As the sun-soaked days of summer gradually make way for the crisp embrace of fall, parents and children alike find themselves in the throes of a seasonal transition. Back-to-school season brings with it a symphony of excitement and anticipation, as young minds prepare to embark on new educational adventures. Yet, it also heralds the onset of colder weather and shorter days, a shift that can sometimes cast a shadow on the vibrancy of our children's well-being.
As parents, caregivers, and guardians, there's a shared goal that resonates deeply: fostering the health and happiness of our little ones as they journey through fall and winter. This means more than just school supplies and warm jackets; it's about nurturing their bodies and minds, providing them with the resilience they need to flourish this season!
In this post, we'll delve into the art of supporting your child's well-being during the back-to-school season and beyond. From revitalizing sleep routines to nourishing nutrition and thoughtful supplementation. As the daylight hours wane and the temperatures drop, let's ensure that their vitality remains, allowing them to embrace each day with enthusiasm and energy.
Sleep a fundamental pillar of children's overall health and development. From cognitive function and emotional regulation to physical growth and immune system strength, sleep is a non-negotiable factor in fostering a child's optimal growth.
According to the Canadian Pediatric Society, preschool-aged children (3-5 years old) should aim for 10-13 hours of sleep per night, while school-aged children (6-12 years old) require 9-12 hours of sleep. During sleep, the brain consolidates learning and memory, enabling children to absorb the information they encounter during the day. Moreover, sleep is closely tied to emotional well-being; adequate rest helps children regulate their moods, manage stress, and handle challenges more effectively.
Beyond mental and emotional aspects, sleep plays a pivotal role in physical health. Growth hormone release is at its peak during deep sleep, making this time essential for proper physical development. Furthermore, sleep is intricately linked to the immune system. Research published in the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology indicates that sleep deprivation can suppress the immune response, leaving children more susceptible during cold and flu season.
Some “sleep hygiene” tips:
Have a consistent bedtime every night
Cut the screens out at least an hour before bedtime to minimize the negative impact of blue light exposure on rest
Ensure that the sleep environment is dark, cool, and quiet
Establish a “wind-down routine”
Things like reading, mellow music, talking about their day, a spritz of lavender… Chat about what might work best for your family!
NUTRITION FOR GROWTH
Nutrition serves as the building block for a child's growth, cognitive development, and overall well-being during their school years. Proper nutrition positively impacts academic performance, attention span, and cognitive function. Essential vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids are not only linked to better cognitive outcomes but also to enhanced mood regulation.
A diet rich in nutrients fuels a child's energy levels, supporting their engagement in school activities and physical exercises. Proper nutrition aids in maintaining a healthy weight, which in turn contributes to reduced risks of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease later in life.
FOODS THAT FUEL
Fatty fish (S.M.A.S.H.- salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring)
Nuts and seeds: hemp, flaxseeds, chia, walnuts
Lean meats (fish, shellfish, chicken, lean red meats)
Legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans, edamame)
Dairy: Greek yogurt, cottage cheese
Vegetables (Brussels sprouts, sweet potato, leafy greens, carrot, green beans, broccoli)
Legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans, edamame)
Grains (sourdough, whole grain bread, brown rice, oats, barley)
Fruits (passionfruit, orange, pear, avocado, figs, nectarine)
Nuts/Seeds (flax, chia, psyllium husk)
Colorful fruits and vegetables have high amounts of immune-supporting antioxidants. Aim for a colorful plate with each meal!
Our incredible registered dietician, Mandy Megan, just wrote a blog post on the Mediterranean Diet, which highlights a lot of the principles discussed above! It’s linked below, have a look:
By prioritizing a well-rounded diet for school-aged children, parents and caregivers provide the tools necessary for robust physical health, cognitive prowess, and emotional balance. The evidence resoundingly emphasizes that a nutrient-rich diet not only fuels their immediate needs but also paves the way for a lifetime of wellness.
SUPPLEMENTING FOR SUCCESS
In certain cases, supplementation can play a valuable role in bridging nutritional gaps and supporting children’s growing bodies and minds. Before incorporating any supplements into your child's routine, it's important to consult a healthcare professional. They can guide you in selecting the right supplements, dosages, and combinations that align with your child's individual needs. Some supplements to consider include:
Vitamin D: Often referred to as the "sunshine vitamin," vitamin D is crucial for bone health, immune function, and overall well-being. During fall and winter, when outdoor exposure to sunlight may be limited, supplementing with vitamin D can help maintain optimal levels.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3s are known for their brain-boosting capabilities. These essential fatty acids, commonly found in fish oil supplements, can enhance cognitive function, support mood stability, and aid in overall cognitive development.
Magnesium: This mineral is involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body, including muscle and nerve function. Magnesium supplements may aid in relaxation, sleep quality, and ADHD management.
We hope this post serves as a starting point to optimize your child's health throughout fall and winter. As always, chat with your primary care provider or naturopathic doctor for an individualized treatment plan. Our ND’s here at Naturally Inclined Health love working with families to optimize their health. Together, let's equip our kiddos with the tools they need to succeed academically, while also instilling habits that lay the foundation for a lifetime of wellness. With small yet intentional steps, we can create a profound impact on their physical health, mental clarity, and overall happiness. After all, a nurturing and supportive environment is the greatest gift we can offer as they step into the school year ahead.
Childs CE, Calder PC, Miles EA. Diet and Immune Function. Nutrients. 2019 Aug 16;11(8):1933. doi: 10.3390/nu11081933. PMID: 31426423; PMCID: PMC6723551.
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Hemamy M, Pahlavani N, Amanollahi A, Islam SMS, McVicar J, Askari G, Malekahmadi M. The effect of vitamin D and magnesium supplementation on the mental health status of attention-deficit hyperactive children: a randomized controlled trial. BMC Pediatr. 2021 Apr 17;21(1):178. doi: 10.1186/s12887-021-02631-1. Erratum in: BMC Pediatr. 2021 May 12;21(1):230. PMID: 33865361; PMCID: PMC8052751.
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