With the school year starting, it’s time to readjust some out-of-control summer habits. Let’s start with the most important ones: Nutrition, exercise and sleeping pattern.
Healthy food does not have to be unappealing. If your child hates broccoli, it’s okay, there are plenty of alternatives. Try different recipes, different fruits and vegetables; add flavors with spices and herbs. Make their plate look nice and appealing. The eyes and nose accept food before the palate does. Introduce healthy food options gradually. Here are few suggestions:
- Shift to whole grains: brown rice, whole wheat flour, whole grain toast and bread for school sandwiches, whole grain cereals…
- Introduce more vegetables and fruits: serve fruits, fruit salads, homemade fruit pies and tarts instead of chemical-laden sweets and doughnuts. Serve salad with every meal. Introduce different vegetable colors, each color has its own family of phytonutrients (plant-based nutrients that have loads of health benefits from anti-oxidants to anti-cancer potentials) and again try different recipes. If they don’t like it steamed or boiled, they may like it stir fried, baked or even raw with dips and sauces.
- Reduce fats and sweets and avoid over-processed foods and foods with preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and additives.
- Give them healthy snacks: nuts and seeds, dried fruits, whole fruits, fresh vegetables cut in sticks with hummus or avocado dips, cheese cubes, yogurt with fresh fruits, honey or maple syrup, muesli, homemade popcorn…
Exercise is very important for a growing child. It strengthens the bones, builds and tones the muscles, ensures healthy blood circulation, clears the mind and boosts the mood. Children should be active. Avoid long hours in front of the TV and computer screens. Get them outdoors to play and run. Teach them to perform few stretching exercises in the morning before breakfast. Take them to the club or parks to learn a sport and play with their mates.
Getting enough quality sleep is essential for children. During sleep their bodies secrete growth hormone. This hormone helps their body to grow and regenerate tissues and cells. Their brains also take the time to de-clutter, re-energize, and establish any acquired knowledge and skills in the long-term memory stores. The best way of acquiring enough quality sleep is by synchronizing with the natural day/night cycle. Teach your children to sleep after their night prayer and wake up with sun rise for dawn prayer. Starting and ending their day with a spiritual connection with the Divine is a great lesson to learn in their young age.