Children’s health essentials

Expert tips to look after your children’s health naturally

Now that children have returned to school after a long period of home schooling it’s important to look after their health and wellbeing to keep them strong, healthy and full of energy to cope with the new routine. Here are our top natural tips.

Establish some healthier habits

“During the lockdowns, we have had to accept that much of our children’s lives, from school to extra-curricular activities, had to continue through virtual platforms like Zoom,” says Anneke Theron, Lower School Counsellor at ACS International School Cobham. “With managing children’s screen activities an already-pressing issue for parents, it has become quite a challenge trying to keep a healthy screen balance in our homes, especially when adding to the mix the only opportunities for social interaction through video calls or gaming. Although we can hope for a much healthier balance when schools and after-school activities can resume, it may take hard work to re-establish some healthier habits around time spent on video games at home. We need to acknowledge that our children are as tired as we are with Zoom fatigue, and whilst it has been a temporary life saver, it is the real interactions and connections, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, which will be of greatest benefit to us as we go forward. With this in mind, it would be helpful to limit children’s screen use to foster a healthy balance. By creating opportunities to safely interact, we can help them ‘zoom’ back into these important soft social skills.”

Support their immunity

Although all of the Covid-safe precautions will be in place, it’s important to be prepared should your child need to fight off any normal colds, coughs or stomach bugs. The nutrition experts at Vitl (Vitl.com) have identified the key nutrients that are the most effective when it comes to supporting a balanced immune system:

  • Beta glucans – a form of soluble fibre, they have been shown to increase immune defences by activating cell immunity against infection.
  • Elderberry – this dark purple berry has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of colds through antimicrobial activity.
  • Turmeric (with black pepper) – this yellow spice has been shown to modulate the immune system by enhancing immune activities and the activation of immune cells.

Plus

  • Vitamin C
  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin D3

All of these nutrients contribute to the normal function of the immune system.

Build their mental resilience

There are many ways to introduce good nutrition to build up children’s mental resilience. Olga Preston, Registered Nutritional Therapist and expert in nutrition at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition (www.ion.ac.uk), suggests the following tips:

Eat some protein for breakfast
Give children and young adults protein for breakfast. Avoid cereals with sugar, which heighten feelings of anxiety. Choose things like beans on toast, egg and avocado on toast or eggs with spinach.

Opt for healthy snacks
Avoid crisps and chocolate for snacks and instead opt for carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, cherry tomatoes or olives. These are perfect little bite-sized morsels of goodness that contrib ute to that all-important five-a-day.

Introduce essential fatty acids
Introduce essential fatty acids which help to control feelings of anger and defiance. Omega-3s are vital for brain health and can easily be introduced through home-made fishcakes using tinned smoked salmon, peas and sweet potato or by adding salmon or mackerel to an omelette. Also try sprinkling chia seeds on smoothies or on salads.

Stay hydrated
When your children are spending long periods of time in front of a screen, it’s really important that they drink plenty of water. Avoid sugar-based drinks and stick to fresh or mineral water.

Remember that greens are good!
Remember the mantra: greens are good. They are packed with vitamins and magnesium to help ease feelings of anxiety.

Look after their gut health

“The health of our digestive system, including our microbiome (microbes that reside in the gut), has a knock-on effect on all other systems of the body, even the brain,” says Andrea Burton, Technical Advisor at Bio-Kult (www.bio-kult.com). “Our gut also acts as our first line of defence (over 70 per cent of immune cells reside in the gut), by blocking harmful toxins, bacteria and viruses whilst absorbing nutrients to feed our cells to keep us healthy. It is estimated that 12 per cent of European children suffer from constipation. Maintaining sufficient fibre intake is crucial in order to bulk out stools and use the body’s natural process to regulate gut motility, ensuring effective absorption of nutrients and removal of toxins. Encouraging children to eat a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables will increase their vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and provide prebiotics to feed a diverse gut microbiome. Prebiotics can be obtained from slightly green bananas, onions, garlic and leeks. Taking a live bacteria supplement can also contribute to a healthy gut function, maintain a healthy gut barrier and influence the development of the immune system in children.”

Take care of yourself!

“In the same way that a parent can only assist a child to put on an oxygen mask on a plane after putting on their own, parents need to understand the importance of self-care during these difficult times,” says Anneke Theron. “Covid-19 is still a long way from being fully over, but as we mark this difficult year, so comes the promise of spring and better days. Perhaps if we paused to think about all of the challenges that we didn’t know this past year would bring, we would also be able to notice the sunrays through the clouds and with that, hold on to the hope of a better tomorrow. May that be true as we take the first steps out of this lockdown!”

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