Child Nutrition and How to Build Mental & Physical Strength in Children
Have you made the connection between child nutrition and educational outcomes? For many of us, the shift between regular school and online learning has been tricky, to say the least. Parents struggle, but our kids have too, and many of the older ones are approaching exams, which is stressful at the best of times, not to mention current dynamics making things even harder.
For those of us in the northern hemisphere, we have 2-3 months left of the school year, but this information provided can support parents and children all year round with tips that can be implemented to maintain optimum health.
With treating so many parents over this past year, I felt it would be helpful to provide practical support to assist your child in staying strong both mentally and physically, so school (and exams) seems more manageable and less stressful. This will, in turn, will reduce the stress on parents too, so it’s a win-win for all.
Child Nutrition and Educational Outcomes
Both children and adults need optimum fuel from their diet, some may need functional support to keep their 11 systems working at optimum. Some will need a bit of mental coaching to stay on top of their workload. Ensuring the best nutrition for kids can help promote growth and development, support immune function, support good gut function and create long term healthy eating habits that will serve them long term in their lives. Food is medicine, after all.
In contrast, a diet low in nutrients from processed foods, excessive sugars and chemical trans fats can act as a poison and increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies, stunted growth, learning difficulties, behavioural problems, in addition to various health issues.
Many studies have linked good child nutrition and performance at school, and one such study published in The Journal of Nutrition by Nandi et al. found that;
‘Early Childhood Nutrition Is Positively Associated with Adolescent Educational Outcomes’.
Supporting your child nutrition with the best fuel will also affect:
- Growth and development
- Digestive function
- Immune health
- Cognitive function
- Mental and behavioural health
- Bone formation
- Dental health
- Disease prevention
Tips On How To Keep Your Child Strong
1. Choose Whole Foods for Child Nutrition
As a simple rule, if it looks like it did in nature by the time it reaches your plate, then it’s a whole food, and it hasn’t been overly processed. Whole foods are less likely to contain added chemicals; simply put, man has had less influence over these foods.
Choose organic where you can to avoid pesticides and added hormones to reduce toxic load. Eating foods in their natural state is a great start to ensure maximum nutritional value. Even buying fruits and vegetables that have not been pre-packed and already cut up and put into plastic is vital; once cut, the food will oxidise/deteriorate, and absorb the chemicals in the plastic packaging too.
On this note, avoid any meals served hot in plastic containers, for the heat of the food brings out the harmful chemicals in the plastic, which then goes into your food.
Make this journey fun and get your kids involved so that you can research healthy recipes on weekends and try different ideas.
Healthy child nutrition is a much healthier approach than putting kids on a ‘healthy diet’, which is pretty dull all around and can create a poor relationship with food.
2. Get The Macronutrients in Balance
Macronutrients are the main food groups: protein, vegetables, fruits, good fats, and whole grains (carbohydrates). Harvard has created a great diagram to help you get this balance right visually:
When I treat adults and children alike, I always look at their BMI to know the best ratios, specifically for that client. You determine BMI by using your weight in kg divided by your height squad in meters as shown in this formula.
The goal is to have a BMI between 20 – 25 for optimum health.
You don’t need to make it too technical; this gives you a guide. I’m not particularly eager to start weighing kids regularly, for it can create a negative body image. You, as the parent, will know if your child’s BMI is low, normal or elevated, so here are the guideline regarding the ratios of macronutrients to keep your child in balance;
- Underweight: each meal, choose a 2:1 ratio of whole grains to protein with unlimited vegetables and 1-2 pieces of fruit per day.
- Normal: choose a 1:1 ratio of whole grains to protein with 1-2 pieces of fruit per day.
- Elevated: choose a 2:1 ratio of protein to whole grains at each meal with unlimited vegetables and one piece of fruit per day.
Every child is unique, but this is a great guide so you can support your child, regardless of their starting point.
3. Boost Essential Fats
Not all fats are created equal, and essential fatty acids (EFA’s) are imperative for your child’s brain health, memory/cognition to regulate mood, heart health, hair, skin and nails and everything in between.
There are many ways to do this depending on your child, and if exams are on their way, now is the time to load on Omega 3. Add 1/2 -1 tablespoon to lunch and dinner of coconut, avocado, cod liver oil, extra virgin olive oil or any nut oil (if no allergies) and add oily fish, avocado and olives to their diet at least three times a week.
If your child doesn’t like oils or oily fish (like my 8-year-old), they can take our Rejuv Antarctic Krill Oil Capsules, for they are tiny, easy to swallow and excellent for the mind and body balance. If your child is a teenager and exams are approaching, take 2000mg of Omega 3 per day before a meal, such as two capsules of our Rejuv Omega 3 capsules. Always take these capsules before a meal to avoid any fishy after tastes.
