The need for nutrient-dense foods in your special needs child’s diet
No matter how long most personal trainers for special needs have been taking care of their clients, someone always asks the “question!” What question are we talking about? It’s this one, “What should I eat/feed my loved one?” With so many different diets being promoted everywhere you turn, figuring out how to answer this question can be tough. All these diets claim to be “the one.” Yet despite their differences, most of them seem to share one common theme. You need to replace all those empty calories with whole foods that are nutrient-dense.
Why Do Personal Trainers for Special Needs Recommend Nutrient-Dense Foods?
When you eat a diet that is high in calories, they might provide a lot of energy, but they contain virtually no antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. They have little to no nutritional value and are one thing personal trainers for special needs say to cut out. In fact, no one should be eating these types of foods on a regular basis.
Part of the problem with special needs kids is that they want to eat all the fun foods. This typically means snack and junk foods full of sugar, calories, and nothing nutritious. Yet, if you want your child to thrive, you may have to be a little more creative in the kitchen.
When we talk about the nutrient density of foods, we are talking about the amount of vitamins and minerals they contain in comparison to the number of calories in them. Foods that are nutrient-dense have low levels of calories and a high level of nutrients. There are many different nutrient-dense foods most personal trainers for special needs recommend. Be sure you introduce them one at a time and very slowly if you have a fussy eater.
Which Foods are on the Nutrient-Dense List Personal Trainers for Special Needs Use?
When looking at the various nutrient-dense foods that personal trainers for special needs might recommend, the list is long. Of course, it shouldn’t surprise that this list contains a lot of fruits and veggies! After all, they are among the most common nutrient-dense foods eaten on a regular basis. Most of them have very few calories per serving. At the same time, they are full of vitamins, antioxidants, water, minerals, fiber, and numerous other phytonutrients. A phytonutrient is neither a mineral or vitamin, it is another beneficial compound that is found in many plants.
Fruits and veggies are all a welcome part of any personal trainer for special needs diet list. Yet, they are not the “king of the hill” when it comes to being nutrient-dense. If you want the best of the best when it comes to micronutrients, you want herbs, spices, and organ meats. This list also includes a wide variety of seafood with mollusks at the top of it.
Let’s Talk about Organ Meats
When you talk about organ meats with anyone but your personal trainer for special needs, your reaction is most likely negative. Your first thought is probably something like, “yuck!” In culinary terms, organ meats are commonly known as “offal” or those parts of the animal no one eats. Or do they?
The list of organ meats includes:
- Bone marrow
It may also include the following:
Depending on where you live, most of these nutrient-dense foods were once a dietary staple that dates back many generations. While you might not like the idea of feeding any of these whole foods to your special needs child, they may be just what your child needs.
What you may not know is that many dishes such as pâté de foie Gras, turkey giblet gravy (bet you never thought of this). Pho (the highly popular dish from Vietnam), Menudo, and Osso Bucco are also the list. Along with being incredibly high in nutrients, there is very little food waste when you add organs into your diet.
Organ Meats Have High Nutritional Value
It might surprise you, personal trainers for special needs clients are not the only ones discovering the nutrient value of organs. Many world-famous chefs have begun to incorporate them into their world-famous dishes and menus. Not only are organs full of nutrients, seasoned with the right herbs and spices, but they can also be very tasty.
Consider these numbers from personal trainers for special needs:
- Bone marrow – might be a bit high in calories, but this is offset by the amount of collagen, conjugated linoleic acid, glycine, and Glucosamine.
- Heart – is an excellent source of CoQ10, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, and selenium, copper, iron, niacin, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, riboflavin, and thiamin.
- Liver – is a very rich source of Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, iron, biotin, choline, copper, folate, phosphorus, riboflavin, selenium, thiamine, and zinc.
- Kidneys – are full of Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, folate, iron, niacin, and riboflavin.
- Sweetbreads – there is nothing sweet or bread-like about sweetbreads, but they have plenty of Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, and selenium. (p.s. they are the pancreas, thymus, parotid and sublingual glands)
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What About Those Herbs, Spices, and Mollusks?
Every personal trainer for special needs and chef in the world knows that the right combination of herbs and spices can be amazing. They are full of micronutrients yet have virtually no calories while carrying a full load of phytonutrients.
Consider these commonly used herbs and spices:
- Black pepper: calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, and zinc.
- Cumin – calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
- Oregano – calcium, copper, folate, iron, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, and zinc.
- Paprika – copper, iron, manganese, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, and zinc.
- Rosemary – calcium, copper, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, and Vitamins A, B6, and C.
- Thyme – calcium, copper, iron, manganese, riboflavin, and Vitamin K.
For those who are not familiar with the term mollusk, it refers to a variety of seafood that belongs to a subset of shellfish.
This group includes:
- Clams, mussels, oysters – copper, manganese, niacin, potassium, selenium, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, and zinc.
- Scallops – calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, Vitamin B12, and zinc.
- Snails – copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and Vitamin E.
- Octopus and squid – copper, niacin, phosphorus, riboflavin, selenium, Vitamin B12, and zinc.
Why Do Personal Trainers for Special Needs Say We Need Nutrient-Dense Foods?
Your body needs a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to function. Eating whole foods that are rich in nutrients, means feeding your body the raw materials it needs. Medical research indicates that several chronic conditions such as mood disorders can be linked to a lack of nutrients.
One of the biggest problems with the modern American diet is that it contains far too many processed foods. The majority of these foods are high in calories while being infamously low in nutritional value. The result of this type of diet is an increasingly obese population that seems to be getting less healthy every year. We have become so used to these foods; they are no longer a convenience. Instead, they have become the staple part of our diet. Blame this on the industrial and agricultural revolutions.
What to Do When Your Trainer Recommend These Foods for Your Special Needs Child
When your personal trainer for special needs first mentions adding more nutrient-dense foods into your diet, he is likely to recommend fruits and veggies. These are typically the easier food items to introduce your special needs child. Introduce each new food slowly and give your child time to feel comfortable eating it. Whole foods have far more taste and nutrients while having fewer calories.
If you are lucky enough to have a special needs child with an adventurous appetite, you might try adding organ meats or shellfish. Be sure you incorporate these “meats” into a dish that has plenty of herbs and other seasonings. Most make excellent additions to meals like Pho, stews, soups, stir-fries, and the like. Many can be eaten as they are once cooked and seasoned. All of them are packed chock full of nutrients. Now you know why your personal trainer for special needs kids recommends adding nutrient-dense whole foods into your child’s diet. Oh, and the rest of the family can also benefit from adding these foods to their diets.
Special Strong provides fitness and nutrition for special needs children, adolescents, and adults with autism and other disabilities. Through our online training platform, we also provide special needs fitness certification courses for personal trainers and service providers who want to work autism and other disabilities.