Raising Healthy Kids

Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

With Dr Camilla White MBBS, Holistic Health Coach IIN

By Emily Holler, Mother and Wellness Blogger

‘Cherish your children for they are the footprints you will leave behind’ Taylor Evan Fulks

As health conscious parents, we are passionate about gifting our children with optimal health. We tirelessly strive to make the best choices for them nutritionally, socially and environmentally. Sometimes it can feel as though we’re fighting an uphill battle when faced with supermarket aisles full of processed sugary junk, overflowing birthday piñata’s, the dubious influence of social media and ever increasing academic demands. But as primary caregivers there is no denying the profound influence we have in shaping our kids futures, so the choices we make in their early years are paramount.

‘Diets that emphasise fresh, seasonal and local whole foods are ideal for kids’, says Dr Camilla White, one of our holistic doctors who specialises in women’s and children’s health, ‘we should eat like our grandparents ate’. Adequate nutrition is an essential feature of any wellness agenda but it’s tricky to implement when we have a fussy little eater on our hands. Despite the best intentions, if our child flat out refuses to eat a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, then they are unlikely to be getting the nutrients they need to thrive. Dr Camilla suggests the following to assist parents facing this challenge:

5 Tips for Parents of Fussy Eaters

  1. Hide the healthy stuff in a smoothie. Most kids love smoothies, it’s just like a treat. You can make green or berry smoothies with spinach, vital greens, acai, protein powder, frozen banana, mango or even some oats. Yum!
  2. Grow your own veggies and pick them together. Kids love to be involved in picking, peeling and cooking veggies that they have helped grow. It makes it way more fun.
  3. Eat together as a family. If possible eat the same meal as your kids. Leading by example is important and when kids see their parents eat healthy foods they will gradually get used to the idea. Plus it’s a great time for family connection.
  4. Keep offering the foods. Kids sometimes take time to get used to foods and may refuse it 15 times before changing their mind. Offer the food but don’t be attached to the outcome as it can create stress and intensify the issue.
  5. If all else fails, hide it in their meal. Veggies in a Spaghetti Bolognese for example.

‘A healthy microbiome is essential for immunity, digestion and absorption of nutrients’ says Dr Camilla, ‘it’s also important for managing mood disorders, depression, anxiety, ADHD and autism’. In case you’re wondering, the microbiome refers to the variety of microorganisms that dwell in our bellies. Our gut can be likened to a garden, which needs to be tended carefully to ensure that the weeds (or pathogenic bacteria) don’t overgrow and crowd out the good guys. The microbiome has been receiving a lot of attention in recent years, as practitioners have increasingly observed its undeniable role in good health. So we know that preserving or restoring gut health in our kids is a key factor in keeping them well. But how do we do that? Dr Camilla has some suggestions:

Tips for Restoring Kid’s Gut Health

  1. Avoid processed, sugary snacks where possible
  2. Grow and consume your own veggies
  3. Let kids play in the dirt. Bacteria from soil is beneficial!
  4. Enjoy home cooked meals most of the time
  5. Make sure kids drink plenty of water and consume more dietary fibre
  6. Encourage physical activity
  7. Give probiotics
  8. Feed prebiotic foods such as bone broth, kefir or kimchi. Fermented foods improve microbiome function and composition, stimulate immune function and improve production of short chain fatty acids
  9. Make gelatin gummies to heal their gut lining. You will find a bonus recipe at the end of this blog.

The Northern Rivers region poses additional challenges with its high rate of intestinal parasites such as blastocystis hominis and dientamoeba fragilis. So high in fact, that Dr Camilla estimates around 50% of kids aged 5–10 are infected with one or both of these bugs. Antibiotics wouldn’t form part of her treatment plan however, as there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that this is the best approach. Rather, she recommends investing in a good quality water filter, crowding out the bugs with a probiotic supplement and giving gut healing supplements such as vitamin C or cod liver oil. Each patient responds differently however so the treatment plan is tailored to the individual. 

So we know that nutrition and the microbiome play a huge role in the health of our kids, however there are a multitude of other factors also at play if we are to view this holistically. Being a mum to two beautiful kids herself (Evie, 4 and Banjo, 18 months), Dr Camilla is passionate about ensuring that all aspects of our children’s wellbeing are considered when striving to achieve optimum health. Here are her top five recommendations for raising healthy kids:

Top 5 Tips for Raising Healthy Kids

  1. Ensure they get enough sleep. Getting plenty of sleep is essential for their brain development, growth and a strong immune system
  2. More green time, less screen time. Limiting screen time and monitoring what they’re watching is essential as is spending time in nature, having free play in parks and paddocks the way nature intended
  3. Limit sugar and processed food. Cooking healthy treats at home and limiting refined sugar to special occasions is ideal, but be mindful of keeping a balance as over restriction can be counter productive
  4. Be kind and show compassion. Kids thrive on love and respect, learn to manage your own emotions and lead by example
  5. Slow down and be present. Allow kids plenty of free play time and don’t over-schedule with extracurricular actives and homework

Dr Camilla White grew up in Armidale, NSW and has lived all over Australia practicing emergency medicine before training as a GP in Brisbane. She has always been interested in a more natural approach to medicine and after becoming a mum she was inspired to become a holistic doctor and subsequently study integrative nutrition. Camilla’s own journey with Postnatal Depletion led her to Dr Oscar Serrallach and The Health Lodge. ‘Women’s and children’s health is my area of interest—especially since becoming a mother myself. I believe prevention is better than cure and if we can give our kids the best start in life then they are less likely to struggle with chronic disease later on’ she says, ‘I take a holistic approach to treating kids in my practice. Each child is different so it has to be a tailored approach. No-one knows a child better than their parents so I work as a team with parents to achieve optimal health outcomes.’

Click here for a booking with Dr Camilla White.

Recipe for Gelatin Gummies

(From Simplicious by Sarah Wilson)

3.5 tablespoons of gelatin powder (I like Great Lakes)

1.5 cups of chopped fruit / liquid such as 2 oranges freshly juiced or 1 cup of strawberries

1/2 tablespoon rice malt syrup or 2 drops liquid stevia (optional)

1. ’Bloom' the gelatine by stirring it into 1/3 cup of cold water until dissolved. Let it sit for 5 minutes, it will expand and become 'rubbery'

2. Heat the fruit or liquid and sweetener in a small saucepan until it's almost boiling and the fruit has softened. Turn off the heat and add the bloomed gelatine (break the large blob into little blobby bits) and stir until dissolved, then use a stick blender to purée.

3. Pour into moulds, cool a little then place in fridge to set for 1 hour.

4. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 1 week.