One of the biggest misconceptions in the health and wellness world is that in order to improve your health and the health of your kids, the first step is a drastic diet change or adding in numerous supplements.
In reality, that is a recipe for overwhelm and setbacks. This is especially true when it comes to kids.
As a Nutritional Therapist I help moms and kids baby step their way to health. I can tell you from experience, simplicity is key! And oftentimes, making changes to your diet or adding supplements are the last steps, not the first!
Today I’m sharing simple tips to keep your kids healthy throughout the year that don’t cost money, just your time and intentionality. Can I get an, “Amen!” for simplicity this year?!
Healthy Habits for Kids
If you are looking for simple ways to keep your kids healthy this year, start by getting your kids on board! It will never work to have mom and dad nagging or begging. Begin with simple, healthy habits your kids can maintain on their own. Give them ownership of their health from a young age.
A perfect starting place is one kids typically love anyway: the great outdoors .
That’s right! Encourage your kids to get outside every day, regardless of the weather. This will foster imagination, play, and natural movement. Plus the fresh air and sunshine are great for the immune system.
Got a busy day and need to to optimize your time outside? Aim for morning sunlight, close to sunrise. This will help regulate your child’s circadian rhythm and improve overall sleep.
How to Keep Your Kids Healthy This Year
This brings me to my next tip – get some sleep! Both quantity and quality matter.
Is your child getting enough sleep? How much is required varies by age. Younger kids need closer to 13 or 14 hours. Older kids need closer to 9 or 10 hours.
If your child is consistently lacking in sleep, it is a form of trauma and will lead to nervous system dysregulation and overwhelm.
Also take note that in the teenage years the circadian rhythm shifts to a later bedtime and later wake time. This is normal. The important thing is not the bedtime but the quantity of sleep.
You can support healthy sleep for your kids by creating the right environment. This includes:
- Keep it dark – Skip the nightlights and glow from clocks if you can.
- Keep it cool – Body temperature drops as you sleep, so don’t make the room too warm.
- Keep it free of EMFs – Avoid electronics in the bedroom, and turn off WiFi at night if possible.
- Keep it safe – Make sure your child feels safe, secure, and supported in his or her bedroom.
- Keep the white noise off – This may surprise some, but white noise has been shown to impact brain development due to its excitatory nature. Teach your kids to sleep without noise from a young age.
If your child struggles with either falling asleep or staying asleep, it is wise to work with a practitioner to get to the root of the problem.
New Year Tips to Keep Kids Healthy
So your kids are getting outside and sleeping well. Two really important foundations! You have made great strides in helping your kids stay healthy.
Now it’s time to take a few more simple steps. Work with your child to go through this list and gradually implement each strategy. By the end of the year, you’ll have so many new healthy habits in place!
- Hydration – Drink plenty of filtered, mineral-rich water everyday. Avoid reverse osmosis as it is “dead water” and will not help you hydrate or mineralize your body.
- Movement – This does not have to be “exercise.” Simply moving your body throughout the day is great. Going barefoot or wearing minimalist shoes is even better! Teach your kids to lead a naturally active life instead of being couch potatoes with little spurts of movement here and there.
- Avoid screens – Really limit screen time when you can. This fosters creativity and brain health. Video games don’t even compare to getting outside and actually playing.
- Declutter the house – Sounds strange, right? But a cluttered house leads to overwhelm for the whole family. An overwhelmed family is a crabby family. While you don’t have to suddenly become a minimalist, make it a family goal to get organized and downsize where you can. This will have a calming effect and therefore improve overall health.
- Spend time with family and friends – We were created to live in connection and community … in real life, not over a screen. Foster deep friendships and create strong family bonds. This creates the felt sense of safety and support that all children need.
- Avoid overly busy schedules – Nearly impossible in our culture, I know; but scaling back on the busyness really does have a profound impact on your child’s health. Too many activities can be stressful or lead to complete overwhelm and dysregulation.
By addressing these foundations, the whole family will notice an improvement in overall health and may even experience relief from unpleasant symptoms.
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Raising Healthy Kids Physically and Mentally
We’ve covered the basics. Now let’s go a little deeper.
