A Complete Guide to Nurture Life Nutrition
For too long, parents in the United States have been forced into a very subpar choice when looking for prepared meals: between food that’s convenient and food that’s healthy. Whether it’s on grocery store shelves or restaurant menus, the food industry has been all too eager to feed kids exactly what they want—which, unfortunately, tends toward heaping plates of food that are all one color, all the same texture, often deep fried, with no fresh produce in sight.
But truthfully, kids don’t have to want these kinds of foods!
We’ve all been primed to believe that kids’ meals have to be a certain thing, and many children have had limited exposure to whole foods that are real, clean and naturally delicious (meaning minimally processed, without preservatives and without copious amounts of added sugar and salt). It’s not our kids’ fault for craving greasy pizza pockets or deep-fried chicken nuggets, and with so few healthy yet kid-friendly options available, parents really aren’t to blame either for resorting to these kinds of meals. As parents, we’re all doing the best we can with what we have available—which is why we thought, “Why not change what’s available?”
At Nurture Life, our mission is to give your family what you deserve: nutrient-dense, well-balanced, delicious meals that are based on nutritional research and appropriately portioned for the developmental needs of every age group. Most food brands don’t do this because, to be honest, it’s hard. It takes an incredible amount of work to achieve the high nutritional standards that we’ve set for ourselves—but we know that you and your kids are worth it.
This mission guides our entire line of freshly made meals: Babies, Toddlers, Kids and Teens & Adults. At every age, we’re raising the bar and giving parents the best way to feed their family (including themselves!). When Nurture Life’s on the table, kids eat better and parents do, too.
Our 5 Core Nutrition Standards
From our high-quality ingredient sourcing to our creative seasoning, every element of every Nurture Life meal has been thoughtfully and purposefully chosen based on our core nutrition standards.
Nutrition Standard #1: Balance and Variety at All Ages
In an industry where so many brands default to high-fat, high-sugar and high-sodium foods to deliver flavor, we’re questioning why that has to be the case. And we’re proving that there is and should be a better way!
Our Baby, Toddler, Kid and Teen & Adult Meals are developed by our registered dietitians and chefs based on what’s needed at each age and stage of development. We aim for a mix of colors, textures, flavors and, most importantly, food groups—all informed by the latest nutrition research. Every meal is designed for its age group’s growth and developmental needs and recommended portion sizes.
We’ll go way deeper into our specific macronutrient balance in the next section (you can skip ahead here if you’re a numbers-and-stats person), but we wanted to mention it here at the very beginning because research-driven balance is a foundational piece of what we do.
Nutrition Standard #2: Veggies on Every Plate
Isn’t it strange how most foods that are marketed toward kids have no veggies at all? And if there is a veggie, it might be a paltry piece of celery served with sweetened peanut butter spread, or maybe a few pieces of broccoli covered in a shelf-stable cheese product. Studies have shown the effects of this lack of veggies in kids food products. According to Nestle FITS (Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study), 27% of young kids do not consume a single discrete serving of vegetables on any given day, and among those who do, french fries are the number one “vegetable” consumed. It’s disheartening that the veggie bar has been set so low!
We’re raising the standard and promising you this: with Nurture Life, veggies will always have a place on your kid’s plate.
In fact, there’s a full serving of vegetables in every Toddler, Kid, and Teen & Adult Meal we offer! The only exception is our Pesto & Cheese Ravioli (which has spinach in the sauce!), but we’re in the process of tweaking that recipe so that veggies have a stronger presence on the plate.
The world has gotten to a place where we automatically assume kids don’t like veggies. Our meals and a little persistence can help kids not only like but learn to love them. (We’ve seen it for ourselves!)
Nutrition Standard #3: Nutrient Dense—No Empty Calories
Because so many food brands assume that kids won’t eat veggies, they typically don’t include them in kids meals. Instead, many kids meals include “empty calories,” or calorie components that do not provide much nutrient value. These calories often provide a temporary feeling of fullness or satisfaction, but they don’t provide the nutrients needed to power your kids’ minds and bodies throughout the day.
