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Back to School Health

Back to School Health

You may or may not know, that between the team at Amaranth we have a fair few children (18 at the last count) ranging from age 2 to 30.  As we are just a little bit into our health, nutrition and supplements, our days are often spent discussing what they eat and discovering ways to keep them as healthy as we can. As it is back to school week, we have asked our Nutritional Therapists Sophie and Marianna to share their advice for Children's Health.

Back to School Time!

Moving on to a new era of education can be a strain at any age. Low energy, picking up seasonal bugs and struggling to get rid of them can all occur when the body doesn’t have adequate nutrition to cope with these increased demands. 

Eat The Rainbow

Food first. It’s no surprise that the core to good health, for adults and children, is a colourful and varied wholefood diet based upon a rainbow of fruit and vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds and good quality oily fish, while limiting processed foods and sugar.

Sometimes children’s eating habits or nutrition needs change; they may be going through a particularly ‘fussy’ phase, or be at risk of ‘over doing’ it with a busy few weeks of after-school activities

Consuming a rainbow of fruits and vegetables daily can increase the likelihood of children obtaining the nutrients required for growth and the fibre they provide helps move unwanted waste out of their little bodies through regular bowel movements. Evidence also suggests that increased consumption of fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of a number of chronic diseases, as well as improving mood, curiosity, vitality and happiness. The importance of variety stems from the fact that different colours represent the different health benefits they provide. For example, orange coloured fruits and vegetables such as carrots, butternut squash and cantaloupe melon contain carotenoids, which promote eye health and support the immune system. Increasing fruits and vegetables in the diet can also aid weight management for children and provide a healthy substitute for high sugar snacks. A recent article released by the BBC highlighted how children aged 4 to 10 are consuming twice as much sugar as they should be and teenagers three times as much. Considering childhood obesity is also on the rise, parents and carers must consider where changes can be made at home to set better eating.

In my opinion this is the time when nutritional supplements can really make a difference. A good multi-vitamin will help to provide essential nutrients that may not be included in day to day diet. Multi vitamins vary in quality and nutrient absorption. A small round supermarket tablet is hardly worth taking and these supplements give all supplements a bad name. Amaranth’s favourites are Viridian Viridkid and Nature’s Plus Animal Parade Gold.   

 

Building a Strong Immune System

Unfortunately, children usually succumb to some sort of bug or infection during the school year and especially at the beginning of the new term. It is therefore vital that their gut health is supported as it is one of the first lines of defence against infection. Living within our gut are trillions of bacteria collectively known as the microbiome and amongst other functions, they help co-ordinate our immune cells ensuring they attack when needed and stand down when the battle is over.  The friendly bacteria living within our gut thrives on a variety of plant based foods (think plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables) and fermented foods such as kefir can actually help populate the gut with friendly bacteria. For those times when we need a little helping hand, Viridian have formulated a live bacteria supplement Children’s Powder with added vitamin C which is suitable from the age of 1-14 years. Pro-ven Probiotics Fit for School in a chewable tablet form is another popular favourite at Amaranth.

Nutrients such as zinc (eggs, wholegrains, lentils, nuts and seeds), vitamin C (broccoli, spinach, red peppers, oranges) and vitamin D (fatty fish like mackerel and salmon) are also supportive of a healthy immune system.

 

The Sunshine Vitamin

As well as being important for immunity, vitamin D helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are nutrients needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Although some vitamin D can be obtained from food, our bodies have the ability to create it from direct sunlight hitting the skin. This is why in spring and summer we should be making the most of the lovely weather to pack in lots of trips to park, picnics, bike rides and walks in nature. However, as the sun isn’t always a guarantee in this country and obtaining vitamin D from food may prove challenging if your child is a fussy eater, supplementation may be required. Furthermore, the Department of Health recommends a daily supplement of 10mcg (400iu) for children from 6 months to 5 years of age. Higher levels (1200iu) in school children have been shown to reduce the incidence of flu by 40%. In times of need, you can increase the level for a short period (approximately 1-2 weeks).

Viridian Viridkid Vitamin D3 liquid is a useful option for providing the dosage and can be mixed into food, water or squeezed straight into the mouth.