It’s also essential to avoid the toxic trans fats frequently found in processed and fried foods to support healthy child nutrition.
This unhealthy type of fat can contribute to serious conditions like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Trans fats usually come from vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, palm and corn oil, and regular margarine. It is also crucial to only cook with these oils that don’t turn rancid, such as avocado, coconut, regular light olive oil (not extra virgin; this is best left cold for salads) or nut oils.
4. Balance Their Blood Sugar Levels
Choose a good quality protein at each meal: nuts seeds, hummus, wild fish, organic eggs, organic chicken & meat, organic nut butter or organic kefir or plant milk. Stay away from refined sugar and choose carbohydrates with a low-moderate GI rating opting for more vegetable, fruit and whole grains such as brown rice.
- Consume more low inflammatory foods (see this blog post).
- Increase your protein from wild small fish, nuts and seeds.
- Add more colourful vegetables to boost your fibre intake and antioxidant levels.
- Include good fats, such as avocados & olives.
- Leave treats to weekends.
Instead of using sugar, use stevia, coconut sugar, monk fruit sugar or Manuka honey in moderation. By cutting the sugar, you support your gut microbiome too, for this will kill the candida, for when you clear out the candida & fungus, you will reduce cravings, inflammation & excessive body fat. Many children also have candida and fungus, and a significant initial way to check is to see if your child has a white coat on their tongue.
If you or your kids are craving something sweet, make up a batch of our gluten-free muffins and leave them in the freezer so you can take one out each day as a guilt-free treat. I make a batch with dark chocolate chips for the weekends, too, and my kids love them.
Hydration is an essential component of balanced child nutrition. Staying hydrated is vital for many aspects of health and drinking enough water regulates everything from cell function to body temperature, digestive function and cognition/ mood.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, water requirements can vary but typically range from 7–12 cups per day, depending on the age and sex of your child.
If your child doesn’t like water, make fresh fruit infusions with lemon, mint, berries, sliced cucumber & apple, so the water is more interesting. You can also add a dash of 100% fruit juice to your child’s water to create the habit of drinking more.
Often they don’t get thirsty if they are out of the habit of drinking, especially if your child has any mood or blood sugar issues. Your child’s exams and studies will also be so much easier if they drink enough water each day and stay well hydrated.
6. Boost the Immune System
I love plant-based vitamin C with essential additional vitamins and minerals such as zinc, magnesium, vitamin D & K to give your immune system all it needs to be well and free of viruses and infections.
Most kids love berries and apples, which is a blessing because they are high in vitamin C, but don’t forget the green veggies, which naturally boost vitamin C, iron, and chlorophyll, which reduces inflammation, therefore, protects against disease.
I supplement my kids with plant-based vitamin C with our Immune Support Capsules, and I give them our Immune Restore Capsules, too, as their multivitamin provides foundational support. I give them one of each per day, which is half the recommended dose of an adult. When choosing the correct amount, assess their size, for if a teenager is 3/4 the size of you, they can have an adult dose to protect their system, particularly if facing exam stress. Stress, after all, has a negative impact on your immune system, so often around exam time, I’ve seen how kids need more nutritional support.
Organic turmeric/curcumin is also great, so try our Rejuv Moon Milk or add turmeric to your child’s diet. Once again, if this is too hard, we have a capsule version with our Organic Turmeric with active curcumin + black pepper to get the most amplified result.
These supplements provide a broad spectrum for the immune system so your body can do what it was designed to do and stay well.
7. Child Nutrition to Support Gut Health
Something as simple as chewing can radically improve your child’s digestive system and overall health. Try to chew your food around 15-20 times per mouthful to support digestion & reduce stagnation. This will also help your child feel full, as it takes about 20 minutes for your gut to speak to your brain to register you are full. This is why many accidentally overeat, not giving their brain time to read how full they are.
Limit liquids to a maximum of 200ml per meal to not dilute stomach acids too. Eating foods high in prebiotic fibre is also fantastic for gut health, such as chia and flaxseeds, vegetables, seeds and sauerkraut.
Adding probiotics is also great to support a healthy microbiome, immune system and digestive system. I recommend each child take one of our Rejuv Kids Gut Support sachets each day mixed into something cool such as organic yoghurt/kefir or 100% fruit juice before food to boost their good bacteria.
If you have a teenager studying for exams, I suggest taking one sachet before breakfast & one before dinner each day.
8. Support Mindfulness
Your children, like us, need mental support to live their best lives. School has so many dynamics, and when they get older, the pressure of exams can weigh heavily on many kids.
I coach parents and their children to stay in today and try to limit the stress of yesterday (for nothing can be changed there) and don’t overthink tomorrow for that too, to a certain extent, out of our control.
