As holidays draw to a close, it’s time for tips to keep your children well and strong, plus ideas for healthy lunches and snacks for going back to school.
Food, glorious food
Nutrient deficiencies in children can stem from picky eating habits which dampen the immune response and leave them susceptible to every bug that is doing the rounds of the school playground. The good news is that there are many health-protective compounds in certain foods that can enhance immune functioning and improve gastrointestinal health – for example, by increasing the number of white blood cells or by boosting the health of beneficial gut bacteria. Even better news is that these foods are tasty, so you are bound to find at least a few that your children will like (or that you can at least hide successfully in a spag bol sauce!). The immune-boosting foods that are the best disease fighters are those that score the highest in an antioxidant analysis called ORAC, including blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, oranges, grapes, spinach, broccoli, red capsicum, carrots and onions.
Make sure your child has a healthy breakfast every morning. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming when everyone is in a rush – wholegrain sourdough toast with Natural Road Almond, Brazil and Cashew Spread provides essential fatty acids and protein for brain health; a bowl of Brookfarm Toasted Apricot, Coconut and Macadamia Muesli with warm almond milk and a swirl of Organic Road Certified Organic Raw Honey will provide sustained energy until lunch time; and a fruit-and-yoghurt smoothie is a quick and nourishing option – choose an ‘active’ or ‘live’ yoghurt, as it will contain good bacteria that kill unhealthy bacteria and germs, and add a spoonful of Melrose Organic 3-6-7-9 Omega Oil, which contains linolenic acid, an omega-3 fat that helps ease allergies and eczema.
Looking for healthy lunchbox ideas? Locako Keto Collagen Brownie Bites in Peanut Butter Caramel or Vanilla Hazelnut are destined to become firm favourites among the under-10s, along with low-salt Proper Chips, Brookfarm Puffed Corn and Prana On Protein Bars. And if you like to bake, pick up a copy of Amy Lee’s Nourish in 5 – her Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Crispy Bars and Berrylicious Jam Crumble Bars are just two of the many recipes that children will love to eat. Wrap the food up in a handy and eco-friendly Honeybee Reusable Beeswax Wrap and pack it into a Cheeki Stainless Steel Lunchbox with a matching Cheeki Stainless Steel Drink Bottle, and you have a lunch that is good for your child and for the planet.
Herbal medicines are a gift from Mother Nature to enhance your family’s health. In particular, echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia) has been shown to promote resistance to colds and flu by boosting the body’s natural production of immune defences, including T-cells, interferon and natural killer (NK) cells. Choose a formula that has been specially designed for children, such as Herbs of Gold Children’s Immune Care, which contains echinacea along with a dose of vitamins A, C, and D and immune-boosting zinc. Another great way to help keep your children healthy and strong is to pop a scoop of a supergreen powder into a smoothie. Vital Greens All In One is loaded with 78 important nutrients, including probiotics, prebiotics, vitamins, phytonutrients, essential fatty acids and fibre, and it is formulated to maximise optimal absorption.
Charge up with exercise
Most children enjoy playing team or individual sports. However, if your child is more interested in sedentary pursuits, such as reading or playing an instrument, or if they are indulging in too much screen time, you can still encourage physical activity in more subtle ways that do not necessarily involve competition. For example, a dance class improves coordination, swimming provides a full-body workout, martial arts like judo help to develop discipline and confidence, yoga develops flexibility – even putt-putt golf improves focus and balance. Children will mirror their parents’ behaviour, so if they see you enjoying gardening and bushwalking, they are more likely to want to join in.
The wonder of sleep
Research shows that missing even an hour’s sleep a night can have a damaging effect on the immune system and brain function. Inadequate sleep also worsens the negative effects of stress – children who have trouble sleeping have weaker immune responses and are more prone to anxiety than those who are able to go to sleep and stay asleep for a solid eight hours a night. Sleep deprivation is also strongly associated with low mood and the inability to cope with difficult emotions, such as anger.
To ensure your child has the best chance of a good night’s sleep, it is important to stick to a schedule where dinner, bath and bedtime are at the same time every night. Aim to eat dinner early –-between 6 and 6.30 p.m. – so that their tummies’ digestive activity will be winding down when it’s time to go to sleep. Lock in a soothing bedtime ritual, such as listening to soft music, reading a book, or giving them a little hand or foot massage. NutriVital Mag Phos is a gentle homoeopathic formula which is traditionally used to relieve muscle aches and twitchiness. A Black Chicken Remedies Pyramedial Fresh Lavender Pouch is perfect to place beside your child’s bed and the powerful scent of organic lavender buds helps relax and calm you and provides restorative, restful sleep.
Just because they are little, doesn’t mean that children don’t feel stress and anxiety, especially when they are exposed to upsetting images and stories on the television and the internet. Teach your child simple strategies to defuse stress, such as an easy guided meditation. Show them how to sit quietly and comfortably, close their eyes and pay attention to their breathing; then, if troubling thoughts enter their mind, keep returning the focus to the breath. Laughter is a wonderful antidote to stress – share jokes and cartoons, download movies that appeal to your sense of humour, and listen to funny podcasts.
If one good thing came out of COVID-19, it is our heightened awareness of the need for clean hands. Popping a Squeakie 100% Natural Hand Sanitiser in your child’s school bag will keep this healthy habit going.
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