Back to school is upon us. Good-bye sunscreen and bug spray. Hello backpacks and lunchboxes. In the middle of chaotic school supply shopping, please take a moment to reflect the importance of being a parent. Raising healthy children is the goal. Sounds simple enough. Health is defined by World Health Organization (WHO) as a, “State of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or affirming.”. Sounds a bit more complex than cooking dinner and helping with homework. Parents have a responsibility to be a positive role model. Highlighting healthy habits today, builds wellness for tomorrow. Physical, emotional, social, spiritual and intellectual health are intricately intertwined. Striving for balance leads to overall wellness.
Raising happy well-adjusted kids takes a lot of work by tireless parents. A few tips never hurt.
Nutrition is the best starting point. As head of the household, leading by example is essential. Leave processed packaged junk food out of the cupboards. Incorporating as many organic foods into menu planning as the budget permits is highly recommended. It’s important to note, organic and non-GMO isn’t synonymous with nutrient dense. All processed foods contain excess sugar. Stocking shelves exclusively with thr best choices gives children one option.
Hungry kids will eat. They may whine, but they won’t starve. For every “yuck food”, find an alternative. It’s imperative to include carbohydrates protein and fats at all meals. Each macro supports physical and cognitive growth, as well as providing energy. Carbohydrates aren’t limited to grains. Green is for go! Cover half the plate with produce in every hue. Protein is the largest component in our body and growing bodies require adequate amounts, otherwise the body steals it from organs and muscle tissues.
If you have a pint-sized sugar seeker, increase lean cuts of meat, wild fish, eggs or dairy. Protein stabilizes blood sugar, stomping sweet tooth addiction. Raising plant-based eaters? Quinoa and hemp are the only 2 complete proteins, providing the full panel of amino acids. Mindful meal prep provides portions of various legumes and grains daily to meet protein needs as well.
Fats don’t make anyone fat. Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) are lipids the body can’t synthesize. Two types of EFA’s, better known as Omega-3 and Omega-6 must be obtained from food. The benefits are numerous, but absolutely key for health brain function and helping prevent type-2 diabetes, a growing concern among children. Fish is a good source of Omega-3. Finicky fish eaters and vegetarians can obtain healthy fats dining on super foods such as hemp, flax, chia and pumpkin seeds. Sugar is enemy number 1 at any age and best to avoid. Fruit is nature’s candy.
The amount of food required varies depending on your child’s size and level of activity, same as adults. That being said, smaller children appear to thrive with frequent mini- meals. Approaching adolescence, the demand for nutrients increases alongside the risk for nutrient deficiencies. This is especially true with boys, who tend to eat quantity over quality. Girls on the other hand, dine on petite portions, due to heightened body awareness. All ages benefit from a good multi-vitamin. The onset of the menstrual cycle is a good time for girls to increase iron rich foods such as beef and liver. Non-heme forms or animal free options such as beets and steamed greens need Vitamin C to facilitate absorption. A squeeze of citrus is the answer. In some cases, an iron supplement may still be required. It’s best to consult your health practioner.
Water is without a doubt the most valuable liquid. Water is lost through breathing, sweating and during the digestive process. It’s important children sip water throughout the day. Thirst equals dehydration. Active kids require more than the 30ml per kilogram daily minimum. An easy tell is the color. Urine should be straw colored and never smell.
Exercise is non-negotiable. It doesn’t matter if you are 5 or 15. Parents put down your phone, turn off the television, computer and get moving with your kids. Organized sports and extra-curricular activities aren’t for everyone or budget friendly, making family fun time an on-the-go goal! Take a walk in nature, swim at a local pool or shoot hoops at a nearby school. It’s important to note, there are kids who are overscheduled without any downtime. For those children, encourage quiet time spent reading.
Stress increases with age. Many kids suffer with social, emotional and mental stress. Bullying is real. Limiting social media can help with minimizing unhealthy comparisons. Stress effects the nervous and digestive system. Kids are no different than adults. They suffer from anxiety, headaches, constipation and diarrhea.
Communication is a gift we give and receive. Allowing our kids to express their feelings and opinions without fear of judgement gives them confidence in themselves and others. It’s our duty to help kids understand words are powerful and can be used to lift others up or tear them down. Educate children the value of living in the moment.
Sleep is underrated. The body repairs as it rests. Having a clear bedtime and sleep routine will have your child counting Z’s as soon as their head hits the pillow. Try a warm bath with drops of lavender essential oil, chamomile or lavender tea, reading, ear plugs, sound of crickets or even a diffuser to set the mood. Remove phones, tablets and computers to eliminate any blue light or noise.
Chemical-free is the way to go. Skin is our largest organ and the products we apply absolutely make their way into your bloodstream. Our liver flags the chemicals as invaders, working overtime trying to eliminate from the body. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization providing information to help educate consumers on products, determined women use an average of 12 products daily while teenage girls use 17, exposing themselves to 16 chemicals daily. This is not an issue exclusive to teenage girls. Teenage boys use deodorants, body sprays and hair products in excess,too. Look for products using natural options like tea tree essential oil, charcoal powder, hemp, clay, algae, witch hazel, rosehip oil and calendula. Clean cosmetics exist, too. There is no reason to apply chemicals to your skin, lashes and nails!
Supplements are not meant to replace the nutrients available in food. They will never make up for a poor diet. Supplements can help address deficiencies, fill in gaps due to poor nutrition, ensuring children and teens meet their daily requirement of essential minerals and vitamins.
Probiotics help restore gut flora, supporting digestion, mood and skin conditions.
Multi-vitamin is a must, guaranteeing the body receives all vitamins and minerals, promoting health overall. Liquid, chewable and gummies make it an easy add-on at any age.
Magnesium is one of the most versatile minerals, involved in hundreds of functions. Many children are deficient because their diet is highly processed. Stress, certain medications and intense exercise depletes stores. Teenage girls may experience less monthly cramping during menstruation with its addition and competitive athletes will notice easier recovery. Magnesium before bed helps deliver a restful sleep and helps promote a morning bowel movement. It comes in a wide variety of flavors that mix easily in water or gummies.
Vitamin C is a key antioxidant. Extra C can be given during stressful times. Exams, social pressure and overtraining are all examples of stress. Vitamin C is water soluble and eliminated in urine. A serving of flavored powder is an easy way to provide a boost plus increase water intake. Vitamin C enhances immunity, speeds wound healing and promotes healthy gums.
Fish oils higher in DHA than EPA boost cognitive function, helping support Attention Deficit Disorder and Autism.
Vitamin D is produced within the body when the sunlight hits the skin. Sunscreen inhibits this process and most kids don’t get enough sun in the winter months to generate enough D, nicknamed the sunshine vitamin. Supplementing is essential at every age. It’s needed to regulate blood levels of calcium and phosphorus, helping build strong bones and healthy teeth. It also plays a role in boosting the immune system.
As we head into cooler days, it’s never too early to introduce immuner boosters, elderberry, echinacea and Manuka honey. Look for bee propolis in spray form to speed up sore throat recovery.
They say it takes a whole village to raise kids, hopefully your village, made up of family, friends and peers are all good role models. Education is key, setting a solid foundation for a healthy future. Raising healthy kids may not take a whole produce aisle, but it’s a good place to start.