Brain Power

Just like any other part of the body, the brain needs the right fuel to thrive. Not only does the brain need plenty of energy, best supplied regularly in the form of slow-release carbohydrates such as oats and other wholegrains, it also needs essential fats for memory, concentration and focus with omega-3 fatty acid DHA particularly important for brain health.

Essential fatty acids are important for normal growth during childhood as they aid the development of our central nervous system and brain. They also promote the renewal of skin cells and help regulate the immune system. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) cannot be synthesized by the body and must be obtained from dietary sources found in fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, herring and sardines and is important for the whole family for the reasons mentioned above. It is important that we ensure children are getting adequate amounts as research has found this can help with optimising mood, problem solving, planning, as well as having an impact on emotional and behavioural development. If you are bringing up your children vegetarian or vegan, consider plant based sources of omega-3, such as flaxseeds, walnuts and chia seeds. Again, supplements can go a long way in giving us a helping hand for those periods when we may be struggling to get oily fish in the menu. Eskimo 3 Bright Kids Fish Oil Jelly Splats by Nutri Advanced is a firm favourite at Amaranth and there is also a liquid version in a tutti-frutti flavour. A vegan option can also be obtained from viridian who offer a plant-based omega-3 blend.

Prioritise Sleep

Sleep is crucial for every single aspect of our health and particularly for mental wellbeing. Many children will have had their body clocks upended throughout the school holidays, getting up later in the day, and sleep is often hampered by excessive exposure to smart devices or gaming before bedtime.

Good sleep habits include winding down before bedtime, having a dark, quiet bedroom free from distractions and maintaining a consistent sleep/wake time. One simple way to encourage better sleep in children is to agree together a regular time for going to bed and getting up. Try to limit screen time 2-3 hours before bedtime.  Devices such as smartphones, tablets, and TVs emit electromagnetic fields that can affect our body’s natural rhythms which can contribute to poor sleep quality and negatively affect immune function.

Top Tips For Fussy Eaters

  • Involve them in the food preparation and cooking process, even if they simply wash the leaves or get the ingredients from the fridge. They are more likely to eat something they helped prepare.

  • Introduce new foods by bringing in small portions before their main dinner. They are more likely to try a food while they are hungry compared to the end of a meal.

  • Sneak more nutrients into their meals by adding vegetables or fruit into their favourite dishes in small pieces.

  • Create an environment of healthy eating at home. Make sure you always have a beautifully stocked fruit basket and offer them first as a tasty snack. Remember that if the cupboards are filled with crisps and biscuits, little hands are more likely to reach for those first.

  • Sit at the table & turn off all screens. Dinner time can be a great opportunity to sit and talk, even if the grown ups are doing most of the talking. The time will come when they will sit at the table, if encouraged from a young age.

  • Be patient - you may have to offer the same food several times to gain acceptance. A good trick is to have a one bite rule - you can’t say you don’t like something until you have at least tried it! Make eating the rainbow a fun challenge - Dr Chatterjee has a great chart that you can download for free from his website. Put it up on your fridge and see how many different fruits and vegetables the children are eating throughout the week.

  • A little planning goes a long way. Take some time to create a meal plan for the week or at least consider some key dishes you are going to cook and involve the children in the decision making. This way there are no surprises and you can do your food shop better prepared rather than trying to panic shop at the last minute. 
Lastly, it is important to lead by example. Children are great imitators and will often model their behaviour based on what their carers do rather than what they say. If our plates are filled with lovely colourful and nutritious food, we are setting an example of what a meal should look like.

The information contained in this blog is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking prescribed medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.

If you would like more advice please contact the team at Amaranth on 0161 439 9856, email hello@amaranth-wellbeing.com or call in to see us in our Manchester or Bramhall store.  

References:

  1. https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-017-4920-5
  2. https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/mental-health-of-childrenand-young-people-in-england/2017/2017
  3. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/
  4. https://www.nih.gov/news-events /nih-research-matters/low-vitamin-d-levels-associated-colds-flu
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20329590
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4728620/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579643/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3738999/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4717875/