Keeping kids healthy when they go back to school is a fun parenting challenge. I feel like I always have at least one sick kid between the months of November and April. Fortunately, we are all extremely healthy and our kids have built up some pretty good immune systems (I’d like to partially credit this to allowing them to play in the dirt!), so while they may get sick, their bodies usually fight illness pretty quickly.
My family takes a pretty well rounded approach to our health which includes trying to eat less processed foods, incorporating whole fruits and veggies into our every day diet, staying active, spending time outdoors in all weather, making sure we have medical doctors that are progressive, and complementing our modern conventional healthcare with more natural alternatives.
One of my dear friends, Kaitlyn, is a holistic health practitioner and master herbalist who founded her own organic skincare line called Zen Society (which you should check out here!) I’m partnering with her to bring you some simple ways to keep your family healthy for back to school and beyond.
Foods to help keep kids healthy
One of the most important things for staying healthy is a strong immune system and in order to maintain that Kaitlyn recommends, “eating real, fresh, organic foods.” She also would encourage you to give a daily vitamin as kids diets often don’t provide them with the nutrition they need.
Additionally, she explains that “the foods we eat now are grown in soil that’s so depleted it often doesn’t produce food with the same amount of nutrients as it used to.” So that serving of spinach 50 years ago was WAY more nutrient dense than the spinach you’re eating now (pro tip for those who don’t love green veggies: put some raw spinach into basically any smoothie and you can barely taste it–our go to is almond milk, spinach, banana, frozen strawberry, chia seeds and flax seeds).
She notes that today’s fruits and vegetables are lacking vitamins A and C, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, magnesium, iron, zinc and copper so these are key nutrients to make sure you are getting into kids diets every day. She recommends 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, and while that might seem like a lot, foods like carrots or cucumbers dipped into hummus counts as two servings and you can easily get a few servings in with a fruit and veggie smoothie.
Kaitlyn says that “there are some specific foods she strives to incorporate into her children’s diet which can help boost immunity.” She notes that it’s important to aim for fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C like “berries, broccoli, sweet potatoes and citrus fruits.” She also suggests adding walnuts to smoothies, yogurts and cereals as they are high in omega 3 fatty acids that help fight illness.
Superfoods should be included into the diet whenever possible. Some of her favorites are:
- Blackstrap molasses (can be used in baking as a substitute for sugar)
- Manuka honey (anti-bacterial properties and can even be applied to a cut instead of an antibiotic)
- Hemp seeds
- Chia seeds
- Flaxseed (always use ground flaxseeds as whole seeds will just pass through your system undigested)
- Leafy greens like spinach, kale, Swiss chard (all good in smoothies)
- Wild caught salmon
- Broccoli (my kids loves this best when roasted with a little olive oil and garlic!)
Daily supplements for kids to help boost immunity
One of the best things you can give your kids is a high quality probiotic (live healthy bacteria that help your digestive system). Gut health is SO important and Kaitlyn says “healthy gut means good immunity!” There are some food options that can provide a healthy dose of probiotics such as kimchi, fermented vegetables, kefir, grass-fed yogurts–she prefers sheep or goats milk yogurt to cow as they are known to cause less inflammation. If these are not things your kids will eat (let’s face it, kids can be pretty particular…) then giving a probiotic supplement is a great strategy. She recommends Mary Ruth’s Plant Based Liquid Probiotic–they also make a spray one that’s easy to spritz into your little one’s mouth.
Some other daily supplements to include are:
- Childlife Multivitamin and Mineral Natural Orange and Mango Flavor
- Green Pasture Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil in Cinnamon (doesn’t have a fishy taste at all!)
- Gaia Kids Black Elderberry Syrup as it has the highest concentration of Elderberry. She also recommends avoiding the elderberry dummies because they have added sugar.-
But….your kid will still get sick
So yes, all these things are amazing and will absolutely help boost immunity but that doesn’t mean your kid will never get sick. So when they do here are some more natural and eco-friendly products to help support them while they fight off illness.
- BeeKeeper’s Naturals Propolis Throat Spray
- Maty’s All Natural Chest Rub (just get the two pack, you’ll need it!)
- Little Remedies Saline Nose spray (this stuff is amazing because it actually mists into the nose)
- Steam showers with a few drops of tea tree oil or eucalyptus oil followed by a snot sucker like the Nose Frieda or my personal favorite the OCCObaby battery powered baby nasal aspirator
- Coconut water (which can help replace lost electrolytes), lemon water or herbal teas like chamomile to help combat dehydration (Pedialyte has sugar and dye that isn’t necessary)
- Double dose of Elderberry syrup
- Apple cider bath to help reduce fever (add a cup of apple cider vinegar to a warm–not hot–bath, or put a few teaspoons on a washcloth and place on the child’s forehead)
- Herb Pharm Mullein Garlic Ear Oil for ear infections (most are viral and can be fought off by the body’s immune system–make sure you read up on current recommendations that favor not immediately prescribing antibiotics for ear infections)
- Local honey if you can find it at a store or farmer’s market close to home, Manuka honey, Y.S. Organic Bees Farm honey, Beekeeper’s Natural honey (this is perfect for sore throats or just daily boost of immunity support) I make a “medicine water” for when my kids have sore throats that is 1-2 ounces of hot water, a squirt of honey and a pinch of cinnamon. Kaitlyn notes that honey has some amazing benefits. She explains that, “honey coats throats and offers instant relief for coughs. When it is ingested it can alleviate sinus pressure due to its antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-septic properties. If you child suffers from seasonal allergies adding LOCAL (only) honey into their diet can naturally desensitize them to dusts, mold and pollen in the air.” Pretty amazing stuff, and you probably won’t have much trouble getting your kid to eat a teaspoon of honey…
Just a couple reminders as we head into cold and flu season. Fevers are not necessarily bad. Fevers are your body heating up to kill viruses and bacteria that are causing illness. Many times people rush to treat the fever, when in reality you should be treating the symptoms. I do use over the counter fever reducers if I feel like my little one is really suffering from a fever (can’t sleep, is super cranky) but that usually doesn’t happen until closer to a fever or 102-103. Most often, they can take a luke warm bath and that will help drop their temp enough for them to be comfortable (don’t use cold water as that can cause their body to heat itself even more to combat the cold). Also, keep in mind a fever is a temperature over 100.4.
If I use a fever reducer I always try to use one that is dye free like the Little Remedies Dye Free Fever and Pain Reducer or the Infant or Children’s Motrin Dye Free (Depending on age–Ibuprofen can only be used in infants 6 months and up).
**PLEASE make sure you speak to your pediatrician prior to giving any medications. They can help you decide the best course of action as well as dosing.