The beginning of the school year is a perfect time to set intentions and establish a regular routine to promote a healthy school year for the entire family. As a naturopathic doctor, I routinely counsel families on strategies to support a strong foundation for physical, mental and emotional health to support home and school life. Balanced nutrition coupled with adequate rest and physical activity leads to increased energy levels, improved athletic performance and supports the ability to learn by improving concentration and focus.
These steps toward a healthy foundation can also improve immune function and decrease the exacerbation of chronic illnesses such as asthma, gastrointestinal complaints and anxiety which leads to fewer sick days away from school. Occasionally, the use of herbs and supplements can also be incorporated to promote energy, focus and a feeling of peace.
After the summer break, the start of the school year can often feel like a jolt to parents and children alike. In order to ease the transition for everyone involved, it is beneficial to resume a regular routine one to two weeks prior to the start of school. This can be incorporated in back to school shopping as you gather various supplies, recipes and tools to support your goal.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly one in three children are overweight and forty percent of calories consumed are derived from high-caloric and low-nutrient processed food and drinks. On average, children have increased their daily consumption of fruit, although vegetable intake remains lower than the recommended daily allowance (RDA). School aged children and adults require five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day to meet daily nutrient requirements. A whole foods diet rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and lean protein sources provides the necessary vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein and healthy fats to support a healthy body and mind.
Dietary changes can be incredibly overwhelming, but they don’t have to be! Start small and simple and aim to make these changes playful and exciting. Encouraging your little ones to take an active role in food selection, preparation and assembly means they will be more likely to eat the foods on their plate. Take part in the Rainbow Challenge by incorporating all the colors of the rainbow through fruits and vegetables on a weekly and daily basis. Kids can track their progress by placing a sticker for each color on a chart on the refrigerator door.
When packing school lunches, Bento Boxes make it easier and faster for kids to see what’s inside without having to open various packages and containers. They also help to reduce waste and can be packed into a larger lunch box with an ice pack to keep cool throughout the day. Always pack more food than you think they will need as kids will self-regulate and leftovers can be eaten as after-school snacks.
Create fun shapes and sizes by using cookie cutters for sandwiches or fruit and melon ballers to create fruit skewers. Cut up veggie sticks, cucumbers, snap peas and zucchini pair well with various dips such as hummus, herbed yogurt and nut butters for easy and quick eating.
Adequate hydration has also been shown to improve concentration and focus. Include a reusable water bottle in your child’s lunch box or backpack to sip on water or herbal teas throughout the day.
Ensuring your child receives plenty of rest balanced with physical activity is fundamental to cognitive and physical health. The National Sleep Foundation recommends young children receive at least ten to twelve hours while adolescents require eight to ten hours of sleep per night.
Incorporating a regular bedtime routine with bath, story time, songs or a gentle movement practice signals the body and mind to prepare for rest. Since children are often sedentary throughout most of their school day, it is recommended they receive at least one to two hours of physical activity, ideally outside, each day as this facilitates a strong body and healthy mind.
For some, incorporating various herbs and supplements can also help to support brain function. This may include supplementation with nutrients such as B-vitamins which support the formation and breakdown of neurotransmitters essential to learning. Herbs belonging to the mint family have been shown to improve cognition, focus and memory due to the high content of rosmarinic acid and are a taste kids enjoy!
Try Dr. Mary Bove’s Brain Boosting Tea
Combine equal parts Rosemary, Peppermint, Spearmint & Gotu Kola in a large jar. Use 1 tbsp of the blend in 8oz of boiling water, steep covered for 10 minutes, strain, add honey if needed and drink warm to encourage herbs to travel to the brain and peripheral tissues.
Dr. Eryn Scott, ND is a naturopathic doctor practicing at Mountain River Naturopathic Clinic in Frisco, CO. Her clinical approach is rooted in her passion for educating and guiding children and their families in the discovery of their own path towards a vibrant and fulfilling life. Look Dr. Scott up at mountainriverclinic.com or call (970) 668-1300