For many of us, back to school starts today and depending on your school, some of you may have kids already in school. So whether you’ve already finished with your back-to-school shopping or you’re just hitting that dreaded list, keep in mind some important thoughts for the entire school year. A healthy and safe school year is our top priority along with good grades and good behavior of course, but all those must start off from somewhere and a healthy and delicious nutrition plan is the foundation.
As my son and I went through his first grade supply list, I had to think about his lunch and snacks as well. Although it would be easier to buy school lunches throughout the year, it really isn’t feasible as we all know they aren’t always very nutritious. Even if schools are trying to initiate healthier lunch choices, I still see schools that offer cheeseburgers, sodas, and hot dogs as part of their lunch plans. While those may be fine once or twice, if your kids are eating them every day know that school budgets rarely allow these meals to include organically-grown foods. And foods laden with artificial ingredients and preservatives are bound to lead an unpleasant toll on your child’s health in the future. Parents who have children with severe allergies also know the dangers of buying school lunches as the schools are not always diligent in weeding out allergen foods.
So how can we ensure a healthy school year for our kids? While there are no surefire way in preventing the occasional cold or flu, we all know how they can affect their health and well being. Probably the best way in thwarting a cold is to keep up your immune system. Eating nutritional foods that include tons of vitamins and antioxidants are key as well as getting plenty of rest and exercise. Children should also limit as much stress as possible and stay away from those with colds and flu around them.
Below I’ve compiled a list of suggestions and products to help ensure a healthy school year for children and adults alike. While it would be nice if we could keep our kids safe from everything, in reality, we all have to scrape a few knees to earn the bigger reward – and that is the infinite knowledge to help our bodies be the best it can be.
Supplements and Vitamins:
Calcium – this is an important nutrient for growing bodies. Calcium along with enough Vitamin D, can help build strong muscles and bones in a growing child’s body. Start them early on this and they’ll develop strong bones and muscles into their adult years. Once adult’s reach a certain age, the calcium in their bones start to deplete regularly, so it’s also crucial for adults to take Calcium and Vitamin D together for absolute absorption. Foods that are rich in calcium and that kids will enjoy are: Milk, Cheese, Yogurt, Fortified foods, Kale, Spinach, Soymilk (make sure soymilk are fortified), and Ice Cream (as long as they are made with whole milk).
Vitamin D – this vitamin is essential for growing bones and muscles. During a child’s formulative years it’s important to provide them with enough Vitamin D whether it’s through fortified milk or sun exposure, be sure your kids get plenty of this vitamin to prevent bone depletion later on. Foods rich in Vitamin D are: Fortified foods such as milk and yogurt, eggs, and some fatty meat (but do limit this as there could be problems consuming too much fatty meat).
Iron – Iron is essential for red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body and for important brain health. When kids are low in iron, they are sluggish and tired and can’t concentrate. Babies get iron from their mother’s breast milk, but after they’ve stopped drinking breast milk, it’s important to include this vital vitamin in their diet. Although I don’t recommend young kids to be vegetarians, vegetarians can get their intake of iron from soy, lentils, nuts, dark greens, and iron-fortified grains. Just remember to eat Vitamin C- rich foods along with Iron-rich foods for better absorbtion. Foods that are rich in Iron are: Beef, Poultry, Beans, Nuts, Mollusks, Lentils, Chickpeas, Soybeans, Egg Yolks, Dark Leafy Greens, Raisins, and Iron-enriched Cereals.
Vitamin C – Vitamin C is a powerhouse and pretty much most of the vegetables and fruits available contain this important vitamin. It helps with proper absorbtion of most other foods because it is easily digestible and your body knows how to filter it throughout. Vitamin C is also great for building your immunity and is essential in the maintenance of bones, muscles, and blood vessels. Although it hasn’t been proven to truly prevent colds in kids and adults, eating enough of this important vitamin along with other nutrient-rich foods will help build a foundation of good health . Foods that are rich in Vitamin C are: Oranges, Tangerines ( or any citrus fruits), Guavas, Strawberries, Papayas, Kiwi, Dark Leafy Greens, Tomatoes, and Broccoli.