With Nurture Life meals, there is a purpose for absolutely everything on your family’s plates. We’ve chosen foods because they have the specific macronutrients and micronutrients required for children’s physical and mental development.
Do Calories Even Matter?
Yes and no. We don’t highlight calories very often because calories alone don’t say anything about nutritional value. (The same 600 calories could mean a well-balanced meal of proteins and veggies, or it could mean a plate of cheese fries.) Focusing too much on calories may also lead to an unhealthy fixation on specific calorie counts, which isn’t something we want to pass onto our kids. Instead of calories, it is important to focus on the nutrient value of the food.
That being said, we’re pointing out calories here because they do, in general, say something important about Nurture Life’s meals. Compared to most kids meals on the market, our meals are much higher in protein and fiber, more nutrient-dense and filling for the same or even fewer number of calories.
Take, for example, a comparison of just one of our Cold Lunches to a roughly comparable Lunchables:
At just 40 calories more, our Chicken Meatball Slider is twice as large and has 7x the dietary fiber, 2x the protein and just about ⅓ of the total sugars. See what we mean by no empty calories? Because our calories are so thoughtfully chosen, your kids’ lunch or dinner serves as a hearty, nutritious meal, not a light snack that leaves them wanting more.
Nutrition Standard #4: Clean, Clear, Understandable Ingredients
As a parent, you should know what you’re feeding your kids, especially if your little one has food allergies or dietary intolerances. We make transparency a core part of our kids meals, with complete nutrition facts and ingredient lists available before you order any meal. We prepare our meals ourselves in our own nut-free facility to eliminate the risk of cross contamination from peanuts or tree nuts (except coconut).
With dietary and allergen filters, we make it easy to remove meals containing ingredients that your child may be sensitive to. Each meal also contains dietary tags so you can easily check to see if a meal will work for your family’s preferences:
- Milk free
- Egg free
- Gluten free
- Fish free
- Sesame free
- Coconut free
- Pork free
We also focus strongly on cooking with organic ingredients wherever possible, all of which are clearly labeled as organic on our meals’ ingredient statements. The majority of our fresh produce and whole grains are organic, and we’re constantly re-evaluating our farmers and purveyors to source the very best ingredients for your family.
Want to see what’s never in our meals? Jump to our never-ever list.
Nutrition Standard #5: Variety to Help Expand Kids’ Palates
It may feel as though kids just like what they like and there’s nothing we can do about it, but extensive scientific research shows that this common belief simply isn’t true. Kids can learn to like foods, even picky eaters! The key is to provide consistent exposure (research says anywhere from 6 to 15 times) to different tastes, textures, ingredients, colors and preparation methods—a scientific approach that we like to call “taste bud rehab,” developed and used by one of our own advisors, Dr. David Katz, the founding director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center.
Instead of oversimplifying our meals to fit what kids already like, we push the boundaries—just a little bit for our pickiest eaters, and more for our adventurous eaters—to expand your child’s palate in a natural, non-threatening way. With every meal, we strive for that “taste bud rehab” sweet spot of creative yet approachable, familiar yet unexpected.
With Nurture Life, it’s not just about providing meals your little one will like now; it’s about setting the foundation for your child to grow up loving and choosing healthy foods. We’re committed to providing the resources and meals you need to do that:
- We cook with a wide variety of ingredients to help build a more diverse palate—with over 20 different vegetables and plenty of unique proteins, whole grains, herbs and spices.
- We offer new tastes in familiar forms, like meatballs made out of lentils or lamb, to help hesitant eaters approach new ingredients with more ease.
- We identify which meals are picky eater favorites so you know where to start your little one’s eating journey.
- We publish blogs from child nutrition experts that give actionable tips for expanding your kid’s palate in a gradual, effective manner.
Here are just a couple of our favorites:
How to Overcome Picky Eating: 3 Techniques to Introduce New Foods
Change Your Picky Eater’s Mind About These 7 Foods
No Pressure, No Problem: Parenting Picky Eaters with Less Stress
We know we’ve shared a ton of information so far, but if we had to give you the “elevator pitch” of a Nurture Life meal, we’d say something like this: your family’s meals will be freshly made and properly balanced with nutrient-dense ingredients, a strong focus on organic veggies and a promise of no empty calories. You’ll not only know every ingredient in every meal, but you’ll also know that it’s there for a specific reason.
