I am never shy in reminding you how important it is to feed yourself a nutrient dense diet. A lot of us are willing to do things for our children that we wouldn’t do for ourselves. We might restrict their snacking, screen time, and bedtime yet pay no attention to those things for ourselves. So, this year, I want you to focus on your kids, AND yourself!
As always, I advocate for a whole foods diet that is low in sugar and processed foods. Processed foods (anything from a bag, box, or can that has been made by something other than nature) are filled with excess sugar, preservatives, flavors, salt, and other additives. They often contain lower quality oils such as canola, peanut, soy and sunflower that can contribute to inflammation.
A diet high in processed or “boxed” foods can all wreak havoc on children’s gut microbiome, overall health and immune system resilience, and may even contribute to the development of food sensitivities and allergies.
Kid-Friendly Healthy Eating
When my kids were younger, they used to complain that their lunch looked different from everyone else’s lunch. But other kids were interested and tempted by the fresh food in my children’s lunches. My kids were asked all the time for a piece of whatever fresh vegetable they had in their lunch! The truth is that these whole foods are delicious! They are beautiful, crunchy, sweet, and are a pleasure to eat.
A healthy diet looks and tastes great. It feeds the gut microbiome, supplies nutrients for optimal functioning of all the systems of the body, improves mood, attention and focus, and even improves energy. I recommend focussing on the following guidelines for a kid friendly, nutrient dense whole foods diet:
A Whole Foods Diet:
Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, making sure to include greens, broccoli, cauliflower and berries
Include grass fed, pasture raised and wild caught animal proteins
Swap refined sugars for maple syrup, blackstrap molasses, honey and/or healthy alternatives such as stevia or monk fruit powder
Eliminate refined (white) grains altogether, opting for whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, rye and sprouted whole grain bread
Stick to fermented dairy such as yoghurt or kefir
Replace table salt with sea salt which contains more minerals and no additives
Whole Food Snack Ideas:
Carrots, celery, snap peas, bell peppers or cucumber with bean dip, hummus or baba ganoush
Pitted, halved olives
Seeds, nuts and their butters (check for no sugar, no additives)
The ongoing stress, uncertainty and grief created by the Covid 19 pandemic, political instability and global warming has weighed heavily on families across the globe. The American Psychological Association reports that more than 80% of adults have reported emotions associated with prolonged stress. The most common were feelings of anxiety (47%), sadness (44%) and anger (39%). 67% respondents reported that the number of issues America is facing is overwhelming to them.
This stress has inevitably been passed on to our children: from living with parents dealing with unprecedented stressors, the effects of financial instability, adapting to distancing rules at school and the realities of remote learning, social isolation and the uncertainty of the future.
What Does Childhood Anxiety Look Like?
It’s not always easy to recognize the signs of anxiety in children. Some kids are able to express their own stress and uncertainty, others aren’t. Here are some red flags to pay attention to:
- Changes in mood that are unusual for your child
- Increased fussiness or irritability
- Frequent conflict or tantrums
- Excessive shyness
- Excessive worry
- Changes in eating patterns: eating much more or much less
- Rapid heart rate
- Difficulties falling and staying asleep at night
- Stomach aches and digestive issues
- Trembling or shaking
- Compulsive behaviour
- Refusing to socialize
- Extreme thinking or concluding the worst will happen
Good sleep hygiene will help kids get ready to go back to school and adapt to a more structured day. Sleep is especially important for kids as it supports growth, health (including mental health) and physical development, with kids between the ages of 6–13 requiring 9–11 hours of sleep per night to maintain the behaviours needed to learn and excel academically. Parents can support their children by maintaining consistent bedtimes so that they get the rest that they need.
To help your child get a better night’s sleep, I recommend:
- Going to be at the same time every night
- Keeping the bedroom quiet, cool and dark
- No snacks 2 hours before bedtime
- No screen time (TV, internet) for at least one hour before bed
- Creating a relaxing nightly routine, for example a warm bath, reading, journaling and/or practicing gratitude
Alongside the return to in-person school comes our old friend, cold and flu season. And having spent so much time isolating ourselves from one another, the likelihood of catching every little cold that comes along is higher.
Natural Support for a Developing Immune System
Luckily, there are some natural measures you can take to help kids stay healthy, reduce the chance of developing a cold and, most importantly, increase their body’s resilience when the inevitable germs do spread in class. We recommend:
- Letting kids play in the dirt to build up their natural antibodies
- Providing a nutrient dense whole foods diet
- Ensuring they get enough sleep
- Keeping children away from second-hand smoke, artificial fragrances and chemicals (pay attention to laundry detergents, dryer sheets, air fresheners, candles, and cleaning products- they are extremely toxic!)
- A daily supplement regimen that includes probiotics, zinc and vitamin D to promote a healthy microbiome and support immune function
- Lemon balm or camomile “sleepy tea” for children with persistent difficulty sleeping
Exercise has benefits that go way beyond strengthening the body. It reduces anxiety, increases self confidence and helps children to sleep more soundly at night. It’s imperative to kids’ long term physical health and has been linked to increased cognitive abilities, immune function, bone density, and cardiovascular health. A habit of daily exercise reduces the long term risk of developing chronic diseases in one’s lifetime.
At Least One Hour a Day
Children need at least one hour of moderate exercise daily to reap its benefits. If your child is reluctant to get the exercise they need, the following may help:
- Lead by example. Kids are more apt to exercise if they see their parents do the same.
- Limit TV and screen time for the entire family
- Choose activities that your child enjoys and don’t feel you have to go for a “one-size fits all” approach
- Participate with them. Play tag, toss a baseball, practice kicking a goal, play kickball, etc. Especially when your kids are young, they just want to be with you and do the things you do!
Seeing clearly is something we may take for granted most years, but the increased screen time kids have been subjected to due to remote learning and social distancing measures has recently been linked to an increase in short-sightedness in children. A 2021 Chinese study pointed to “Near work,” aka watching TV, reading, and using digital devices as the determining factor increasing instances of poor eyesight in children.
The same study indicates outdoor activities may play an important role in counteracting the potential negative effects of screentime, protecting children’s still-developing eyesight. So get out there when you can! Make it a priority to ensure your kids spend time outdoors doing anything other than “near work”.
It’s no secret that our kids are dealing with more this year than they are used to, but we can help them to be more resilient in all the ways they need to be. If you would like a more custom approach to helping your child make the most of this year, book an appointment with me and I can help!
Together we can take an in-depth look at your child’s health and wellbeing, and develop a back-to-school plan including diet, lifestyle and supplements that will have them feeling, sleeping and performing their very best.
Call me at 970-328-5678. to book your appointment today!
Bethune, Sophie APA: U.S. Adults Report Highest Stress Level Since Early Days of the COVID-19 Pandemic
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