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Along come the holidays and often a host of different illnesses along with them. When my children were young it seemed someone was always ill over Christmas or New Years or both. I used to blame it on being indoors in close quarters with exposure to many people and figured it was inevitable. I wish I had known then what I know now. In medical school we learned a lot about treating disease but very little about nurturing good health. It’s taken me years of learning “the hard way” to figure out some preventative strategies.  Discover how to keep kids healthy this holiday season!

Impact of the Sweet Tooth on the Immune System

If there’s anything I’ve learned about nutrition, it’s that sugar, in all its forms, wrecks havoc on our immune system. Sugar is hard to avoid during the holidays. Everywhere one goes someone wants to feed us a sweet treat. It’s easy to throw caution to the wind and resolve to go on a diet in the new year.  However, there’s more at stake here than just calories.  All those sugary treats will not help keep kids healthy as they will lower immune resistance and make one more susceptible to colds, flus and other viruses.

Create a Plan to Limit Sweets to Keep Kids Healthy

At home, emphasize healthier treats such fruits, nuts and cheeses.

At parties, head towards the veggie tray and ask for seltzer water with a little lemon or juice for flavor.

Supervise children rather than giving them free run at the buffet. Guide them towards some healthier alternatives to candies and cookies.

When sweet treats are allowed, take them with a handful of nuts or another food high in fats and/or proteins to lower the rise in blood sugar.

Minimize Stress & Retain Your Immune Reserves to Keep Kids Healthy

Stress plays a significant role in lowering our immune reserves impacting our ability to keep kids healthy.   Even “good” stress and excitement can have an effect here.  It pays to keep plans simple, if you can.

Don’t overbook the family. Everyone, children included, needs some down time to just relax. If you absolutely need to, put it on the schedule, but only if you absolutely need to.

Think through your holiday schedule and responsibilities.  Consider ahead of time how things might be simplified.

Do you really need homemade gifts?

Do you really need to serve so many dishes for dinner?

Maintain Health with a Healthy Diet

Just eating a healthy diet makes a big difference for many families and will help keep kids healthy.  By healthy diet, I mean:

Eating plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits,

Staying away from packaged, processed foods with chemical additives, flavorings and dyes

Eating hormone and antibiotic-free meats, poultry and dairy products, and

Getting a variety of healthy fats and oils such as butter, olive oil and coconut oil while avoiding hydrogenated oils and margarines.

Also, include plenty of onions and garlic in the diet both of which support healthy immunity.

Put the Brakes on Recurring Illness with Supplements and Keep Kids Healthy

For some families, the addition of some key daily supplements can help reverse the monthly saga of illnesses and keep kids healthy.  My favorites are cod liver oil and elderberry.

Cod liver oil is rich in omega 3’s, Vitamin A and Vitamin D, all key for optimal immune function.

Elderberry is both anti-viral and immune strengthening.  Studies have documented its efficacy in mitigating the severity of influenza.  It can be safely taken daily as a preventative and increased to three to four times a day during illnesses.

Echinacea can be added during an illness but should not be taken daily.

Encourage Handwashing to Keep Kids Healthy

Last but not least, don’t forget to wash hands frequently and keep those hands away from the face to keep kids healthy.

So, in a nutshell, to ensure that your children return to school after the holiday break free from illness, eat a healthy diet, limit sugar, keep stress to a minimum, add supplements if needed and wash those hands!

Relax and enjoy the holiday season!