Look at health advice from the 40s and 50s and earlier, and you'll see that a daily dose of "cod liver oil" was a must item in healthcare for kids. It's probably even more important today in a world in which omega-6 (DHA) fatty acids predominate over the equally important omega-3 (EPA) fatty acids.
Studies suggest that human beings evolved on a diet that provided an omega-3 to omega-6 ratio of 1:1. Today that ratio is 1:15 to 1:16.7. Why is this important? Omega-3s and 6s are essential fatty acids. This means the body requires but does not manufacture them. They must be obtained from food and supplements. It is very difficult to obtain these essential fatty acids in correct balance from a western diet. Omega-3s are very limited, and omega-6s are over-abundant as a result of fried and processed foods.
EPA supports heart health, and DHA is important for brain development and function. In addition, EPA is a powerful anti-inflammatory. An insufficient amount in the diet can eventually lead to heart attack, stroke, several forms of cancer and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
These diseases don't usually concern us in childhood, but with an obesity epidemic and less than satisfactory related blood work at younger and younger ages, perhaps it's time to reconsider. Our parents and grandparents knew what to do. Let's check it out in these back to school health tips for kids.
Tip #1: Remember the fish oil and a good vitamin and mineral supplement for your kids. Just remember too that supplements are . . . well, supplements. It's important to plan a good program of supplementation at any age, but it's like an insurance policy and not a substitute for healthy eating.
Tip #2: Start teaching healthy eating habits early. Choose real food, including for snacks. Don't make anything else available in the house, so when your kids go to get something to munch on, it will be real, and they'll develop a taste for those foods.
Tip #3: Make every plate, including snacks, at least half colorful fruits and veggies (more veggies than fruits), the rest a mixture of protein and fats. There are many sources of protein in a real food diet other than meat, cheese and eggs: beans, grains, nuts, seeds, even leafy vegetables.
Tip #4: When you choose fats, focus on those that occur naturally in foods like fish, avocado, nuts, seeds and grains. When you use added fats, choose good ones like olive oil. Even a little butter is fine -- real butter.
Tip #5: Teach your kids to sit down to eat, preferably in company. Encourage awareness of food sources and appreciation. If your children learn these good habits at home, they will be better prepared to maintain their own good health when they go to school, coming into contact with an array of less healthy options. Contact us for more ideas to help you create the best health awareness for your 6-12 year olds!