Every parent agrees that raising kids is the most important job in the world. And raising healthy, happy kids means healthier future for all of us. Why is it then, that children today are approximately 15 percent less fit than previous generations? As childhood obesity is on the rise, there's no wonder health care professionals are sounding the alarm. Kids spent too much time in front of the screen, they eat unhealthy foods and don't exercise. And we, as parents, are responsible. A chubby kid can become an obese adult with serious health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
I am a mother of four beautiful children and raising them in the most healthy way possible has become my priority. We should help our kids reach their full potential. And it is only possible when we offer them the healthiest environment, the healthiest food and, of course, love.
Here are some useful tips to help your kids thrive:
1. Raising healthy kids starts in pregnancy
The diet of a pregnant mother is of the utmost importance for the unborn baby. Eat real, not processed, food and read ingredients labels. Avoid stress during pregnancy - take a walk in nature and practise meditation. Also, check for vitamin D levels, as adequate vitamin D intake is essential for maternal and fetal health.
2. Have a vaginal birth (if possible)
Babies born by caesarean section do not have the same microbiota as babies born by vaginal delivery. There is accumulating evidence that intestinal bacteria play an important role in the postnatal development of the immune system and children born by a caesarean are significantly more likely to suffer from celiac disease and to be hospitalized for gastroenteritis. If you are scheduled for a CD, discuss vaginal seeding with your doctor (they take a sterile cotton swab and insert into vagina, and then swab baby’s mouth and face to expose the immune system of baby to the bacteria found in the mother’s body). Also, you can give babies born by C-section probiotics.
3. Breastfeed your baby
While in hospital, ask for help if you are struggling with breastfeeding your baby. Remember, if you could not have vaginal delivery, breastfeeding is the second most important thing you can do for your baby. No formula, and I repeat, no formula, is better than breast milk. For comparison between breast milk and formula go here. If you really can't breastfeed after a consultation with a certified lactation consultant, the next best option is donated breast milk. Ask your hospital for options.
4. Avoid (unnecessary) use of antibiotics and medical drugs
Giving children antibiotics for every ear infection is unnecessary and harmful. In the last decade we are seeing rise in antibiotic resistance. Reserve antibiotics for life-threatening circumstances. Do not use pain and fever reducers such as paracetamol or tylenol for every cold , flu or stomach ache. Elevated body temperature helps certain types of immune cells to work better. I understand that you don't want to see your child suffer but there are many natural remedies other then fever and pain killers you can use.
4. Let kids play outside (and let them get dirty)
Kids should spend most of the day playing outside, even in bad weather. I love the concept of waldkindergarten - a forest kindergarten, which is a type of preschool education for children in Germany, Sweden and other countries. As the name suggests, the kids are playing and learning outside almost entire day. Research has shown that children who grow up on farms have lower allergy and asthma rates, a phenomenon attributed to their regular exposure to microorganisms present in farm soil. Now, you don't have to own a farm, just don't follow your kids with antibacterial wipes every time they play outside.
5. Sun is not an enemy
For a long time, we have been pushed to believe that we have to slather our kids with sunscreens. Unfortunately, sunscreens can do more harm than good as most of them contain nasty chemicals which are harmful for kid's organisms. A sunhat, long-sleeved T-shirt and avoiding sun exposure around noon is the best protection.
6. Give your child the best food possible
You surely would not put the cheapest fuel into your maserati. Kids should be given the cleanest whole foods diet possible. Good nutrition is crucial for child' s well-being. Avoid added sugars, processed foods, sodas and junk food. It might seem obvious but believe me, not many kids know how a radish looks like. Propose a new vegetable at least 15 times. In our household, we practise a 'no, thank you bite' which literally means, that child has to try a food first, before he or she says no.
7. Good sleep is crucial
Last but not least on the list is sleep. My kids are not heavy sleepers and they always wake up at around 7 am regardless of the time they fall asleep. That is why me and my husband insist on turning off the lights at 8 pm. Avoid having electrical devices in kid's bedrooms and don't let the light on as light inhibits the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that naturally promotes sleep.
I hope you can implement as many of these tips to your daily life as possible. Believe me, there is nothing more important than seeing your kids thrive!