Potassium – This important nutrient helps with normal heart and muscle function, maintains proper fluid balance, and builds energy. It also helps promote strong bones. It will also help kids keep a normal blood pressure which can carry on into adulthood. Foods that are rich in Potassium are: Vegetables and Fruits that are “orange-colored” such as oranges, tangerines, bananas, apricots, and cantalope, Tomatoes, Milk, Yogurt, and Fish.
Fiber – Fiber is such an essential nutrient because kids and adults need it on a daily basis. Fiber helps regulate the stomach and the intestinal tract so that kids will feel regular. Fiber helps with digestion so that important nutrients can properly pass through their system for proper assimilation. Fiber is also great at keeping kids full, especially when kids run around all day depleting a lot of energy. Foods that are rich in Fiber are: Legumes, Lentils, Berries, Nuts, Chickpeas, Oranges, Apples, and Cereal that contain high fiber content.
Omega Fatty Acids – one of the most important nutrient are omega fatty acids (3,6,9). Omega 3 is the most beneficial as it helps with many functions including inflammation, cognitive, and the heart. Omega 3 seems to be prime for almost any age and is one the crucial developing nutrient for fetuses and infants. Foods that are rich in Omega 3’s (DHA, EPA, and DPA) are: Salmon, Anchovies, Walnuts, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Flax Oil and Fish Oil.
Probiotics – Kids with a good digestive system build up stronger immunity and may get fewer colds. A healthy digestive system supplies the body with the ability to get rid of toxin and germs. Our body already contains a good amount of probiotics but when we get sick, they get depleted easily. Foods that are rich in Probiotics are: Yogurt, Fermented foods, Miso, Kefir, and Sauerkrauts.
Stonyfield Organic (www.stonyfield.com) – Organic and natural dairy products including milk, yogurt, and ice cream. Can be found in most natural grocery stores as well as major supermarkets. They have products specifically formulated for children and comes in exceptional flavors.
Happy Family Brands (http://happyfamilybrands.com) – Organic and natural foods for kids starting at infantry. They have an assortment of products ranging from cereal to puffs to yogurt.
Envirokidz/Natures Path (http://us.naturespath.com/) – Organic and natural foods ranging from cereal to granola bars to toaster pastries. I love the fact that they have a line dedicated to kids only (Envirokidz) with adorable packaging that also benefits the environment.
Lunchskins (http://www.lunchskins.com/) – Truly unique sandwich bags made without BPA and phthalates and easily washable. They come in an assortment of fun colors and designs and sizes suitable for snacks, sandwiches, and larger totes. I use them all the time to put my son’s snacks in them and when we’re traveling and because they are easy to wipe clean, you don’t have to worry about storing bags with leftover food smells either.
Boiron (http://www.boiron.com/) – Homeopathic medication for kids and adults. They use safe, herbal ingredients that are formulated to be used everyday, several times a day.
Nordic Naturals (http://www.nordicnaturals.com/) – A wonderful assortment of supplements and vitamins for kids and adults. Their products range from kids multivitamins to DHA products to specialized supplements such as Vitamins D, vitamins for skin, hair, and eyes. They also make natural vitamins for pets.
Barleans (http://www.barleans.com/) – Made with the best organic and natural oils, Barleans makes a great assortment of supplements for kids and adults. We love their Omega Swirl as it is truly the one product that kids will want to happily drink.
Yummi Bears (http://www.heronutritionals.com/) – Part of the Hero Nutritionals company, Yummi Bears vitamins and supplements are specifically formulated for kids. My son loves their Yummi Bear Sugar-Free Multivitamin as they are naturally sweetened with Lohan fruit instead of sugar.
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Please read the labels and ingredients carefully and follow all manufacturer’s instructions (if any). The products selected for the giveaway were generously donated by the companies/PR to help readers learn more about their products. The winner’s choice in using/consuming these products are entirely up to the winner and will not hold the author and her family liable nor the companies/PR liable. These products are made with non-toxic ingredients but always be safe with what you use and consume.
*Photo courtesy of Martha Stewart Back to School.