Kids getting sick now and then is inevitable. How can you help your children avoid the worst illnesses and minimize most of the symptoms? This guide to 20 Ways to Keep Your Kids Healthy this Winter is a short and powerful list of actionable ideas to get you started on a happier, healthier family!
As a Mom of two young children and a Registered Nurse in a Pediatric Emergency Department, you can trust that I have been there.
I’ve been the Mom worried about her baby. The Mom up all night with sick kids. The Mom who would do anything to help my kids get better. The Mom frustrated from wiping snotty noses week after week.
And I’ve been that nurse. The nurse who has seen the worst of the worst. That nurse who comes home and hugs my babies tight because not every parent gets to do that at the end of the day.
None of us want our kids to get sick; at times it is inevitable. However, I firmly believe that a child’s immune system can be supported both before and during illness to lessen the symptoms and speed recovery. This allows the child’s experience of a particular illness to have a positive outcome that is beneficial to its future health and well-being by virtue of maturation of the immune system. Additionally, it creates an immune system function, strength, and environment in which a child can often rebound quickly from illness in comparison to their peers.
So here are 20 Ways to Keep Your Kids Healthy This Winter:
The obvious things:
- Avoid refined sugar and try using fresh fruit and natural sweeteners in moderation instead.
- Remove bleached flours and replace with organic, unbleached, freshly ground flour. Look for labeling that indicates the flour has been ground in a “low heat” setting so as not to destroy the nutrients.
- Avoid processed food, artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated fats, and artificial/natural flavors.
- Help children to maintain a good sleep schedule.
- Encourage plenty of filtered water (avoid juice).
- Wash their hands but avoid antibacterial soaps (just normal soap with lots of friction is best).
- Run around in the sunshine and fresh air every day.
Plan a thoughtful food menu:
Plan superfoods into daily life (eggs, good fats, grass-fed meats, liver, berries, raw milk, vegetables, ferments).
- Pastured eggs make good Grain Free Pancakes in the morning
- Good fats in the form of organic coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, beef tallow, and lard (animal fats need to be from pasture-raised animals).
- Chocolate Coconut Candies is a nice treat made with coconut oil and naturally sweetened!
- Organic grass-fed meats (especially red meat) provides plenty of iron, vitamins, minerals, and other essentials. Read about the benefits of grass-fed red meat in this Grilled Steak Fajitas post.
- Kids have no idea that organ meats are considered “gross” by many people. Take advantage of this! Why not dice chicken liver and sauté it for lunch? Or perhaps slip a little liver into their meatloaf or hamburgers?
- Berries are higher in antioxidants than many fruits and go great in smoothies.
- Try making smoothies (our favorite is coconut milk, banana, berries, collagen, seeds, and spinach).
- Either you are in the raw milk fan club or you’re not. We happen to love our raw milk from A2 Jersey cows that a local rancher provides for us. It’s best to drink organic, non-homogenized milk from 100% grass-fed cows. This same principle applies to yogurt.
- Each vegetable and fruit has its own unique health benefits. Try to stick to organic produce (local-grown is best) and eat what is in season to ensure that the nutrient density of the produce is adequate. Include squash, onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cruciferous vegetables (e.g. kale, broccoli, cauliflower) and other root vegetables for good variety. Check out How to Buy Food in Bulk & Healthy Bulk Food Buying Guide for tips on shopping organic on a budget.
- Fermented foods are very important for providing good bacteria for the gut. Sauerkraut, fermented pickles, fermented ketchup, kombucha, milk kefir, kefir water, and kefir soda are the ones our kids like.
- And lastly, round out your food menu with nuts, seeds, properly prepared legumes and grains (if tolerated).
Don’t cram vegetables down their throats:
If your children are under the age of five, you might reconsider the importance and relevance of vegetables in their diet. According to Dr. Thomas Cowan,
“[B]ecause children have a relative paucity [small amount] of the enzyme that converts B-carotene into vitamin A, children younger than five years generally do not do well with vegetables. I tell all my parents not to worry about their children not liking vegetables, as this is normal in this stage of life. In fact, because they are slow in this enzymatic conversion, perhaps it is best left to the cow to do this conversion and for the child to eat butter and cream. This is actually probably more as nature intended it anyway.” (1)
While this is only one quick quote on the subject of vegetables and young children, it’s important to remember there are a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods and superfoods available, and that vegetables may not be the most readily digested source of nutrients for children. So don’t sweat it if your kids hate vegetables!
We have a rule that our kids eat 2-3 of bites of a veggie … it isn’t for their nutrition but to teach them respect for the cook and to ensure that we are broadening their palate.
Consider adding a few vitamins & supplements:
Checked everything off the list of Ways to Keep Your Kids Healthy? Considering supplements but unsure about giving your kids vitamins, what to start with, or even what is considered safe and/or effective? You might really enjoy reading my article on Vitamin & Supplements for Children.
On a personal note, after I’ve done these things, I know I’ve done my best to help our children physically. I leave the rest up to God. No need raising my cortisol levels and shortening my telomere length by worrying about things that haven’t happened yet (and maybe that’s the ER nurse in me who had to learn to just “let it go”).
Hope this is helpful for your family! – Rashele RN, BSN, CEN
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