What Does Raising “Healthy” Children Really Mean?

Posted on October 22, 2019

Guest Post by Bela Patel, Doctor of Pharmacy, Certified Holistic Health Coach

 

When you think of the word “healthy,” most people think of food and the absence of disease. Health is a state of physical, mental, and emotional well-being, and to achieve this we need to create a solid foundation of great habits in our children. As a pharmacist and health coach, I take a holistic approach and look at our health like a table. A table has four legs, and each leg is equally important. The legs of my “health table” are proper nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress management.

The realization that what we put into and onto our bodies has a profound effect on our overall health is what catapulted my career into holistic wellness. While practicing as a pharmacist, I discovered that although medications would treat symptoms of a condition, we unfortunately often fail to understand and treat the root cause of the condition itself. Similarly, several years ago, I realized my anxiety and certain food triggers often caused insomnia and allergic reactions, including asthma attacks. As a child, I had had numerous emergency room visits and a hospitalization for asthma, and as an adult I was taking three different inhalers and facing the prospect of taking a sedative for anxiety. Instead, I opted to change my diet and started practicing yoga and meditation. The results were astounding. I’m no longer on any medication, and it is my mission to help individuals prevent and manage disease. That means starting at an early age.

So how can we access our body’s pharmacy to prevent disease, remain full of energy, and thrive as children and adults? And how can we as parents empower our children with the tools that will help them reach their fullest developmental potential?

Here are just a few simple yet powerful suggestions to create that strong foundation for good health.

NUTRITION

  1. Assess your opinion about various foods. Do you glamorize a donut or are you excited about grilled asparagus in front of your children? Kids take notice of your reactions.
  2. You purchase the food in your home, so buy what you would like your children to eat without depriving them. Have your pantry stocked with healthier versions of bars and trail mixes, and keep the refrigerator loaded with cut-up veggies, fruits, hummus, and yogurt. That way, when the kids hungry, there are numerous healthy options for them.
  3. Prepare meals together. If your child is making some dish, chances are fairly high that they will love it. If the broccoli rabe wasn’t to their liking this time, try it again prepared another way. Don’t give up.

EXERCISE

Children should have at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Encourage them to try different types of sports; have family play time outdoors; take them on a walk with you or to your favorite yoga class! Or how about signing up for that community 5k Fun Run?

SLEEP

We teach our children proper personal hygiene, but teaching them proper sleep hygiene habits is just as important. Create a set schedule and stick to it. Start “wind-down” time an hour before bedtime, which means restricting any screen use. It might help to have a warm bath, story time, and a goodnight kiss every night at the same time. Consistency is key.

STRESS

According to mental health surveys, today’s teens and young adults are the most anxious ever. There are numerous reasons for this epidemic, but to counteract it, it is important to teach our children to be connected to their breath. You can activate your relaxation response with a simply powerful technique: Inhale for a count of 4 seconds and exhale to a count of 6. Repeat 5 times. No medication is required, but our body’s innate response to this simple action can shift a child from being anxious one moment to being calm the next.

Getting our kids to do all of these things at once may seem insurmountable, so pick one area and build on it the following week. Start slow without creating battles, and avoid having kids do things because the activities are “healthy.” It’s important to create habits that are sustainable, so have the entire family participate in your efforts to raise healthy children. More importantly, be a positive role model for healthy living. Remember, healthy kids start with healthy parents.