Our goal is not just to feed your kids today; it’s to inspire healthy futures, starting right now.
Details Matter: Our Macronutrient Standards
The foundational beliefs listed above form the backbone of Nurture Life’s meal research and development process. These are our “stakes in the ground” that inform all of the choices, big and small, that go into our meals: ingredients, seasoning, spices, preparation method, textures, portion sizes and more. As a parent, you can rest assured that every decision at Nurture Life is intentionally made based on what’s best for your child and you.
So if the above-mentioned beliefs are the “forest,” now it’s time to look at the “trees”! What are the specific nutritional requirements of a Nurture Life meal? What exactly will be on your family’s plates, bowls or trays?
Our Meals Have Macronutrient Balance
We’ve touched on balance once already, but now we’d like to really dive into what that means for your kids’ breakfast, lunch or dinner. We’ve all heard of the importance of a “balanced plate,” but balance means more than just equal thirds of whatever’s on the table.
Our macronutrient balance is based on a combination of leading nutritional guidelines:
- US Dietary Guidelines
- American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
- ASPEN Clinical Nutrition Recommendations
- USDA MyPlate
These guidelines are continuously reviewed by Nurture Life’s in-house registered dietitians who work with our chefs to translate the clinical nutritional measurements into creative meals that your family will actually like (and in many cases, love!).
When we say “macronutrient balance,” we’re really talking about having a nice mix of foods on your plate—think a source of protein, carbohydrates, fiber and healthy fat. Especially for growing kids, balance is what matters most. It’s important not to fixate on any one macronutrient, neither in the positive sense (“Must hit X grams of protein per day!”) nor the negative sense (“Must cut all carbs!”). Teaching your kids to understand and aim for balance at every meal is an important step toward a lifetime of healthy, independent eating.
Nurture Life’s meals are designed to provide the right ratio of protein, carbohydrates, fiber and fat for each age range, from babies of 10+ months to adults of 18 years and up.
Protein: A Focus on Full
Protein is classically described as the “building block” of the body. This macronutrient plays an essential role in building, maintaining and repairing body tissues as well as the immune system—processes that are especially important as babies rapidly grow into toddlers, toddlers grow into kids and kids grow into active teenagers and, ultimately, adults.
For each age range, Nurture Life meals must meet a minimum protein requirement set by our in-house registered dietitians and based on the nutritional guidelines mentioned above.
At each age, the vast majority of our meals actually exceed these minimum protein amounts! For example:
- At 18 g of protein per meal, our Toddlers (1–4 Years) Teriyaki Salmon with Rainbow Veggie Rice has three times the minimum.
- At 18 g of protein per meal, our Kids (5–12 Years) Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower has over twice the minimum.
- At 35 g of protein per meal, our Teens & Adults (13 Years & Up) Mini Pupusas with Fiesta Corn & Zucchini has over twice the minimum.
Diverse Sources of Protein: Thinking Beyond Chicken
Another thing you might notice from the three meals above is that we offer a wide variety of nutrient-dense proteins, including many plant-based sources. For animal products, we prioritize sourcing meat and poultry raised without antibiotics or hormones and fish that are ASC-certified, the highest aquaculture standard.
In an industry where chicken is practically the only option on the kids menu, we make an effort to showcase much more varied and interesting protein sources: lamb, beef, pork, salmon, chicken, turkey, egg, tofu, beans, legumes, dairy (cheese and milk) and whole grains. Remember—every new exposure gives your child a taste of the flavor possibilities out there, expanding their palate while delivering key nutrients for growth and development.
Fiber: A Good Source
All of Nurture Life’s Toddler, Kid and Teen & Adult Meals, including our Cold Lunches, are a good source of dietary fiber. In case you didn’t know, “good source” is actually a legally restricted phrase! For a food to be classified as a good source of fiber, it must offer 10–19% of the recommended Daily Value. Many of our meals take the fiber goodness one step further, qualifying as a “great” or “excellent source” of dietary fiber, which means a Daily Value of 20% or greater.
