Gracie North is our guest blogger for this post and she has written a creative and inspiring article about how we can best help our children to stay healthy. She is living with MS and is committed to providing the best possible diet and lifestyle for her children. It is her hope that, by taking these steps, she will be able to play a role in drastically lower the chances that they will also develop MS.
Children are unpredictable and fussy little characters. Getting the right nutrients into them can be a challenge. It is often exasperating to prepare a beautiful and nutritious meal only to have their little noses turned up at it. My children are no exception. They have their fruit and vegetable blacklist. Often I have to 'incentivise' them to eat their veggies. One piece of chocolate for broccoli in the tummy, even though I kind of feel that they cancel each other out! I am, however, finding clever tricks that don't involve bribery and corruption! For instance, I have discovered that they really enjoy fruit smoothies. I freeze some banana and blend it with a variety of berries and they think it is the best thing since sliced bread! I'm pretty sure they wouldn't notice if I put a few spinach leaves in there too! They help me make it which allows them to feel part of the process.
Anyway, enough from me! Over to you Gracie!
Protecting Our Children From MS, by Gracie North
Motherhood is filled with a mix of joy and worry. Each day as we watch our children grow we can only wonder who they will grow to be and what their world will be like. And for a mother with MS there is always another question in our minds, will they be healthy?
With so many genetic and environmental factors involved in illness, scientists are just now discovering the effects of our actions on genes for future generations through the new field of epigenetics. While it is important not to teach our children to live in fear of a disease that is not inevitable and may have many different causes, there is some evidence that the chances of developing MS are slightly higher for children of a parent with MS.
The last thing that a mother with MS needs is more to worry about! Instead let’s take some basic aspects of the MS Diet and see how they can be worked into a preventative health maintenance plan to help protect our children now and as adults.
Establishing Healthy Habits
Making the MS Diet part of the family routine is a wonderful way to teach children about making heathy lifestyle choices. This way of eating has been shown to help prevent numerous conditions and is great preventative health maintenance for the whole family. While it can be an adjustment, there is strength in solidarity and it is worth it to work together as a family on making heath a priority.
Each family will need to decide for themselves just what this should mean for them. Being forced to give up their favorite foods can feel too much like punishment for children who feel fine now and don’t fully understand why they can’t just eat what they want.
The 'Try a Little of Everything' Rule
A good rule to have is that everyone must at least try some of everything at dinner. Make sure that there is a variety of brightly colored foods on the table at each meal and remember that tastes are developed with repetition. Our goal is to gently help our children to develop a lifetime of good eating habits while acknowledging that some flavors take a little getting used to and not make it such a battle that they grow resentful and end up making bad decisions when they are out in the real world cooking for themselves.
Talk About Food
As a parent it is important to model healthy eating choices to your children in a positive light. Relish in the rich and changing variety of flavors and textures available throughout the year. Talk about how fresh and delicious these foods are and how good you feel when you eat them.
Get kids involved in the kitchen and in the grocery store selecting their favorite fruits and vegetables and preparing simple snacks. To make things easier, keep a variety healthy choices available at all times and right where a child can reach them like sliced vegetables and rice cakes with a healthy dipping sauce or spread. In our home we have a policy where the children can help themselves to a carrot anytime they want, so I keep the bottom crisper drawer filled with bite sized ones. They’re unlikely to stuff themselves on carrots alone but this trick really comes in handy while I’m busy getting dinner ready.
If possible, each child should also have their own water bottle ready to drink from whenever they are thirsty. Children want to feel independent and by empowering my own with some age appropriate choices and tools I’ve found that they are much more enthusiastic about eating healthy.
Keep it Simple
Simple is best when it comes to feeding children. While as adults we may crave spicy and pungent dishes these tastes are often just too much for little palettes. A basic meal of baked or pan cooked wild fish with rice, salad, and a dipping sauce on the side is usually a safe pick and offers something for everyone in the family.
If cooked vegetables are too yucky for your little one, lightly cooked or raw ones may be preferred. You could even mix a little finely chopped or pureed veggies into other dishes for a nutrient boost. This is a great way to use up some of the extra pulp from your daily raw juices!
Supplements for Children
Daily supplements don’t need to be complicated for healthy children. A regular children’s daily multivitamin is a good place to start, perhaps with an additional children’s vitamin D supplement up to 1000 mg day total if cleared with their pediatrician. It is important to note that most adult vitamin D supplements contain much more than is safe for children can be potentially toxic if taken in excess.
Insuring that children eat a diet rich in healthy fats is very important as the brain is still developing throughout childhood and adolescence. Try adding chia and flaxseeds to homemade granola and gluten free baked goods or mix flax oil and greens powder in with fruit filled breakfast smoothies for a quick and nutritious meal on the go.
Fresh air and exercise in nature are also important for children’s heath and development, and lots of fun too! Sunlight is a great natural source of vitamin D so spend time outside everyday if the weather is good.
Life needs more playtime! In his book “Last Child in the Woods” Richard Louv discusses his theory of Nature Deficit Disorder and how it is effecting children today. Children just aren’t getting the outside playtime that they used to and we don’t fully know what the implications may be. Try to find ways to reduce the pressures and over-scheduled, structured pace of modern life and allow time for children to relax and discover the world around them.
Being a child is hard work, especially when Mom isn’t feeling well. Even the youngest ones can be effected by the turbulence of MS so it is vital to make stress relief a priority for the whole family.
Instilling Good Habits
While we can never know what the future may bring for our children, making the MS diet part of daily life can be good for the whole family’s wellbeing and lays the groundwork for a lifetime of healthy choices.
Summing it Up
Gracie, what you have shared with us is invaluable. Thank you for taking the time and effort to help us with this immensely important task. Correctly nourishing our children can be a difficult task, one requiring creativity and perseverance! It is definitely a work in progress and the more you expose your children to healthy eating, the quicker they will start enjoying it. It is important to educate them from a young age so that they know what makes them feel great and what doesn't. They need to be empowered to make the right choices because you won't always be there to police what they eat. Even if you don't have your own children, you can help others with this task. One idea, when visiting children, is to bring treats of yummy strawberries instead of the usual chocolates and sweets.
If you have any ideas, on this topic that will help others, please feel free to share away! We would love to get your feedback and benefit from your experience and creativity.
Have a happy, healthy day!