Of course, we need to set goals, plan for the future and study for our exams, so we set our future up but getting too stressed has a detrimental effect on our physical and mental health. Fight or flight mode was designed to protect us from danger. We were not meant to live in this state of emergency each day. This is what happens when you and your child becomes overwhelmed with a stressful situation like exams.
Teach your children not to feel the stress, let it bubble up and use their breath to release this stress from their body with their exhaled breath.
Have your child get a piece of paper, and write at the top of one side “Things I can change” and on the other side “Things I can’t change”. Help them take action on the things they can change and make a to-do list to action these points. Please support them in dialling up their faith and dialling down their fear for something out of their control, staying in gratitude.
Instead of stressing, support them to keep saying thank you that all will turn out well for their greater good. This will help support their immune and all 11 systems, for that matter, reducing adrenalin and cortisol and helping to maintain a state of balance.
9. Reduce Sugar
Minimising the intake of added sugars from sweets, desserts, fizzy drinks, juice, and sports drinks is vital for children’s mental and physical health. Foods high in sugar lack essential nutrients, cause blood sugar levels to ‘roller coaster’, encourage mood disorders, and put your kids at risk for tooth decay, weight gain, heart problems, and type 2 diabetes.
The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends limiting added sugar intake to less than 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day for children two and older.
Meanwhile, you should avoid foods and drinks with added sugar altogether for children under 2. Swapping fruit juice for whole fruits, serving water in place of sugary drinks and checking food labels carefully for hidden sugars will help cut back on your child’s sugar consumption and help promote the best nutrition for your kids. See point 4 above for healthy, natural sugar replacements that you can cook with too.
10. Encourage Movement
A few years ago, Elle Macpherson, my patient and Welleco business partner, encouraged me to move my body every day and choose exercises that I really enjoyed. That was the best advice for now I exercise intuitively and ask myself each day how I want to exercise- bike ride, walk, swim, trampoline, gym, online class, horse riding etc. I do the same with my children, so they try lots of different forms of exercise, and we have fun as a family exercising together.
By choosing movement that I enjoy, I’m teaching my kids to do the same, so it enriches over lives. We, therefore, feel great, our inflammation is low, and we stay lean and healthy. If you find yourself stressed in the day, take ten deep breaths or invest in an inexpensive mini rebounder and do 100 bounces to change your state of mind.
Try to get your kids to move for 30-60 minutes per day of cardio type exercises to get fit, which will have a remarkable effect on their minds. Whatever you choose, don’t forget to breathe and focus on the exhale to empty the lungs of all that old toxic CO2.
Make it fun, invent games and laugh, for this will also oxygenate your body. Getting your kids out into nature with their barefoot on the grass is brilliant to reset their electrical circuits and reduce stress.
Limiting exposure to wifi is also crucial, for they are on wifi most days, so it is vital to make sure wifi is turned off at nights where they sleep. Their devices are at least 3 meters away from them, and always on flight mode help support their immune systems and overall health.
Balance is Everything
After treating clients for 23 years, I have found that we all need to keep our Seven Pillars of Wellness in balance, allowing us to be well. We all need good nutrition, movement, mindfulness to manage stress, good quality sleep, and body balance to keep our skeletons strong and reduce our exposure to environmental toxins. Many of us also need supplementation due to reduced food quality.
Most pillars are included above but see this blog for more information if you feel any of these pillars are out of balance for you or your family. Not sure where to start? Take our FREE Wellness Quiz to determine your wellness profile and the top pillars that need your focus.
Nutrition & Functional Support
As you can see, there are many ways we can support our children, so they have the proper child nutrition and functional support allowing their bodies to work well, for like a car we also need the right fuel and for our engines to function correctly. Fifteen years ago, I became frustrated with our food quality and how synthetic the vitamin industry was going, so I started to formulate my line of organic whole food supplements made in the UK, called Rejuv Wellness.
If our food was locally grown and pesticide and hormone-free, our diet would be adequate to sustain health. Unfortunately, our food is not as nutrient-dense as 30+ years ago due to over-farming and increased populations.
This is why I still encourage whole foods but also suggest supplementation for both adults and children. Nothing over the top, but I always recommend:
- Plant-based vitamin C (not synthetic like most kids vitamins, and you can tell this for if artificial ingredients vitamin C (ascorbic acid) will be listed and not whole foods like elderberry, rose hips etc.)
- Pro-biotics & multivitamins (like our Immune Restore)
If your child is young and healthy, they may not need supplements. Food is medicine and always my first port of call, but sometimes supplementation is required for child nutrition. Teenagers will require nutritional support to help them through the physiological changes, the stress of exams and associated cognitive challenges.
I trust this enables you to support your child’s journey, both mind and body, so they can enjoy this season and grow into the best version of themselves. If you need more coaching with your child’s health, reach out to us so we can assist you further.