Dietary fiber is one of the most important features of a healthy, well-balanced diet at any age. Fiber plays a big role in digestive health and regulation, as well as blood sugar control and overall satiety. Our fiber-rich veggies and carbohydrates have been thoughtfully chosen to help you and your kids feel fuller longer—and prevent those cranky sugar crashes.
Carbohydrates: The Right Kind and the Right Balance
Carbs have certainly gotten a bad reputation over the years. The misconception that “carbs = bad” can be especially dangerous for kids, whose bodies rely on carbohydrates as the primary source of energy for their brain and muscles. For both mental and physical energy, kids need carbohydrates.
The Right Kind of Carbs
Rather than the standard carbs in typical kids food (e.g., deep-fried potato wedges or pre-packaged sugary baked goods), we fill your child’s plate with the right kind of carbohydrates. We focus on incorporating fiber-rich blends of brown rice, beans, whole grains and potatoes to provide greater feelings of fullness and more sustained energy levels throughout the day. In fact, a full 80% of our Toddler, Kid and Teen & Adult Meals utilize whole grains or vegetables as the main source of carbohydrates!
The Right Balance on Every Plate
Whereas many kids meals offer something like a tiny hamburger patty on a white bread bun with potato chips on the side (making highly processed and/or refined carbs the largest part of the meal), we’ve significantly adjusted that formula to be healthier and more nutrient-dense for your kids.
At every age range, our registered dietitians have set a maximum percentage of calories that can come from carbohydrates (55%). This number ensures there are enough complex carbohydrates to provide energy for the day without losing the important balance that comes from having protein, fiber and fat on the plate as well.
Fat: Essential for Your Kid’s Growth and Development
Similar to carbohydrates, fats have earned a fairly bad name for themselves—and depending on the source and type of fat, this label could be accurate (or not!). In general, fat is essential to growing kids, especially for proper brain and nervous system development. Fat also helps your little one’s body absorb critical fat-soluble vitamins, including A, D, E and K.
Just like carbs, the key with fats is to serve the right kinds in the right amounts. Both saturated and unsaturated fats can be part of a nutritious, well-balanced plate as long as they are thoughtfully chosen and portioned. Trans fats, on the other hand, should really have no place at all, as they’re a known contributor to heart disease, cholesterol imbalance and other adverse health outcomes. (Trans fats are most often found in fried foods—and you can rest assured that Nurture Life meals are never, ever fried!)
Keeping in line with our focus on balance for every plate, we don’t restrict fat to an unhealthy degree. Instead, we are mindful of total fat and saturated fat per meal with a zero-tolerance policy on trans fat. Our goal is to incorporate fat in a balanced way that gives you and your kids nourishment, promotes growth, helps create satisfaction at meal time and simultaneously fuels bodies to stay active.
What about babies, you might be wondering? We do not set fat maximums for our Baby Stage 3 meals because babies need high fat for healthy brain growth and development. Rather than any focus on restricting fat, we instead focus on providing varied, healthy sources of fat including salmon, eggs and meat. Of course, we maintain our strict no-trans-fats rule for babies, too!
At every age, we serve a variety of foods that offer different fat sources, including salmon, which is high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and olive oil, which is a good source of unsaturated fats. Our meat-based meals focus on naturally lean poultry like chicken or turkey, as well as a variety of meats like beef, pork and lamb—providing the right balance of total fat and saturated fat while still introducing a wide array of flavors to help expand kids’ palates.
What’s Not on Our Plates
In terms of you and your kids’ health and wellbeing, what’s not in a meal can be just as important as what is. So instead of making only positive promises of macronutrient balance and a focus on organic produce, we also want to show you what we purposefully leave out of our meals.
Let’s start with what science agrees is the biggest problem in the standard American diet: excessive salt and added sugar.
Excessive Salt or Added Sugar
Like everything on your child’s plate, salt and sugar themselves are not inherently bad. Salt is an essential electrolyte that balances fluids in the body, and sugar ultimately breaks down into the glucose that our bodies need for everyday activities. Just like macronutrients, the problem is when there’s too much salt and sugar, we get out of balance—too much of either is associated with negative health outcomes as well as creating a lifelong taste preference for high-salt, high-sugar foods. (And we know that greater intake of these foods is linked with higher obesity rates.)
