With over two decades of experience as a registered dietitian, Nicole Magryta MBA, RDN, is on a mission to educate parents on the importance of balanced diets for children, in order to reduce health issues later on.
What’s your background and what led you to write ‘Nourish Your Tribe’?
My journey has been rich and fulfilling, but the challenge remains in how to motivate others to adopt health first and convenience second. After giving birth to two wonderful children, I became extremely interested in how to best support their growth – physically, biologically and emotionally. As the years progressed, I also became a silent witness to the destructive nature of poor quality food with my clinical pediatric patients, the children at schools, in my community, and even at sporting events. It quickly became obvious that there was a vital need for quality parent education in regards to children’s health. I also heavily researched environmental, political, and social health influences that affect our success as parents.
How have mealtimes and our approach to food changed in recent years?
Our American food landscape has been altered in profound ways over the last 30 years which has greatly influenced our approach to food and mealtimes. Many of these changes have gone unnoticed and have slowly been accepted as our cultural norm. Modern-day agricultural practices, dual working parents, environmental toxins, and an abundance of processed foods have all impacted how we grow, harvest, transport, prepare and eat food at mealtimes. In 1974 there were 15,000 products available on grocery store shelves. Today there are over 50,000 products, the majority of which are of poor quality. To make matters worse, our laws swiftly changed in the 1980s allowing fiscally driven food companies to directly market unhealthy foods loaded with sugar, salt, and fat to children and adolescents.
What nutrients do you feel are lacking in many modern children’s diets?
It is not uncommon to find micronutrient deficiencies such as iron, vitamins D, zinc, magnesium, choline, copper, omega-3 fats, and B vitamins in “normal-looking” children and adolescents. Insufficient amounts of these nutrients affect overall health, function, and physical and cognitive development throughout a child’s life cycle. Fiber is another nutrient that is severely lacking in modern children’s diets.
What advice would you give to parents looking to improve their children’s diets?
Each parent faces unique challenges when it comes to feeding their kids. Some need to learn how to cook, others need help outsmarting a strong-willed child, and some just need to understand the developmental stages of eating a little more. Whatever your goals are, start by choosing your family’s meals and snacks with a basic template of lean protein, high-fiber carbs, healthy fats, and non-starchy vegetables (especially leafy greens). Try to eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages, including fruit juice, and replace them with water, herbal teas, and green vegetable juices. Another great tip is to serve healthy foods first.
What is the one thing that you think should be removed from children’s diets?
It’s hard to pick just one thing, but I would probably start with sugar-sweetened beverages.
In your opinion, how vital is a balanced diet to concentration in school for children?
The nutrients your child eats plays a huge role in establishing the brain’s neural connections, cell signaling, and structure. All of our brains require a tremendous amount of fuel to function properly. A quarter of the food we eat is used to create energy to fuel our brain’s many processes. Your brain burns through fuel while studying for a test at the same rate as the leg muscles during a marathon race.
Nicole Magryta, MBA, RDN, is a nutrition consultant, educator, and certified integrative health coach, specializing in integrative and functional medicine therapies for adults and children. She is the bestselling author of ‘Nourish Your Tribe: Empowering Parents to Grow Strong, Smart, Successful Kids’.