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  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • September 2017
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Keeping kids healthy during the school year

Keeping children healthy throughout the school year is a daunting task. Infections spread rapidly at school. Beleaguered parents often feel like their kids come home the first day of school with sniffles and a dry cough that lingers throughout the year. Do not despair! With a little planning, parents can support their children’s immune systems with a high quality, nutrient dense diet, pleasurable exercise and simple routines. Your kids will have the resiliency to fight various infections, and the adults in the household will be healthier and happier too!

The first line of defense against illness is a healthy, nutrient dense diet of whole foods. Emphasize fruits and vegetables at all meals, along with quality protein sources such as meat, fish, beans, nuts, seeds, cheese, yogurt and milk. Include whole grains and quality oils and fats, such as avocados, olive oil, organic butter, nuts, and nut or seed butters. During fall and winter include warming foods in the diet. Plenty of soups, stews, cooked greens, seasoned with healing herbs and spices, will strengthen the body for cold and flu season. Monitor sugar consumption and try to avoid processed junk food or sugary beverages. Make meal preparation a shared family time. Invite kids to help set the table and choose their own fruits and vegetables. Give them simple tasks such as washing and slicing produce or stirring the soup. There are many cookbooks and internet websites parents can turn to for healthy recipes and fun snacks to keep children interested in eating healthy food. For picky eaters, patience is key! Keep exposing kids to new foods multiple times and let them take charge of how much they are willing to try. Eventually, children get on board and learn to enjoy a wide range of healthy foods, especially when their parents model eating in that manner.

Adequate rest is key for everyone in the family. Poor or inadequate sleep patterns inhibit immune response, increase vulnerability to infection, decrease healing, and may lead to more frequent infections and prolonged sickness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that children 3-5 years old need 10-13 hours of sleep per night. Kids 6-12 years of age need 9-12 hours, and adolescents 13-18 years of age need 8-10 or as much as 12-14 hours per night. 

Use of electronics or hunger often interfere with sleep for kids. Establishing a “no electronics rule” at least one hour before bed helps develop healthy sleep patterns. Serving a quality protein and carbohydrate with dinner will keep bellies satisfied and allay any hunger before bed. Chamomile, lavender, lemon balm or catnip tea included in an evening routine, is an excellent way to relieve any stress or anxiety and promote relaxation. All these herbs are safe for children.

Consider the routines you have in place during the school week. Are they working for your family? Children are less stressed and tired when they have a consistent routine with realistic expectations on what they need to accomplish in a day. We live in a fast-paced world with a lot of demands placed on our kids. Plan for how homework will get done and negotiate the number of activities your children will be involved in outside of school. Prioritize family time each evening and include relaxing activities such as reading books together or sharing tales of the day’s adventures. Scheduling free time each evening can be especially helpful in noticing early signs of sickness. Take time to slow down even more to let the body heal.

Finally, exercise plays a vital role in our overall health. With the emphasis on academics, children are getting less physical activity at school than in years past. Ideally, children should spend 1-2 hours per day engaged in fun physical activities. Exercise helps keep the lymph and detoxification systems moving, which is important to prevent chronic health issues. Compelling studies show that sufficient outdoor and activity time is equal to antidepressants! There are plenty of activities to be enjoyed during the fall including walking, hiking, biking or outdoor games like hopscotch and jump rope. When the weather gets cold, turn up the music and have a dance party in the house. This is a super fun way both kids and adults can attain exercise and stress relief benefits! 


References: “How Much Sleep Do I Need?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html.

“Healthy All Year.” Romm Enterprises. www.healthiestkids.com. Aviva Romm.

 

Dana Schlies

Dana is a Certified Women’s Herbal Educator and Community Herbalist. She is passionate about educating women about the many botanical and alternative methods to bring the body into balance and create vibrant, healthy living. She utilizes a comprehensive approach including environment, nutrition, exercise, stress reduction and botanicals to bring support to the whole body. She is part of the team at Sweet Willow Naturals, and can be reached at 920-530-1188 or [email protected]

Website: www.sweetwillownaturals.com
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