Dr. Carly Wendler, ND, shares with us some of her tried-and-true insight on how to raise healthy kids. Check out what she has to say on this guest blog post! And sign up for our emails for more where this came from!
Raising healthy and happy children can feel like an overwhelming, daunting task, even on the best of days. The age of technology and internet offers us immediate access to information from millions of sources, which makes the task of knowing right from wrong even more difficult. But you can never go wrong with the basics. Here are some tips to help you and your kids get and stay healthy for years to come!
You Are Your Child’s Hero. Little eyes are always watching you. You are your child’s role model for all behaviours, and your eating and exercise habits are no exception! It would be unreasonable to expect your children to enjoy broccoli and spinach if mom and dad don’t have to eat it, and it’s sure to be a difficult task to get them to go outside and play if you’re tucked snugly into the corner of the couch with a vise grip on the remote control. Eating healthier doesn’t have to be hard (add spinach to a smoothie for a fun green ‘milkshake’ like the Great Green Smoothie) and getting active doesn’t mean joining a gym. Make an obstacle course in your backyard or local park and enjoy it as a family. Showing your children that eating healthy and being active are important to mom and dad will help encourage them to follow in your footsteps from an early age.
Breakfast Really is the Most Important Meal of the Day. Help your children start their day with energy, focus, and a positive mood. A lack of attention and focus, fatigue, or irritability may be signs of low blood sugar, a problem that can be easily resolved by ensuring your child has breakfast. For their first meal of the day, go easy on the carbs and offer a protein- and (healthy) fat-rich breakfast. Quick and nutritious breakfast ideas include: scrambled or hard boiled eggs, last night’s leftovers (who says you can’t eat roast beef and carrots for breakfast?), or oatmeal made overnight in a crockpot (check out some of Goodness Me!'s delicious oatmeal recipes here). Smoothies are another great option--there are lots of ideas here. These nourishing meals will keep energy levels soaring through the morning, while minimizing preparation and cook time.
Get Your Children Involved in Meal Planning. With parents often working long days and after school activities taking up post-dinner hours, families have little quality time to spend with each other. Why not make meal planning and preparation a family affair? Including children in the planning and prep helps teach them about healthy eating without the associated lecture. As you prepare each food, talk about where it comes from, how it grows, why it's important for health, and how it will make them stronger and better able to do the activities they love. You may even learn something about the food you are eating in the process! Although it may seem inefficient to have your little ones in the kitchen under your feet while you prepare food, they will value the extra time with mom and dad, and delegating tasks to your kids makes less work for you! Little hands can wash fruit and vegetables and stir ingredients while older children can set the table, pour the drinks, or even peel and cut fruits and vegetables depending on their age and your comfort level.
Fish Oils for Health. Fish oil, or omega-3 fatty acids, are important for every aspect of health. These fats are literally in every single cell of your body, and there is no system that does not benefit from omega-3’s. These fatty acids are critically important for brain, eye, and neurological development, especially during fetal growth in pregnancy. Most children do not eat fish in the amounts necessary to reach optimal DHA and EPA levels, so supplementation is almost considered a necessity these days. Omega-3 fatty acids help increase focus, attention, and school performance and decrease risk for eczema, asthma, allergies, and other childhood inflammatory conditions. Generally, liquids are more concentrated so you take less per day than capsules, softgels, or chewables (always a bonus!). One of my favourite brands of fish oil is Ascenta NutraSea--it tastes good, offers lots of EPA and DHA, and comes in different flavours. Make sure to refrigerate your oils after opening to maintain freshness.
Hide the Healthy. Healthy food doesn’t have to taste like cardboard and you don’t have to triple your grocery bill to eat healthier. Making small but daily changes in your child’s food choices and meals can make a world of difference in the long run. As mentioned earlier, spinach makes a great colourful addition to their smoothie. Or, add frozen banana and avocado to their smoothie for a creamier, real milkshake consistency. Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds or Prana Sesame Squares, and nuts are also great snacks and additions to meals for a boost of protein and healthy fats. If your child loves salty snacks and you want to stay away from potato chips, baked kale chips are quick to prepare and are definitely school safe! If you start your child out with healthy snacks and foods they will be less likely to choose sugary, junk foods when they have the chance to make their own choices.
Family Time. Television, computers, internet, video games, cell phones and tablets are taking the social aspects out of being a family. A case in point: have you ever texted or sent an email to someone who was actually within speaking or hearing distance? The electronic gadgets and television watching is overstimulating our brains, especially for children with attention or focus concerns. Present your family with a challenge to spend one week actually being together and socializing after dinner. All electronics and telephones should be turned off for this week (not even on vibrate!). Bring out the playing cards, dust off Monopoly or Headbanz, or get active with charades. It's only one week, but you might find it leading to more “tuned out” time once your family sees how much they enjoy themselves.
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