While parenting styles differ, one thing all parents can agree on is this: we want healthy kids! After more than ten years working with families to achieve this goal, I’ve found these five tips to be most impactful in accomplishing this mission.
#1: Routines, Habits, and Mindset
Routines and habits are great for everyone. Kids especially find comfort and confidence in knowing what to expect, and what’s expected of them. In our house, each evening we recap the day talking about what we enjoyed most – and what we’re looking forward to tomorrow. Often, this conversation takes place over dinner. Our boys now ask my husband and I questions – because they know to expect that from us. They’ll ask, “what made you happy today?” or we go around the table and tell one thing we love about each person in our family. Mindset is important to us – we say affirmations on the way to school.
Let’s be real – we don’t all wake up excited and energized to start each day. But we can still choose to have a great attitude and bring joy to the day and the people around us. That part is a choice. Help your kids choose happiness by doing so yourself. Mindset matters, and guides our day.
#2: Breakfast Fuel
Starting the day with a healthy breakfast isn’t just good for our health. It keeps the brain fueled for a full day of attention and learning. While cereal or pop-tarts are quick and convenient – they’re loaded with processed sugar, food dyes and other chemicals that are not good for us. These options almost guarantee a crash before lunchtime. Instead, find something higher in protein and healthy fats. This doesn’t mean you need to spend 30 minutes in the kitchen every morning, either. Here are a few options that will keep your morning moving along:
- Eggs over easy (use coconut oil in a skillet, takes 3 minutes)
- Avocado on gluten-free toast
- Almond butter on an apple
- Trail mix
- Last night’s left-over hamburger (who says breakfast needs to be traditional?)
#3 Backpacks and Posture
Keeping your child’s spine healthy is more important than most people realize. This is especially true of a child’s growing spine, which has an impact on their health and body function for the rest of their lives! While there’s not a lot you can do about their posture in their desk at school, there’s still a great deal of opportunity at home that will have a positive impact.
- Backpacks should be less than 15% of body weight and worn with both straps
- Ensure your child is sleeping with the proper size pillow, so their spine stays straight in any sleeping position (not using a pillow is ok, too – too big is the worst)
- Kids spend enough time looking down at a screen or paperwork on a school desk. This reverses the proper curve in their neck and can lead to poor posture and headaches among other issues. Help them keep books lifted to eye level and encourage full-body activities that keep them from sitting in one place for hours on end.
#4 Nutrition and Supplements
Just like at breakfast time, it’s important to stick with healthy nutrition habits throughout the day. Making your child’s lunch? We often grill a bunch of meals on Sunday, and have them prepped to put in lunch boxes all week long. Making hamburgers for dinner? Use an extra pound and have it ready for lunches for a few days, too. Find foods your kids like (save the stress of an argument – mindset, right?) and make sure they’re in the refrigerator before the Monday morning excitement. We keep a list of snacks on the back of our pantry door so that our kids know what they can (and can’t ask for). The list has two sections:
- Proteins / Non-Sugars First
- Beef jerky
- Seaweed snacks
- Nuts and pistachios
- Sun butter and jelly on a coconut wrap
- Veggies and hummus
- Dried apricots or dates
- Applesauce or baby food
- Organic fruit snack
- Larabar/Kind Bar
- Coconut milk yogurt
No matter how well we eat, it’s difficult to get all of our required nutrition through food. The ground our veggies grow in just isn’t the same dirt as it was 100 years ago! However, this doesn’t mean we need to grab a bottle of every vitamin and supplement in the aisle at the local grocery store. There are a few basics that are appropriate for almost everyone.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Studies show that when deficient in omega-3’s (and if you’re not supplementing, you’re deficient), a person’s chance of illness is increased. Illnesses associated with omega-3 deficiencies include allergies, asthma, several types of cancer, heart disease, joint pain, headaches and more. It’s also crucial for brain health – making it that much more vital for a learning child.
- Adequate probiotic ingestion is vital for the proper function of the digestive and immune systems. Protecting a child’s health in this way is preventative from many illnesses even beginning in infancy. Children aren’t often consuming foods rich in probiotics (yogurt doesn’t count) making supplementation necessary.
When it comes to nutritional supplements, it’s important to get ones of high quality. The last thing you want to do is buy a cheap omega-3 made from unhealthy, contaminated fish. Reach out to your natural health care provider who can provide professional and effective options best for your family.
#5 Chiropractic – The Missing Link
What if I told you that there is a researched way to improve the immune system by 200%? You’d be interested, right? It turns out, we’ve known since the 80’s that chiropractic care has this impact. Even more stunning, the immune system of those under regular chiropractic care is 400% stronger than those who are chronically ill. Most people’s experience or exposure to chiropractic has been limited to the idea that an adjustment is helpful for a headache or back pain – but there’s so much more to it than that! To find a chiropractor who focuses on whole-body health, look for these things:
- Consistent use of technology to measure nervous system function
- Recommends a program of care, unique to each person’s exam findings
- Knows when to adjust, and when not to adjust
I always recommend to schedule an appointment to visit, or just drop-in to see what an office feels like. You can learn a lot just by sitting with other clients for a few minutes and getting their feedback. Ask the chiropractor questions to see if you feel like they’re the right professional for you or your family member – most will be happy to schedule some time to be sure your questions are answered.