Raising a healthy child in today’s fast-paced and high-tech world can feel like a constant battle, but it doesn’t have to be! Parenting and nutrition experts share their top 15 ways to make small changes in your daily routine to help your child grow up strong and healthy. Watch out, world!
Let your kids play in the dirt!
In today’s hyper hygienic world, many parents douse their kids in antibacterial gel at the sight of dirty hands, but research has shown that letting your kids get dirty is actually healthy. Soil exposure increases serotonin, which is a natural antidepressant that makes us happier — plus it strengthens the immune system. Encourage your child to help out in the garden or create a dirt track with their favourite toy trucks and cars.
Be a good role model
“Eat the healthy foods that you want your children to eat yourselves. If you’re eating a big salad with dinner every night, your children will be more likely to eat it, too,” says Eve Kecskes, M.S., R.D.
Food is not a reward
Don’t offer dessert as a reward for eating vegetables, for example. “Dessert is OK in moderation and shouldn’t be used as a reward if you want to develop healthy eating habits,” Kecskes says.
Don’t force fruits and veggies
“Don’t make a big deal when your child doesn’t finish the fruits and veggies on their plate, ” advises Kecskes, saying this will make them less likely to eat them. “Instead, just continue to offer the foods and let your child choose if and how much they will eat.” Also, make a variety of fruits and vegetables available, as well as juices that are 100 percent fruit.
You are what you eat
The saying “garbage in, garbage out” holds true for the human body, says Dr. Perry Wolk-Weiss, author of Ten Commandments for a Healthy Lifestyle. “Studies demonstrate that children who consume more plant-based, organic foods develop healthier, stronger immune systems. When our children don’t eat fruits and vegetables and instead are fed junk food, the groundwork may be laid for cancer, diabetes and other diseases down the road,” he says.
Evaluate your child’s vitamin D levels
“Many children are not getting as much vitamin D as they need due to the use of sunscreens and reduction of sun exposure, Wolk-Weiss says. “Consequences of vitamin D deficiency are asthma, muscle weakness, and increased risk of infections and autoimmune disorders.” He also says, “Supplementation with a liquid form of vitamin D3 is easy and tasteless for kids.” Another easy fix is to incorporate vitamin D and calcium fortified juices into their diet.
Don’t overmedicate a fever in older kids
It is tempting to run for medication at the first sign of a fever, but licensed holistic health practitioner Carolyn Harrington, who is also founder of Maty’s Healthy Products, cautions against this. “If and when you get sick and develop a fever, let the fever run its course. Bacteria and virus cannot survive at higher than normal temperatures. If you quickly reduce the fever by taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen, you may feel better, but you handicap your immune system by eliminating one of its strongest weapons,” Harrington says. “Of course, if a fever gets too high, above 104 degrees (F), a doctor should be consulted.” Babies or children with certain conditions will need fever-reducing medication much earlier than 104 degrees F (young infants as low as 100.4 degrees F), so talk with your doctor about when you should give your child medications.
Give kids responsibility
“Give your children chores that are age and ability appropriate,” says Margaret Briem, author of The Parent Plan: A Guide to Intentional Parenting. “Children need to contribute to their community and they learn to do that by starting with contributing at home.”