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Three Strategies for Healthier Kids

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Three Strategies for Healthier Kids

By Kate Lyzenga-Dean

Today’s parents are bombarded with “shoulds” from friends, family members and the media regarding how not to mess up their kids. It can be overwhelming, especially for those who are already short on time and energy. Information overload leads to anxiety, comparison, feelings of guilt and defensiveness, but it doesn’t lead to healthier kids.

There are three simple steps any parent can take to improve the health and happiness of a child. Start them all, or take one at a time, to begin a journey of greater wellness for the entire family.

Eat the Rainbow

Most children are deficient in micronutrients; the vitamins and minerals that come from colorful fruits and vegetables. Some children struggle to eat fiber-filled, whole foods, but that means they may miss out on nutrient-packed foods such as dark purple blackberries, deep green spinach or the bright red sweet peppers.

Skipping these foods may increase risk of infection, decrease sleep quality, predispose kids to headaches and muscle pain or even stunt growth.

Start adding more color by making simple substitutions. Choose blueberries instead of applesauce, sweet potato instead of white potato and green lettuce wraps instead of bread. Children’s food preferences change rapidly; which is an advantage that makes it easy to encourage tasty, colorful food.

Include Healthy Fats

Healthy fats are often overlooked in a child’s diet, but they are critical for growth and development of the brain. Fish, nuts, olives, coconut milk and anti-inflammatory oils aren’t common “kid foods,” but the fats in these foods are the building blocks of the brain.

The types of fats that children eat directly affects their ability to learn, anxiety and mood swings, attention, behavior and sleep patterns.

Sneaking these fats in is as easy as tossing some avocado into a morning smoothie or swapping sugar-packed peanut butter for a natural almond butter. If a child can’t be convinced to try sushi or salmon, consider a daily, high-quality fish oil supplement.

Decrease Sugar Intake

The recommended daily allowance for added sugar is 25 grams or less. Most kids consume at least three times that amount.

It adds up fast. One tablespoon of ketchup has about 5 grams of added sugar. One-half cup of ice cream (a tiny serving) has about 20 grams and one serving of flavored Greek yogurt has 12 grams of sugar.

At an age when food preferences are being formed, high sugar intake can affect a child’s ability to choose healthy foods for life. Added sugar contributes to childhood obesity, hyperactivity and digestive dysfunction. Even a diet heavy in natural sugars can be a problem. A medium-sized banana has 14 grams of sugar, as does one tablespoon of maple syrup. Sugar can be lurking in what looks like a healthful diet.

Simple swaps include subbing an apple with almond butter for that banana or scrambled eggs instead of yogurt for breakfast. Some parents find it helpful to track sugar intake for a week or so, and then reduce it incrementally instead of going “cold turkey.” Small steps toward reducing daily sugar intake is more manageable.

Three steps for raising healthier kids—helping them feel better, in addition to learning, growing and behaving better, too!

Dr. Kate Lyzenga-Dean is an associate at DBC Natural Holistic Health Center located at 2851 Michigan St NE #101, Grand Rapids 616- 940-7027. An expert in natural, holistic medicine, Dr. Kate focuses on finding the root cause of health concerns, utilizing lifestyle and nutrition to help her patients heal. She also hosts WellnessVisitsBlog.com.

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