How to keep your children healthy

Pack lunches that have a variety of easy-to-eat foods. Carrot, cucumber and celery sticks are easy finger foods that can be spiced up with nut butters or hummus as a dip.

How to keep your children healthy

by Dr. Hanifah Muhammad — 

Keeping our little ones healthy is of utmost importance, and it begins with making sure they are eating the right foods to keep them focused, energetic and well-balanced. Sit down with your children and make a list of foods they like to eat and foods you would like them to eat. Use this time to discuss the benefits of good nutrition from the standpoint of how it helps them in school and activities.

Beginning the day with breakfast should be a mainstay for all children. Keep do-it-yourself choices available in the refrigerator so they can make quick, easy, delicious breakfasts on their own. Let them make their own yogurt by mixing vanilla yogurt with bananas, berries, apples or any other fruit they like. This gives an added probiotic boost, which promotes healthy digestive flora and immune function. Whole-grain cereals such as oatmeal and granola with dairy or non-dairy milk provide vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber to start the day off well-balanced.

Packing a lunch offers more control over the foods your children will eat, which will help them function better throughout the school day. Pack lunches that have a variety of easy-to-eat foods. Carrot, cucumber and celery sticks are easy finger foods that can be spiced up with nut butters or hummus as a dip. Add lettuce and sprouts to sandwiches for an added nutritional kick. Berries add a wonderful antioxidant punch and provide healthy sugars, protein, fiber and water. Lunch essentials include green foods, colorful fruits and protein. For children who eat cafeteria lunches, healthy choices may be limited. Supplement those lunches with raw fruits and vegetables.

Beware of plastic bags, water bottles and plastic-lined lunch boxes. These may contain bisphenol-A (BPA), a toxic synthetic estrogen that can lead to hormone irregularities and cancer and can leach toxic chemicals into food and drink. Look for BPA- and lead-free items.

Supplements and immune boosting 

Even with a healthy diet, children are constantly exposed to viruses and bacteria from other children and their school environment. While nutritional supplements should not be considered a substitution for food, they can be helpful in building up the body’s immune system and overall resilience to illnesses. A multivitamin is a natural start to keeping children healthy and well maintained.

EPA/DHA omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oil, are important supplements that help improve brain function and strengthen cellular integrity of the skin, organs and nervous system. These can be acquired from a daily intake of fish; however, beware of tuna, grouper, mackerel, shark, swordfish, bass and bluefish. They all contain high levels of toxic mercury that can lead to symptoms of methylmercury poisoning in the nervous system and brain. This can result in attention disorders, language problems, memory deficits and reduced fine-motor skills.

Wild-caught salmon is a much healthier source of good fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can also be found in seeds, nuts and plant oils, such as olive oil. Elderberry syrup is a tasty item to give for coughs, colds and flu and to stimulate the immune system. Garlic and onions are also great for cold and flu season and, when made into a tea with lemon and honey, it serves as a tasty immune-system tonic, protecting the body from illness.

Probiotics are another important item in protecting your children from colds and illness. Probiotics are good bacteria normally found in a healthy digestive system. They assist the body in strengthening the immune system and promoting good digestion. A probiotic formula with lactobacillus and bifidocbacteria will help protect your children from bad bacteria and viruses.


The decision about whether or not to vaccinate remains a controversial issue for many parents and health care providers. Do not allow yourself to feel pressured when it comes to making this decision. While research shows that vaccines have some efficacy in reducing incidences of disease, there are also significant side effects and potential links to autism, developmental disorders and heavy-metal toxicity. Make an informed choice by considering the likelihood of exposure, seriousness of the disease, ingredients and additives in the vaccine, and its side effects.

Talk with your health care provider and do your own investigation into vaccines prior to making this decision. General public health information on vaccinations can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at You can also find information on vaccination pros and cons in the book The Vaccine Guide. In most cases, schools will try to force parents to vaccinate their children, so be ready. Remember, an exemption from vaccinations is always available to you, and you are not committing a crime or acting as an irresponsible parent if you decide not to vaccinate your child.

Physical activity

Physical activity is essential to maintaining good health for children. It not only keeps the bones and muscles strong, but it also helps normalize hormone levels, reduce fat and eliminate toxins from the body. As schools cut back on gym classes, after-school sports and physical activity programs, children are becoming increasingly more obese. If we include the surge in video game usage, it is easy to see how a child could get very limited physical activity.

Consider enrolling your children in after-school sports through their school, YMCA or private teams. Make use of local parks and encourage children to spend time outside on bikes, roller skates, etc. Buy pogo sticks, hoola hoops, jump ropes and balls, which can be fun at home. Get them involved in their favorite physical activities. To maintain good health, everyone should spend at least one hour per day doing physical activity.


Hanifah Muhammad is a naturopathic doctor at Genesis Healing Centers. 480-284-8155.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 31, Number 5, October/November 2012.

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