Top 5 Tips and Strategies for Happier and Healthier Kids

I am super excited to share this great article with you. It was written by local, Melanie Schmidt. Melanie Schmidt is a Certified Health Coach (through Institute of Integrative Nutrition and AADP) , the owner of Food 4 Thought in Des Moines, and a mom of 2 small children with 1 more on the way, Melanie approaches health from a holistic perspective, meaning that she believes each component of our lives creates our overall health and wellness. Melanie offers health and wellness classes (events located on her website at: http://www.food4thoughtdm.com/rsvpmaker_upcoming/), individualized health coaching, preconception health kick

Melaniesmall

www.Food4Thoughtdm.com

Upcoming classes: http://www.food4thoughtdm.com/rsvpmaker_upcoming/

Top 5 Tips and Strategies for Happier and Healthier Kids

Health and happiness is exactly what all of us want for our kids. It can be a very challenging and overwhelming time when our children are ill or exhibiting anger or sadness, making us feel helpless and, at least for me, a bit out of control. As parents we will do anything to support them to a better feeling place; I feel the same way as a mom of 2 small kiddos with 1 more on the way. Over the past 8+ years, I have tried many different ideas, philosophies and recommended solutions; while nothing is ever full-proof or guaranteed because each of our children have different health histories and bodies just as they have different personalities. As a result of my own experiences, I have found a few key components that have been essential to supporting my children’s health and wellbeing (not saying that they never get sick, however, I have noticed that they tend to recover faster) and by sharing, hope that it can help others.

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Top strategies and tips that have increased the health and happiness of my kids:

  1. Building and maintaining a strong digestive system (which equates to a strong immune system)

Approximately 80% of our immune system resides in our gut. Therefore, a compromised immune system equals a compromised digestive system and vice versa. A great indicator of good digestive health is bowel movements. As a parent, when my children were newborns I was constantly monitoring if he/she was having enough wet and dirty diapers, basically as an indicator of health. Recently, I started thinking about this simple indicator and how many of us deviate from it once our kids are out of the newborn or maybe the toddler stage. I truly believe that it continues to be a foundational sign of health at any age which is the reason why I continue to pay close attention to it for insight of my children’s overall health.

Easy ways to support a strong digestive system:

a. Consume Probiotic supplements (probiotics= good gut flora and they support a healthy immune system, less anxiety, produce and synthesize vitamins in our body, improve digestion, improve mental perspective, support weight loss, brain health, etc). I look for a children’s probiotic that is refrigerated and have at least 1-5 billion CFUs.

b. Consume fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented vegetables, kombucha drink, water kefirs, and milk kefirs. Fermented foods are natural food based probiotics that provide a significant amount of good gut flora that benefits our digestive health.

c. Aloe Vera Juice is known to improve nutrient absorption in the body and restore good digestion; I disguise in drinks and smoothies.

d. Fruits and Veggies. The fiber and other nutrients found in plants support a healthy digestive system.

e. Magnesium performs 200-300 different functions in the body; 1 way is through improved digestion. Magnesium comes in a drinkable form, a lotion or oil to place on skin for absorption.

  1. Whole Foods are what our body was designed to consume; they deliver thousands of phytonutrients to our cells and synergize in our body. Synthetic vitamins and processed foods can suppress the immune system, cause imbalances within the body, increase toxicity, and much more.

Simple ways to get more whole foods into our kids’ daily diet:

a. Have fruits and vegetables on a snack tray and easily accessible to graze on during the day

b. Make up healthy snack bags that will last for the week. These snack bags create easy and great “on the go” options for the family. They can include healthy options such as: baby carrots, celery, trail mix (raw nuts, seeds, granola, dried fruit), apple cinnamon sticks, grapes, homemade granola bars, and homemade protein bite 

c. Prep up (freezer) meals for the week or month that are full of whole foods and simple to prepare. Make it easier for you and your family to eat healthy

d. Smoothies! I love smoothies and we have at least 1-2 each day. Smoothies allow you to include almost everything except for “the kitchen sink” in them while still tasting good. In addition, smoothies are considered “predigested” food, allowing the digestive tract to take a break from working while the nutrients almost immediately go into your bloodstream. I easily disguise vegetables, greens, coconut water, chia seeds, aloe juice and much more to boost nutrition while leaving out ingredients such as gluten, table sugar and dairy that do not resonate well in my and my family’s bodies. Click here for some of my favorite whole food smoothie recipes.

e. Whole Food Nutrition. If your family is like most, one day kids like a certain fruit and vegetable and the next day they don’t! It can be challenging to get our children (and even us as adults) to eat the recommended variety of 7-13 fruits and veggies per day. A great way to ensure consumption of the nutrients needed for health, brain and overall development is by bridging the gap with whole food nutrition. My family takes Juice Plus+ Whole Food Nutrition because it is 30 fruits, vegetables and berries (with no pesticides, herbacides,etc) that is backed up by 31 medical grade studies so far (including pregnancy health, children’s health, immune system health, etc). In addition, kids ages 4-18 and college students can “eat” Juice Plus+ for free up to 4 years as a result of their Children’s Health Study. Such an incredible opportunity!!

  1. Cognitive Health and Development. Brain development is accelerated and so critical in growing bodies to support learning, attention and cognitive development.

Some of my favorite ways/recipes to increase brain health and learning in my kids include:

a. Healthy Fats such as wild caught salmon, avocadoes, walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, and coconut oil for example. Favorite and easy ways to incorporate healthy fats:

  • Chocolate Mousse (made with an avocado and other healthy whole foods)
  • Guacamole Dip
  • Coconut Fudge
  • Cranberry Almond Butter Bites
  • Placing ground up chia seeds in recipes such as: meatloaf, meatballs, black bean burgers, pancake mix, healthy cookie mix, etc. It does not change the flavor of recipes but really packs the nutritional punch since chia seeds are high in protein, iron, omega 3’s (healthy fats), fiber, antioxidants, and minerals (calcium, magnesium, manganese, etc) and more.
  • Make Smoothies

b. Supplement with Fish Oil. I personally like the Nordic Naturals brand and the Fermented Cod Liver Oil with Vitamin A by Green Pastures. Both brands are known for their high quality and removing out mercury.

c.  Vitamin D

4. Sleep is a critical component to health, it gives cells a chance to regenerate, muscles to repair, detoxification, restoration, brain function support, and the ability for the brain to recalibrate hormone levels that affect mood, appetite and the ability to focus. Children require more sleep than us adults because of their growing bodies and brains, anywhere from 10-12 hours is the average (all dependent up on age and unique health needs). Studies show the link between sleep and health which includes:

  • Weight. Short sleep durations can increase risk of obesity.
  • Academic performance
  •  Emotional stability. A 2010 study found that adolescents whose parents let them go to bed at midnight or later had a 24 percent higher chance of being depressed and a 20 percent greater chance of having suicidal thoughts than those whose parents enforced a 10 o’clock bedtime.
  1. Time in Nature

Nature provides simplicity, quietness, imagination, and connection for all of us especially our children. When surrounded by the sounds, sights and feels of nature, it can provide calmness and connection back to our natural state.