The school year is just around the corner. As you scurry for supplies like pencils and spiral notebooks and find yourself in the midst of piles of discarded outfits searching for the perfect back-to-school look, don’t neglect one of the key components of a successful school year: a smart nutrition plan for your young scholars.
A healthy approach to diet and exercise is at the core of any potentially great school year. Children young and old benefit most from food habits that keep a healthy balance in mind. The Centers for Disease Control offers these general guidelines for healthy eating:
- Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products.
- Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products.
- Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils, and beans for protein.
- Serve reasonably-sized portions.
- Encourage your family to drink lots of water.
- Limit sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Limit consumption of sugar and saturated fat.1
When we fail to eat the kind of variety and quality of foods that lead to a nutritional balance, we risk missing out on the essential vitamins and minerals that young bodies especially require for optimum growth and health. Calcium and vitamin D work together to support bone and teeth health. Vitamins A and C support healthy muscles and skin. The eyes rely on A and other antioxidants gained from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. The B vitamins, which are water soluble and therefore need constant replenishment, are important for many metabolic processes, as well as being important for energy and stress management.
For those times when one’s diet has holes, a multivitamin and mineral product may be just the thing to ensure your scholar has the nutrition he/she needs to excel. It’s a good idea to consult with your child’s doctor to establish your individual need for a MVM, as well as to ensure that the product you are considering doesn’t interfere with any medication your child might take.
There are a wide variety of high quality MVM products for children on the market. Look for a product that is labeled for use with a child in the correct age range and in a form that your child will most likely comply in taking. Gummies should be low in sugar and avoid sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup. Also, since many MVM products for children can look like candy, be sure to keep them out of reach and to follow label instructions for dosing. Even with something good for you like vitamins and minerals, you can definitely get too much of a good thing.
Probiotics are the “good” bacteria in and on the body that help us digest food, create vitamins, and fight against invaders like bacteria that occurs in food and even in the air. Every person has a unique probiotic profile that reflects his/her medical history, eating habits and even lifestyle.
Whenever we take antibiotics, breathe toxins in the air, consume alcohol, smoke, etc., we kill off the probiotics in our bodies. When this happens, not only does our immunity, but our intestinal health also suffers.
Since natural sources for probiotics involve fermented foods or foods (like yogurt) often high in sugar or lactose, most of us do not manage to replenish depleted probiotic stores through our diet. This is where supplemental probiotics come into play.
Look for a quality product that reflects the colonizing-forming-units (CFUs) provided per serving and guarantees potency throughout the product’s shelf life. Know if your probiotic is shelf-stable or needs to be refrigerated. More and more probiotics are designed to target specific age groups or needs. A product higher in acidophilus may be designed specifically for women who are concerned about urinary tract health, while a product high in bifida may be meant especially for those over 50 whose bifida stores naturally decline.
Several recent studies have revealed that probiotics may play an important role in helping kids stay in the classroom and out of the sickroom. Besides reducing the number of sick days, the use of probiotics has also been studied for its potential efficacy in helping children who suffer from allergies. Making probiotics a part of your back-to-school plan seems like a truly smart fit.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to healthy cells. When you have a healthy balance of omega-3 fatty acids in comparison to other fatty acids, especially omega-6, you most likely enjoy healthy benefits from head to toe.
Unfortunately, the typical Western diet is much too high in omega-6, which leads to potential inflammatory issues, mood issues, cardiovascular problems, and more. Reducing omega-6 intake and increasing omega-3 in the diet is very important to a healthy adulthood, and childhood too.
EPA and DHA are the two elements of omega-3s that you want to look for on any supplement label. EPA seems to support mood and behavior, whereas DHA makes up a majority of the brain’s structure and is important to its development. Most importantly, DHA has been shown in several double-blind trials to help with attention-related issues.
With the support it gives to the brain, as well as what it contributes to overall health, omega-3 supplements that offer DHA and EPA are a win-win choice. Choose products that are geared to your child’s age, that specify the amount of DHA and EPA per serving, and that come from clean sources. Generally speaking, smaller fish are thought to be less likely to have high levels of toxins and are more likely to be sustainable sources for these important nutrients.
With fish oil products, a child’s compliance may be particularly tricky. Do not sacrifice potential health benefits by picking a product high in sugar trying to mask the fish taste, and especially avoid high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener. As with any supplement, make sure your fish oil is out of reach and not consumed like candy. Follow label directions according to your child’s age and need and according to your doctor’s recommendation.
Back-to-school can be a hectic time. Let Betsy’s Health Foods help you take the stress out of back-to-school by allowing us to help you choose the products that will serve your family best this school year. It’s one of the many ways we strive to be “always taking your health and your budget to heart.”®
Betsy’s Note: This article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease. Consult your healthcare provider before beginning a supplement, especially if you have a medical condition or take medications. For example, many vitamins and minerals, and omega-3s thin blood.