All parents want the best for their children. We want them to grow and develop into strong, compassionate, confident, little geniuses who form meaningful relationships with others and make wise choices. But did you know that, as parents, you have the most influential role in making these things possible for your children? Aside from setting a good example for them, it is also your job to feed them what their growing bodies need. During childhood and adolescence, food has a profound impact on growth, development and health. What you pack in your child’s lunchbox and put on their dinner plate is one of the most important decisions you will ever make.
Americans spend a significant amount of their income (60% or more) on processed food items, whether that be dining in or out. This is scary seeing as our nation is the world’s leader for epidemic levels of obesity and diabetes in children. Scarier still are the mental/behavioral problems that seem pervasive in our society such as ADD, ADHD and learning disorders. As if that isn’t challenging enough, the drugs used to treat these problems have a laundry list of side effects that leave many a parent wondering if the medicine is worth taking. There is no question that the decisions we make about what we eat on a daily basis have a profound impact on our families’ well being not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.
Feeding your children antioxidant rich foods full of important vitamins and minerals is the best defense you can give them to protect them from whatever may be floating around at school since they are more exposed to flu bugs and germs in that setting. Plus, eating these types of foods has the added benefit of being brain food, helping children to have a sharper focus, a longer attention span, and an increased ability to learn and retain information.
So what sorts of foods are we talking about? Fruits and vegetables, of course. Nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, and C, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, an omega-3 essential fatty acid found in coldwater fish like salmon and tuna), and zinc are particularly beneficial to boosting immunity. You are safe with pretty much any vegetable choice, and fruits make great snack alternatives to any sugary, processed choice. It’s a good idea to buy fresh foods and eat them in as close to their natural state as possible. Need ideas? Here is a short list of some great options:
~Dark, leafy greens (romaine lettuce, chard, kale, arugula)
~Mushrooms (shiitake, portabella)
Fruits (Afterschool snack alternatives)
~Berries (straw, black, blue, logan, goji)
**Some good delivery methods are smoothies and fruit cups. You can also blend a few together, pour the mix into ice cube trays, freeze them and voila, you have mini popsicles.
Other Great Foods
~Nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds)
~Seeds (pumpkin, flax)
~Beans (chickpeas, lentils, black, pinto)
~Whole Grains (quinoa, brown rice, stone ground oats)
“Well that’s all nice and fine,” you say, “But its way too late for my kids, they’re already used to the bad stuff!” If this sounds like your particular dilemma, you need to get creative. KidApprovedMeals.com and DineWithoutWhine.com are two great resources for menu ideas and delivery methods for families with kids. When you join these places, you even get to talk to other families about what works for them.
Another great resource is www.DeceptivelyDelicious.com. Author Jessica Seinfeld relates her obstacles to getting her kids to eat healthy and shares her recipes for sneaking veggies into foods without her kids even knowing. This book is a must have if you know your kids are going to give you some resistance.
Can’t rip yourself away from packaged snacks? Fortunately, there is an acceptable option. Dr. William Sears (renowned California based pediatrician), markets his own line of healthy kids snacks called Lunchbox Essentials. They are convenient, sized just right and are organic.
While food may lay the foundation for a solid immunity, there are many other things you can do to keep your kids immune systems in tip top shape:
- Avoid sugar. Sugar decreases the immune system’s ability to respond properly and decreases white blood cell production (cells responsible for eating bacteria and fighting off dangerous germs) by 50%.
- Give them probiotics. Probiotics replenish the good bacteria in the gut, which are responsible for fighting off bugs they may come into contact with.
- Exercise! 30-45 minutes a day. How do kids exercise? Let them play! Run around the yard or swim in the pool just for fun! This is a great immune booster.
- Wash hands! Very simple way to stop the spread of germs. Hand sanitizer and wipes are also helpful when you don’t have the opportunity to wash hands.
- Give them Vitamin C. 2000-3000 mg/day during flu season to fight off bad bugs.
- Vitamin D. Give them 4000-5000 IU/day to strengthen immunity or just have them go out in the sun for a half hour.
- Drink water! Shoot for half your body weight in ounces. For example, a 100 pound person would drink 50 ounces. Research shows that if you are dehydrated, your immunity decreases making it harder for your body to fight off viruses.
- Give them Oscillococcinum. This is a homeopathic remedy available at your local grocery/natural food store that will help them recover from any flu quicker should they get sick.
Living this kind if lifestyle will do wonders for your family’s health and well being. And you will teach your children how to make good decisions on their own about what’s best for them. Now what can be better than that?