I recently hosted a webinar with my good friend and wellness advocate partner Denise on Healthy Ideas for a Happy School Year. Good nutrition and wellness practices should be a priority year round, but during the school year it’s particularly important because: we tend to be moving at our fastest pace; have tons of personal and professional activities and obligations to juggle; and, most of us live in seasonal climates that also affect our energy levels and immune function.
If you’re a busy parent like me, then you know both the importance and challenge of ensuring your family is getting good nutrition regularly to stay healthy and keep up with our fast-paced lives. As a health coach, my goal is to teach families about quick and easy options for adding vital nutrition daily, boosting immune systems and energy levels, and carving out time for total wellness practices. I’m not going to tell you this is always super easy, but it is doable and well worth the effort to ensure your family is happy and healthy.
There are a number of reasons why my family’s health has become not only a top priority but also my job. As a sustainability consultant for the past 9 years, I was shocked to first learn how many toxic threats we face on a daily basis. The other grim reality is that our soil quality is degrading and the nutrients in our food supply are diminishing every year. For example, we need to consume 26 apples today to get the same nutrition that 1 apple had in 1914! Heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other diseases and autoimmune disorders are on the rise – and all of this impacts our quality of life in the near and long-term. Despite some of the depressing realities we face, there is growing research that our DNA is not our destiny and that adopting healthy lifestyle practices and fueling our bodies with good nutrition can do wonders for our health and allow us to still lead long and vibrant lives.
And to help you do that, I’m excited to share with you some key points and practices you can start using right away. To help you remember the practices I think are most important, I came up with an acronym – MASH(H). MASH stands for: Mindfulness, Activity, Sleep, Healthy Foods and Hydration. Here are some tips and resources you can consider for each of these healthy lifestyle practices.
Mindfulness is growing in popularity both as a teaching tool in schools but also in other settings and households. There is an emerging body of research that indicates mindfulness can help children improve their abilities to pay attention, to calm down when they are upset and to make better decisions. In short, it helps with emotional regulation and cognitive focus
I also consider Mindfulness to include teaching our kids an awareness about healthy foods, healthy living and how to be in tune with their bodies so they can be proactive managers of their own health. Here is a great resource for mindfulness practices for kids!
Making sure your kids are staying active and getting some form of exercise everyday is key to good health. This may require putting limits on screen time and video gaming and talking to your child about the importance of physical activity both for immune strength but also learning and emotional well-being.
Joining your kid for physical acuity is especially important for parents too. If you have trouble making it the gym due to your busy work schedule, plan evening physical activities you can do together before bedtime, such as an evening bike ride, going for a run while they ride bikes or scooters, or do exercises together in your home.
Carving out time for rest and adequate sleep is key for our kid’s growing bodies; it’s also critical for busy parents who are almost always operating at full throttle. Did you know that 5 years olds that wake up at 6:30am should be in bed by 7:15 pm the night before? A 12 year-old with the same wake-up time should be asleep by 8:45pm.
A good practice: Aim to have homework and activities done before bedtime and start a family wind down an hour before bedtime
Healthy Foods and Hydration
Good nutrition is the KEY to consistent good health. We should all be getting 9-13 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Here are some tips for packing in nutrients.
Make smoothies for breakfast. Add in plant-based protein powders to keep your whole family fueled and full. Add in superfoods like chia and flax seeds and acai frozen packets – or turn your smoothie into a bowl or mug meal topped with fruit and granola (See photo). Make healthy swaps for foods your kids love.
BREAKFAST: Nature’s Path (at most stores, even Target) has frozen waffles that have amaranth, chia seeds, and several gluten free options. Make french toast but use Hemp milk instead of cow’s milk for added omegas and a dairy-free option (which is better for avoiding allergies and other inflammation-related health issues).
LUNCH: Get a lunchbox with compartments so you can add cut fruit and veggies options along with crackers, pretzels or snack mix and cut sandwiches or bagels into small bite sized portions so they different fingers foods to choose from.
SNACK: Have fresh fruits and veggies cut up in a container in your fridge that you can add to a muffin tray after school or before dinner that your kids can graze on. You’d be surprised what they will eat if you just put it out and don’t say anything.
DINNER: Don’t over complicate. I will often get frozen fish from Target’s Simply Balanced brand (sustainably raised or wild caught) and make it with Target’s southwestern brown rice and quinoa mix (just add water and warm), and serve with some organic frozen corn that I warm up in coconut oil or grassfed butter, throw on some salt and pepper – whole dinner takes about 15 mins to prep. Could also make fish sticks from Trader Joe’s or Target, put out shredded cheese, black beans, lettuce, corn and salsas for an instant fish taco bar. Whatever your go to quick meal for kids – try to offer a veggie side or fruit with every meal.
Hydration: Water is key for flushing our bodies of toxins and keeping us hydrated – which is important for staying healthy and avoiding illness.
Send your child to school everyday with a reusable water bottle with their name on it and fill them with filtered tap water. Do not buy plastic bottles of water (they can leach toxins into water and harm your child and you plus super bad for the environment and our oceans). Take your reusable water bottle to work and freshen it up with lemon or peppermint essential oil or add some fresh lemon, cucumber or mint for a refreshing taste that motivated you to drink throughout the day.