Getting The Best Start
Dr. Carrie Mitchell, ND
Our future mental, physical and emotional health is greatly influenced by the foundations we lay in early childhood. Teaching our children the principles of health through a nutritious diet, fun and exciting exercise, and optimizing growth and development with supplementation, promises the best start. Toddlers and early childhood is a great time to instill the importance of a healthy lifestyle, and allows for seamless transition into lifelong health and happiness. Making fun and easy changes in our diet and lifestyle can have powerful effects in mental, physical and emotional health in the entire family unit.
Whole-foods nutrition is one of the most important gift parents can give their children. The “SAD” or Standard American Diet is often full of refined, processed foods that are devoid of the recommended daily dosages of our essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein and healthy oils we need to grow mentally and physically. The growing bodies of infants, toddlers, children and adolescents all need a unique combination of macro- and micro-nutrients. A balanced meal plan full of vegetables and fruits, lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy oils assures your children are getting what they need. Strategizing unique and creative ways of introducing health foods to children can overcome some of the “my child won’t eat veggies” obstacles. Introducing new tastes and textures, avoiding overly sweet, salty and fried foods, and eating healthy as parents can all work together to help a child develop the taste for whole-foods. Hiding diced veggies in smoothies, soups, stir-fry and casseroles is also a great way to get these essential foods into picky eaters.
The prevalence of childhood obesity is increasing worldwide. Researchers have found that overweight and obese children have increased risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and future adult obesity. Let’s get moving as a family! Instilling the importance of daily physical activity at a young age in children leads to lifelong benefits and healthy body composition. Make exercise fun for the whole family. Organized sports and leisure activities, such as soccer, baseball, hockey, bike-riding, or simple walks and hikes, are all great ways to get moving.
3) Mental, Emotional and Physical Stimulation
It is amazing how much time children spend in front of the TV and video games. In moderation, these can also be learning tools, but we need to assure that there is balance with electronics and other leisure activities. Mental stimulation needs to be varied to exercise different areas of the developing brain, such as reading, experimenting with music, playing puzzles and encouraging imaginary play. Mental, emotional and physical stimulation can all be nourished by doing daily activities together. Find something that helps family bonding during evening or weekends, such as board games, working on art projects, joining a gym or sports center, or exploring outside.
Environmental changes and concerns can sometimes make it difficult to obtain the recommended allowance for vitamins, minerals and macronutrients from the diet alone. Soil-depletion is a phenomenon the agriculture industry is experiencing that is causing a reduction in essential vitamins and minerals in everyday foods. Heavy metals are found in an alarming amount of seafood, food additives and herbal formulas, leading to increased toxicity and associated symptoms. Furthermore, current refinement and processing practices strip natural founds of their innate nutrition. Fortunately, there are many natural health products that can help fill in the gaps that our diet may provide. A good quality multi-vitamin, fish oil and probiotic assures the growing bodies are receiving all the building blocks they need to develop optimally. Each child is unique, and their bodies may need different combinations and dosages of vitamins, minerals, or botanical medicine. It is important for parents to consult a professional health care provider before supplementing to assure that children are getting safe and effective doses and products.
Healthy children grow into health adults, with parents’ guidance and support they can build the foundations of lifelong health and happiness. Adding a naturopathic doctor, nutritionist, herbalist, or other complementary health-care professional to your current medical team is a great way for parents to educate themselves further, providing their children with a comprehensive and complete health and wellness model.
About Dr. Mitchell:
Carrie Mitchell’s family practice focuses on paediatric, perinatal and women’s health, weight loss and general health optimization. She is passionate about ensuring we give our children the best foundation for optimal growth, development and happiness. Dr. Carrie’s treatment approach centers around foundational health; education surrounding balanced nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices, along with the utilization of botanical medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, and homeopathy to regain balance in the human body. She works at Grassroots Naturopathic Medicine Health Clinic in Calgary Alberta.
Image submitted by mom and reader, Melissa Culhane.
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