Here are a few tips to ensure your child’s health will be in tiptop shape for the school year.
1) Make sure to establish the school year’s sleep routine right from the beginning. Children become accustomed to the relaxed schedules and later bedtimes of the summer. A good night’s sleep is essential for children to maintain attention and mental capacity during the school year.
– It is recommended that children between the ages of 3-12 should get an average of 11 hours of sleep per night.
– Avoid late-night snacking as this may disrupt the sleep-wake cycles.
– Try to reduce the amount of light and noise in your child’s bedroom. Even the glow of a clock can disrupt the sleep of those who already have difficulty sleeping.
– Naturopathic doctors can help establish proper-sleep wake cycles if you feel sleeping problems stem from a medical cause.
2) Start promoting healthy meals and snacks. Summer time is rampant with not-so-healthy foods such as burgers, fries, and ice-cream – who could blame anyone for indulging in these foods, especially served during summer-fun festivities? However, once school starts, indulging in foods that aren’t so nutrient-balanced can affect your child’s energy, focus and their immune health.
– Include non-genetically modified (GMO) whole-grains that are high in fibre such as oats, rye, whole-grain wheat, and bran. Also make an extra effort to sneak in gluten-free grains such as rice, millet, kamut, buckwheat, non-GMO corn, and quinoa, for variety. Even if you and your family members don’t have overt problems with gluten, make an effort to keep your carbohydrate intake 50% gluten-free in order to minimize the negative effects associated with its over-consumption. Avoid cereals that use refined sugar or GMO grains.
-Always include food sources that are rich in protein and fat such as full fat yogurt, nut butters (beware of allergies), soft-boiled/poached eggs, lean (real) meats such as chicken or turkey.
-Try non-dairy substitutes such as coconut milk, almond milk and rice milk, instead of focusing only on cow’s milk. Limit dairy exposure to yogurt, and cheeses in small amounts as too much dairy can negatively impact the digestive and immune systems.
-The addition of superfoods such as chia seeds, flax seeds, and hemp hearts are an excellent source of antioxidants and fibre.
-Smoothies in the morning are an excellent way to combine all the superfoods, fruits and vegetables in one shot – especially if your child is a picky eater and will not eat these alone. As a base, make sure to use 100% all-natural fruit juices (not from concentrate) or non-dairy milk substitutes listed above.
Lunch: Use leftovers whenever possible, and spend a good chunk of your Sunday preparing foods (cut up vegetables, cooking grains, preparing meat and dips) for lunches in order to minimize the reliance on packaged and preserved food.
– Focus on foods that are low in sugar and low in refined carbohydrates to prevent the mid-afternoon crash.
– Keep bread to a minimum of 2x/week – use sprouted, whole-grain, non-GMO breads. Other days of the week try gluten-free whole grains listed in the breakfast section. Spending part of your Sunday preparing grains such as brown rice, millet, and/or quinoa will cut down on preparation time, and are easily stored in the fridge for a few days.
– For snacks, make sure to include lots of vegetables such as cucumbers, carrots, celery, sweet peppers and broccoli for children to munch on. A serving of fruit makes for a sweet addition.
– For protein and fats, include bean dips such as hummus, naturally-sweetened full-fat yogurt, cut up cheese, nut butters (beware of allergies). Natural saturated fats such as butter (not margarine), coconut oil and avocados will provide your child fuel for their brain.
– Avoid pre-packaged and preserved foods, especially deli meats, as they are typically high in sodium and lacking in nutrients.
– Invest in a good thermos to keep warmed lunches (such as soups or stir fries) hot, and compartmentalized (bento-style) lunch boxes in order to reduce waste caused by plastic bag use.
3) Keep kids hydrated throughout the day.
– Providing your child with a reusable water bottle (BPA-free) to sip on and refill throughout the day can will keep them hydrated
– For picky children, try adding a splash of 100% fruit juice (not from concentrate) to their water. Avoid use refined sugar or aspartame-containing sweeteners
– Sugar-free coconut water is an excellent way to keep kids hydrated.
These simple tips will improve your child’s overall health, optimizing their energy, and focus during the school year!
Written by Dr. Tanya Lee ND