Parents around the world have developed a deeper understanding of the holistic nature
of our childrens’ health and wellbeing. It’s been a long period of uncertainty, restrictions
on the things they love, less time spent building up immunity to the usual colds and flus
and, just like many adults, less exercise and a more forgiving approach to nutrition.
All of this takes its toll over time. We weren’t aware how long the restrictions would last,
which makes this year’s back to school season the ideal time to put optimal health at the
top of the agenda.
Nutrition is more important than ever, and opting for a whole foods diet that is low in
sugar and processed foods is key. Processed foods are filled with excess sugar,
preservatives, and other additives. They often contain lower quality oils such as canola,
peanut, soy and sunflower that can contribute to inflammation when cooked at high
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
We 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
- Reduce meat and substitute with legumes such as lentils, chickpeas and
- Include some wild fish and grass fed meat
- 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
Whole Food Snack Ideas:
- Carrots, celery, snap peas or cucumber with bean dip, hummus or baba
- Pitted, halved olives
- Fresh fruit
- Air-popped popcorn
- Vegetable based or whole grain crackers (look out for sweet potato
crackers as a yummy option)
- Seeds, nuts and their butters (check for no sugar, no additives)
- Homemade baked goods made with whole grains and sweetened with
If your child is a picky eater, be patient while transitioning to a whole foods diet. Start
small and serve new foods along with your kid’s favourites. Stick with it and continue to
serve the healthier choices until they become a natural part of your kid’s routine, and
don’t forget that modeled behaviour is learned faster (ie eat your veggies too!)
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
- 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
There are many approaches that can be used to address your kid’s anxiety, however,
it’s important to do so without reinforcing it. Being cognizant of your own anxiety;
teaching your child breathing techniques to help reduce anxiety, focus on the moment
and bring the body back into balance; validating their feelings; practicing gratitude
together and exploring the good things that happen are all helpful habits. If more help is
needed, do not hesitate to talk to a licensed mental health practitioner.
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, we 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
- A daily fall/winter 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
Should your child develop a cold, start administering echinacea, zinc, and vitamin C and
vitamin d right away. Natural elderberry syrup is helpful to reduce the severity of cold
and flu symptoms and get your child feeling themselves faster.
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
- 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 “onesize fits all” approach
- Participate with them. From playing tag to group sports to joining a community
recreation centre together there are loads of options
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 us.
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.
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