When our children are recovering from illness (or are simply emotional and tired) the first ball we drop is our attention to their internal nourishment.
Our own emotions get in the way of good judgement and we find ourselves spoiling our kids with foods we think will make them feel better, such as treats and fast foods. We tend to nurture their instant emotional happiness, rather than their long-term physical and emotional needs.
Diet plays a large role in overall energy level, recovery rate and mood and, for this reason, food should be approached as medicine for recovery. Our children may be too young to realise it but a “wholefoods approach” is the way to go. Good, nourishing food is what brings the bounce back into their step and puts a smile back on their face. Frequent illness, anxiety, tiredness or simply feeling sad can all deplete energy. During these times it’s even more important to look to good nutrition to get them back on track.
I look at it from an angle of trying to make the most out of every opportunity that my children eat, to fill them with what is going to help their little bodies stay at their healthiest. Of course it is a balancing act and they do have to feel like there are a couple of ‘wins’ along the way but following the 80%/20% rule is a good guide! Here’s a selection of my ‘go to’ staples.
10 Foods That Will Help to Nurture Your Child Back to Health
Packed with more vitamin C than an equal amount of orange, a kiwifruit provides a terrific boost to the immune system with its high antioxidant levels. Chock full of fibre, a kiwi also aids digestion and can soothe a sore tummy. Kids love eating them cut in half and served in a cute egg cup with a spoon. Try and source golden kiwi fruits they have a ‘softer’ texture and taste.
Modern science shows that garlic is a powerful natural antibiotic and is popularly used for coughs, colds, flu and infections. Try using some in your spaghetti bolognese, mince dishes and soups.
Antibiotics are a double-edged sword and wipe out the good bacteria along with the bad. Probiotics are the little army corps we send in to up the numbers of helpful bacteria and override the illness-causing bacteria housed in our digestive tract. Researchers have found that probiotic help with prevention of common day-care bugs and may lessen the duration of symptoms. Think about this for a minute: three-quarters of your immune system is in your digestive tract and when you also consider that our moods and behaviours are directly linked to the health of our gut (the brain-gut connection), you can understand the enormity of good gut health.
Look for yoghurt brands that contain “live, active cultures” or probiotic supplements at your chemist.
Super greens are extremely high in nutrients, are a good source of fibre and provide digestive enzymes to help heal body tissue. The most common types include young cereal grasses (wheat, barley and alfalfa), along with algae’s such as spirulina and chlorella.
Most are edible in their natural, unprocessed forms, but since most kids (and adults for that matter) turn up their noses at such a thing, they are commonly offered in powder, capsule or juice form.
Good ways to include super greens in your kid’s diet are by adding the powder to smoothies, mixing into energy bars or stirring into yoghurt. Another way you can dose up your kids is to add chopped baby spinach or spirulina to their pastas sauces.
Bananas are an instant source of energy to power muscles but at the same time they can calm anxiety due to the high levels of B6 that help the brain produce the relaxing hormone serotonin. Full of fibre, the energy they provide is released slowly plus nature’s energy snack comes in its own wrapping. Kids go crazy over banana smoothies mixed with wheatgerm, honey, cinnamon and full cream milk, or simply banana with yoghurt dip.
Most kids get too much of the wrong fats but avocados contain the type of fats that are perfect for growing bodies. The monounsaturated fatty acid in avocados maintains moisture in the epidermal layer of the skin, helping to make it soft and moisturised. Perfect for regenerating sun-damaged skin cells and reducing facial redness and irritation. Spread on bread or crackers instead of butter, use as a dip or cut up in salads.
Olive Leaf Extract
Not a food as such but after many years of using this in my house I can’t go past it in winter time. Olive Leaf Extract research suggests that the compounds found in the leaf may enhance the bodies efforts in fighting invading organisms. The liquid is taken similar to medicine (in small doses) and it has also the ability to enter viral cells and blocks its replication. Not only is it good to have as a preventative but proves to lessen illness symptoms and duration. Strong in taste, it may help to find ones that have a ‘berry’ flavour for the kids.
Raw nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds make convenient, healthy snack foods that takes the edge off hunger without the added carbohydrates and sugar of most other snack foods. Great nut choices include almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, macadamia and walnuts. Seeds include sunflower, sesame, flax and pumpkin (all unsalted). These delicious, natural foods are high in protein and healthy unsaturated fats. Mix them into anything and everything from bakes, smoothies and salads or enjoy them on their own.
The sweet, caramel-like taste of dates make them a hit with kids, satisfying their sweet tooth while providing energy and vitamins. Dates also contain small amounts of almost every essential mineral: nutrients that play a role in red blood cell production, energy metabolism, growth and development and skin health, the nervous system and the digestive system. Serve on their own or use in recipes to make energy balls and healthy slices. Of course use with discretion as they do have a high sugar content.
Just a sniff of a fresh orange gives you an uplifting feeling. If your children are tired and grumpy in the mornings, try including an orange in their day to offer vitality and improve their concentration at school.
Generally, citrus fruits have the highest antioxidant activity of all fruits, helping to boost the immune system and protect against cancer and heart disease. Serve as fresh or frozen portions and try to eat whole instead of juicing so you maintain the fibre content.
These are just some of many nurturing foods that (when combined with plenty of water to drink) will energise your kids’ hardworking little bodies. These foods can improve your child’s health and often help in the prevention of illness.