Did you know your physical, mental, and emotional health are all intimately connected? It’s true. Anxiety can cause physical symptoms like stomach pain. Depression can cause leg pains and constipation.
See what I mean? That nagging rash on your child’s legs might be completely caused by his or her dysregulated nervous system.
So when it comes to keeping your kids healthy this year, you have to address the mental and emotional aspect of health through nervous system regulation.
It’s a complex topic, but it’s important to understand that kids need a felt sense of safety and support not only to help them handle stress but also to keep them out of overwhelm or a constant freeze state.
A great way to do this is with somatic exercises and being present. Skip the timeouts. Skip the punishments for big emotions. This will only encourage isolation and fear. Allow your child to express his or her emotions safely with you.
RELATED: Positive Parenting Solutions Review
If your child is struggling with anxiety, these tips will be very helpful. It’s also really important to learn more about nervous system regulation for kids so you can spot the dysregulation as soon as it starts.
A Healthy Diet for Kids
And now we finally get to a healthy diet for kids. I debated about even including food in this post. Eating a healthy diet can be a big struggle for many, especially when dealing with selective eaters. And the point of this post is simplicity.
But what you eat really does impact your overall health, so it is an important foundation.
That being said, there are some simple guidelines to follow when it comes to a healthy diet. Remember, the key is not overwhelm, just baby steps.
- Eat real, whole foods. Limit packaged, processed foods and inflammatory oils. Eat as many meals at home as possible. This not only helps ensure better quality food but also fosters family connection.
- Avoid extreme diets and limit restrictions. This is a big one for kids. In my work, the kids with the most restricted diets are the ones with the most mineral imbalances and, in turn, health challenges. So don’t restrict unless absolutely necessary, like a food allergy. I see far too many kids with limited diets (like restricting dairy) for no real reason other than mom or dad heard it’s not good for you.
- Keep macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fats) balanced in order to keep blood sugar balanced.
- Eat a wide variety of foods to get a full spectrum of nutrients. The more variety the better! This includes both plants (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and beans) and animals (meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, eggs).
Eating real food can be very enjoyable. There are so many nourishing options. If your child struggles with a self-imposed limited diet, I recommend working with a practitioner.
Need More Baby Steps?
Here at Kitchen Stewardship, we’ve always been all about the baby steps. But if you’re just starting your real food and natural living journey, sifting through all that we’ve shared here over the years can be totally overwhelming.
That’s why we took the best 10 rookie “Monday Missions” that used to post once a week and got them all spruced up to send to your inbox – once a week on Mondays, so you can learn to be a kitchen steward one baby step at a time, in a doable sequence.
Sign up to get weekly challenges and teaching on key topics like meal planning, homemade foods that save the budget (and don’t take too much time), what to cut out of your pantry, and more.
Do Kids Need Supplements to Stay Healthy?
Last, but not least, let’s talk about supplements. Do kids need them to stay healthy?
The short answer is yes and no. Clear as mud, right?
In an ideal world, kids would be eating a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet with lots of variety. However, our reality does not encourage this with “kid foods” and clever marketing. To make things worse, many of our healthy foods are not nearly as vitamin and mineral-rich as they used to be due to soil degradation.
So, while we should be able to get everything we need from food, it’s really hard to do that these days. So I encourage wholefood supplements for kids. This means they are simply concentrated foods to get sufficient nutrients. A few great examples include:
- Camu or acerola powder for Vitamin C.
- Organ meats or desiccated liver a few times a week to get some key B Vitamins and essential minerals like copper.
- Greens powder for magnesium and potassium.
What every child needs is bio-individual. So working with an HTMA practitioner is a great idea to know exactly what your child needs. Blindly supplementing can lead to further imbalance, which is why I never recommend multivitamins for kids.
It’s OK to use supplements to fill in the gaps for your children. But make sure that diet comes first. A supplement is not a free pass to eat junk food. And make sure you know what your child needs before supplementing, so you don’t create imbalance and make things worse.
New Year’s Resolution: Keep Your Kids Healthy
Keeping kids healthy can feel like a daunting task at times. We are bombarded with so much conflicting information. I want to encourage you to take a step back and return to simplicity this year.
Choose a few items from above as your focus, get the kids on board, and baby step your way to a healthier family. No extremes or high costs necessary!