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease,
type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer. Feeding your child complex rather than simple
carbs safeguards against these diseases in adulthood. The fiber content in complex carbs
can also prevent constipation. Fiber is good for the microbiome and nourishes the “good
bacteria” of the gut.
Mostly "Bad" or Unhealthy Carbs (even though good-tasting!)
Sugar content is highest in processed foods which are simple carbohydrates. These lead
to a rapid sugar and insulin spike. Processed foods contain mainly sucrose and fructose.
Fructose is often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Added fructose and
HFCS should be avoided. Fructose in its natural state, from fruit, such as apples, pears,
grapes, and watermelon, is fine. Fruit also contains vitamins, minerals, and fiber, so there are additional benefits. Processed foods have no health benefits, despite their sweet and addictive taste!
A diet high in fructose-containing processed foods contributes to high triglycerides, T2D,
and fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease was once a disease only of adults and typically of
alcoholics. Sadly, it occurs in obese children, primarily those who consume a high
fructose diet. The main contributor to sugar consumption is sugar-sweetened
beverages - sodas, sports drinks, flavored “dessert” coffees, juices, and sweetened teas.
These drinks contribute to high triglycerides and heart disease. The American Heart
Association recommends that children be limited to less than 6 teaspoons of added sugar
daily. A point of reference: a 12-ounce Coke contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar! If I
convince you of only one thing it would be to avoid sugar-sweetened beverages, at least
most of the time!
YIKES! Cute kid, ugly carbs.
HERE ARE SOME TOP TEN WAYS TO ADD HEALTHY CARBS AND DECREASE UNHEALTHY CARBS IN YOUR AND YOUR CHILD'S DIET
Switch to whole wheat and whole-grain bread instead of white.
Eat whole wheat pasta or pasta made from vegetables such as lentils or chickpeas.
Look for whole-grain cereals that don’t have added sugar.
Choose brown rice instead of white rice.
DECREASE SUGAR-SWEETENED BEVERAGES.
Try a variety of grains - quinoa, couscous, farro, barley, oats, and buckwheat.
Incorporate fruits and vegetables into snacks and each meal.
Explore healthy dessert options using avocados, sweet potatoes, bananas, and legumes to make brownies, cakes, and cookies - you can find them online!
Choose corn, wheat, or vegetable tortillas over flour.
Focus on nutrient-dense rather than energy-dense foods. Nutrient-dense foods are low in sugar, high in nutrients and fiber, and include whole, natural foods. Energy-dense foods are high in sugar and calories and low in nutrients, such as sweets and processed foods. Teach your children the difference!
Oh, and did I mention - DECREASE SUGAR-SWEETENED BEVERAGES?!