your guide to childrens health
12 Jan 2015
blackmores naturopath

Blackmores

Your guide to children's health

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Children are more than just ‘little adults’. Read on for our advice on how to keep your kids healthy.

Keeping kids healthy

Children are not just mini-adults – they have their own specific nutritional needs, and face different health conditions. Below are a number of tips to help you support your kids through some of the most common children’s health challenges.

Immunity

Our children’s ability to fight and recover from illness is largely dependent on how well their immune system is functioning. A healthy immune system is crucial to their overall health and wellbeing, and also protects them from bugs that they are exposed to.

Unfortunately, many children will suffer from a recurrent infection at some point – among the most common are otitis media, along with chest, gut and skin infections. Recurrent infections are often a sign of an under-functioning immune system. Fortunately there are many ways we can help to support our children’s immune systems – some of these include the use of immune stimulating herbal medicines and nutrients, along with dietary changes.

Nutrition/Fussy eating

Children’s diets can be a source of concern for parents. Many parents worry that their children aren’t eating enough, or not eating enough of the right thing. As many as 8 out of 10 Australian parents worry about their children’s eating habits – and a third of parents worry that their kids aren’t eating enough. Young children will never voluntarily starve themselves, and fussy eating is quite normal.  Establishing health eating early will help your child remain strong and healthy.

Learning & concentration

Children’s brains continue to develop throughout their childhood – with some areas not being fully developed until the mid-teens, and some not finished developing until adulthood. Learning and concentration problems are quite common during childhood, and can vary greatly from mild to severe. Concentration and learning are separate brain processes, but they are related, and one is needed by the other. Nutrition has an important influence on brain development – it can affect the physical structure of the brain, and the amount and type of neurotransmitters that are produced, which influences how it functions.

Active kids

An increase in sedentary activities such as watching TV, DVDs and playing on computers, tablets and mobile phones is linked to a greater risk of children being overweight, and obese.

This is partially due to the increased sedentary time, taking away from the time children could be physically active – but children who watch more than 2 hours of TV per day are also more likely to have an unhealthy diet – snacking on foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat while watching TV. Encouraging your children to be active every day and providing a balanced diet, with healthy snack options will have a positive impact on your kids’ health and wellbeing.

Natural therapies

There are a number of natural therapies that may be helpful for your children – below are a few of the most commonly used:

  • Omega-3 essential fatty acids – omega-3s are important for the normal function of parts of the brain used for memory, learning and reasoning. Fish oil supplements are a source of omega-3s and  may help to  improve attention, sleep, and behaviour in children
  • Zinc – zinc is essential for healthy growth and development and healthy immune system function. Zinc  may assist with reducing hyperactivity, and inattention in children 
  • Iron – Iron is important for a healthy immune system, and to transport oxygen around the body. Low iron levels have been linked to problems with attention
  • Multivitamins – multivitamin supplements help to ensure children are getting enough of the key nutrients they need which may be difficult to obtain from food

Diet and lifestyle

Diet

For good health encourage your children to eat a healthy, balanced diet based on fresh, whole foods that are as close to their natural state as possible:
  • Include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains
  • Ensure your children are eating adequate amounts of protein - ideally from lean meat, dairy products, chicken, fish (especially oily fish such as salmon, and tuna), nuts, seeds and eggs. Protein is necessary for tissue growth and repair, and is needed for healthy immune function
  • Include yoghurt and bitter (usually well hidden) foods in the diet
  • Avoid any known allergens – some of the most common problem foods include artificial colours and flavours, sugar, wheat (gluten), cow’s milk (casein) and salicylates
  • Avoid fried and processed foods 
  • Avoid sugar, and sugary foods such as: as lollies, chocolate, soft drinks, cakes, sweet biscuits, and sports drinks. Sugar acts as an immune suppressant, and can have a negative effect on children’s concentration, behaviour and weight

Special tips for fussy eaters

  • Be persistent – research has shown that you may need to offer a new food to your children up to 10 times before they will try it
  • Be a good example – children learn to behave by watching their parents. Be a good example, eat a wide variety of healthy foods, and eat with your kids 
  • Establish a mealtime routine  – try to eat meals at the same time each day
  • Stay calm – try not to worry that your child might not be eating enough – kids will not starve themselves
  • Make meals fun! Try cutting foods into fun shapes with cookie cutters. Serve vegetables with a favourite dip or sauce. Present a range of brightly coloured foods attractively on a plate, and let your little one choose what order to eat them in 
  • Be creative! If your child refuses eat vegetables – be sneaky and hide them in things like spaghetti sauce, meatballs, casseroles and soups
  • Try not to yell, nag or threaten children around foods and eating. Make mealtimes enjoyable, and include the whole family
  • Don’t use dessert, lollies, chocolates or the promise of other treats as bribes to eat. If you need to resort to bribery – use non-food rewards

Lifestyle

Sleep

Adequate sleep and rest is essential to children’s health and wellbeing. Sleep repairs the body and refreshes the mind. A lack of sleep can cause tiredness, and have a negative effect on concentration, memory, and physical coordination

Sunshine

Children, like plants, need sunshine. Try to have your children experience at least 15 minutes of sun exposure per day

Limit screen time

It is recommended that children should not spend more than two hours per day in front of small screens such as TVs, computers, iPads, and mobile phones

Play outside

Children need to play outdoors in natural environments such as parks, beaches and the countryside as much as possible. Playing outdoors in natural environments may improve children’s learning, behaviour and concentration

Exercise daily

Regular physical activity is necessary for healthy growth, development and wellbeing
  • Aim for a minimum of 30-60 minutes of exercise every day
  • Include a variety of moderate and vigorous exercise into your kids’ week. Moderate exercise includes activities like brisk walking, bike riding, skateboarding and dancing. While vigorous exercise is things like football and netball 
  • Get involved - regularly participate in physical activity yourself (not only will this be good for your health – but research had found that shows parental involvement in physical activity can increase your child’s participation
  • Get the whole family involved - go swimming and for walks together, play sports like football, soccer and cricket in the backyard, go bike riding, and take the dog for a walk together
  • Take your child to a kids yoga class  - yoga can be beneficial for children’s concentration, behaviour and attention