So how does Nurture Life approach salt and sugar?
We Use Salt and Sugar Intentionally
- Sugar: We keep added sugars as low as possible for every meal, with strict maximum amounts per meal: Toddler- max 8 g, Kid- max 9 g and Teen & Adult- max 10 g. (Our Stage 3 Baby Meals are even lower—3 g or less per meal with most containing no added sugar at all.) We never use low-calorie sweeteners; instead we use (small amounts!) of ingredients like fruit purees, agave, honey and maple syrup. We focus on reducing added sugar while still promoting nutritious and flavorful combinations.
- Salt: While our meals do contain some salt, we keep it in check! It’s part of our mission to incorporate a unique array of herbs and spices as the most forward-facing flavors, only using salt to enhance flavor that’s already there. This allows us to help expand palates while keeping sodium at a minimum. To ensure we stick to this principle, we’ve set hard rules around sodium content. Our maximum sodium amounts are as follows: Toddlers- 450 mg per meal, Kids- 600 mg per meal, Teens & Adults- 825 mg per meal.
We Get Creative in the Kitchen
You might think that low-salt, low-sugar foods can’t possibly taste good—but we say that’s the conventional food industry talking! We know that healthier recipes can still be delicious, and our registered dietitians and chefs play around with creative ways to reduce salt and sugar without lowering the perception of taste.
How Does Nurture Life Compare?
We’re very intentional about our use of salt and sugar, and we wish more food brands were the same. The latest research shows that 90% of kids in the United States exceed the recommended daily intake of sodium—by nearly 1,000 mg on average! (For reference, the total daily recommended intake for kids is between 1,900–2,300 depending on age.)
To give you a better idea of what intentional use really means, here are just a few interesting sodium comparisons to brands you know:
- McDonald’s 6-Piece Chicken Nugget Happy Meal (with kids’ fries, apple slices and 1% milk) has 845 mg of sodium. Nurture Life’s Chicken Bites (with green beans and mashed potatoes) has just 390 mg of sodium in our Kid Meal size!
- Nurture Life’s Build-Your-Own Pizza has 590 mg of sodium, compared to 700 mg in Lunchables’ pepperoni pizza. At the same time, ours has the same amount of calories but twice the amount of food, nearly twice the protein and three times the dietary fiber. This means every calorie is more nutrient dense and filling for your child.
- IHOP’s Silver 5 kids meal (including mini pancakes, scrambled eggs and turkey bacon) comes in at a whopping 1,240 mg of sodium, more than half of the daily recommendation. In contrast, our Mini Pancakes (including pancakes, an egg bite and sweet potatoes) serve up 390 mg of sodium in the Kids portion.
- Our Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower has 510 mg of sodium per serving compared to 570 mg in the original mac and cheese dinner from Kraft. Those numbers sound comparable until you realize that our portion size is over three times larger, with more protein and dietary fiber, too.
Our approach to salt and sugar is not only designed to meet the latest scientific recommendations but also to help you establish an early eating pattern that sets your kids up for long-term healthy eating habits. By adding very little salt and sugar and instead taking advantage of creative seasoning methods, we’re teaching kids how to appreciate what wholesome food naturally tastes like.
We Never Add Preservatives
Real food shouldn’t last long on a shelf, and we’re committed to freshly made meals served at their peak of natural goodness. While a few of the ingredients we source may contain standard preservatives (like canned beans or tomatoes), we never add any preservatives in the process of creating our meals. This is why they’re best consumed within a week or so of receiving your delivery. Don’t worry, though—each meal has a use by date on the packaging and can be safely frozen to enjoy later.
Nurture Life’s “Never Evers”
While we keep added sugar and salt as low as possible, there are some ingredients that we take one step further and never include in our meals. As a team, we’ve read the research and consulted with our registered dietitians to create Nurture Life’s “Never Ever List.” The entire list appears at the bottom of this section, but we’d like to highlight a few of the most important ones first.
Nitrites, which can form from nitrates, react with naturally occurring components of protein called amines. This reaction can form nitrosamines, which are known cancer-causing compounds. Nitrosamines can form in nitrite- or nitrate-treated meat or in the digestive tract. While the research is not yet completely definitive, the evidence is strong enough that we won’t take a chance on your kids’ health.
Many common foods use nitrates as a color enhancer or a preservative, including lunch meats, cured meats (e.g., bacon, salami, sausage) and hot dogs. Rather than the nitrate-treated pepperoni of many kids pizzas, our Build-Your-Own Pizza Cold Lunch comes with housemade Italian-seasoned sausage crumbles.
No High Fructose Corn Syrup
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a sweetener derived from corn. It has roughly the same sweetness as table sugar, but it tends to be easier and cheaper to use in processed foods—which means that it’s now been thrown into almost every item on your local grocery store shelf. Excessive consumption of HFCS is associated with increased risk of obesity and diabetes, along with the many negative impacts on kids’ taste preferences.
Instead of HFCS or even regular refined sugar, we focus on natural sources of sweetness like honey, agave and fruit. Our Teriyaki Salmon with Rainbow Veggie Rice, for example, has a housemade teriyaki sauce made from 25% pineapple puree!
No Trans Fats
“Trans fats” is the common name for partially hydrogenated oils, and like HFCS, they’ve been adopted by the food industry largely because they’re cheaper, easier and longer-lasting than most alternative oils and fats. Many restaurants and fast food chains use trans fats for deep-frying (though some states have restricted its use), and they’re also found in margarine, shortening, baked goods and doughs.
Absolutely none of our meals have any trans fats, and none of our meals are fried! Instead of deep-fried chickpea falafel, we serve up baked Lentil Meatballs. And instead of classic chicken nuggets and fries, we bake our Chicken Bites for a similarly satisfying crunch without deep frying in oil.
No Artificial Colors or Flavors
Real food should be, well, real! We never add artificial color enhancers or artificial flavors to our meals. Since we put so much effort into sourcing the highest-quality ingredients, we prefer to let them shine just as they are.
Keep in mind that many packaged products that are labeled “natural” may actually use synthetic (artificial) flavor or color enhancers, such as propylene glycol or BHA. We don’t. (See our Never Ever List below!)
Nurture Life’s Never Ever List
The ingredients on this list are commonly used in processed foods to enhance flavor, color, texture or shelf life, but the latest scientific research has called their safety into question. Since our meals are freshly made and focused on real nutrition, we never use them!
- Nitrates/Nitrites (Sodium or Potassium Nitrate/Nitrite, Celery Powder)
- Potassium Bromate
- High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
- Partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats)
- Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
- Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
- Propyl Gallate
- Artificial Flavors
- Synthetic Colors (F, D & C)
- Bisphenol-A (BPA)
We Make the Meals Your Entire Family Deserves
By this point, we hope it’s clear just how much thought and work goes into every single Nurture Life meal. It might look like a simple plate of Mac & Cheese or a standard serving of Pot Roast, but it’s actually a recipe that’s been developed, balanced, tested, refined and finally approved by multiple nutrition experts. From our registered dietitians to our R&D chefs, quality assurance managers and taste testers, we’re all united by the same goal: to give your family not just better, but the best meals available.
We’re taking a stand against a food industry that’s willing to trade your family’s well-being for profit, and we’re challenging our fellow food companies by showing that we can teach our families, and especially our kids, to love real foods. No added junk, shelf-stable preservatives or artificial sweeteners necessary.
We believe that healthy futures start now, by growing your entire family’s list of favorite foods (especially the veggies!) and setting your kids up for a lifetime of healthy, independent eating, no matter their age. We’re here if and when you need some help in the kitchen—whether that’s balanced meals to get through the terrible twos or a filling, heat-and-eat option after your teen’s lacrosse practice. We’ve reimagined prepared meals so that you can feel good about giving your family exactly what they need at every age, every stage, every day.
If you have any questions about our rigorous nutrition standards or high-quality ingredients, please don’t hesitate to contact us! Send our nutrition experts a message at email@example.com.