All the tips and guidance you need when figuring out how to raise healthy children and to help your kids THRIVE. All moms want the best for their kids- and that means keeping them healthy. If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to general health for your kids, you’re in the right place. This guide will help walk you through the biggest adjustments and areas you can control when it comes to raising healthy kids
This blog post contains everything you need to consider when trying to figure out how to raise healthy children. What you have in store:
- Healthy food for kids
- Physical activity for kids
- Fun activities for kids
- How to boost kids immune system
When it comes to healthy food for kids, most moms that I chat with are either confused or struggling with getting their kids to eat what they know is healthy.
And mamas, let me tell you that healthy food for kids is easily the HARDEST (and unfortunately the most important) aspect of raising healthy kids.
Food is our building blocks. Food helps kids thrive or can hinder them. And most foods that we think are healthy are unfortunately not.
Why Reducing Sugar Is Part Of How To Raise Healthy Children
Sugar is probably the worst offender when it comes to healthy food for kids because it seems that it is literally in everything.
And of course, sugar doesn’t really help us grow. Instead it:
- Can gum up our proteins and make it hard for our bodies to do their jobs
- Sugar inhibits focus in children
- It messes with hormone regulation which can lead to weight gain
- Sugar alters kids taste buds
- It can cause inflammation in joints
- It can cause skin issues
To be perfectly honest, there is A LOT that’s wrong with sugar and unfortunately, it’s far too over-marketed to children (here’s a few tips to reduce your sugar intake)
When kids are really little is the best time to form their taste buds- which means keep sugar to a minimum. If you start them off with healthy, whole foods, their palate will adjust to that.
But no kid wants to eat broccoli after munching down on donuts.
And before we go into how to reduce sugar, know that sugar has many different names:
- Corn syrup
- Cane juice
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Barley malt
And those are just the common ones. If your goal is raising healthy kids, you need to make reducing sugar a priority.
How to reduce sugar
When it comes to how to raise healthy children, learning to reduce sugar in kids is critical, there’s a lot of healthy swaps you can make.
Obviously, making your own meals is the biggest thing you can do to reduce sugar because then you know how much you’ve added.
While I definitely still use sugar, my goal is to make it as natural as possible. Which means I like to use:
But I definitely still use maple syrup, raw honey, and brown rice syrup sometimes too. I just control the amount. I even went as far as rocking an awesome sugar-free, dairy-free smash cake and cupcake for the girls' first birthdays!
As I mentioned, a lot of the sugar kids consume is in everyday items that we find convenient. Below are some simple ways on how to reduce sugar:
- Eliminate juice boxes (here’s why my girls don’t drink juice boxes and what they get instead)
- Stop buying pre-made yogurt (cups, squeeze tubes etc), buy plain and add your own fruit
- Swap cereals to a more natural one (or use homemade granola)
- Ease off on store-bought granola bars
- Reduce or make your own treats
Kids don’t go out and buy their own food- we do. If we want kids to eat healthy nourishing things, we’re going to have a bit of work.
Breaking the sugar habit is hard, very hard. For both adults and kids. But it’s also one of the biggest things we can control in relation to health. so, it’s worth it.
Breakfast for kids
Perhaps the hardest area to control with food is breakfast for kids!
Mornings are rushed as everyone is getting ready and kids get picky. It’s far easier to grab some cereal and get it done.
However, breakfast is literally breaking a fast. Your body has been given time to reset, to regulate, to grow and to build. What it needs is fuel to support that.
On top of that, a poor-quality breakfast will only cause kids to have trouble focusing on morning schoolwork. Since sugar causes a big blood sugar spike, all that happens is a big energy rush, a crash, and more hunger.
What kids need first thing is balanced, nutrient-dense foods to keep them full. In other words, when it comes to breakfast for kids you should avoid:
- Store-bought muffins
We use a lot of make-ahead breakfasts to keep life simple. But below are a few of our favorite breakfast options:
- Overnight oats
- Eggs and fruit
- Eggs and avocado toast
- Homemade muffins with fruit
- Yogurt parfait
- Chia pudding
Basically, you’re looking to consume a healthy fat or protein to balance out the energy rush, keep kids full, and help them focus. Foods high in healthy fats especially get the brain fired up as that’s it’s the greatest source of fuel.
If you need some more ideas, these are our favorite breakfast recipes for toddlers.
How To Raise Healthy Children - Healthy Snacks For Kids
Snacks are another area that many moms struggle with. For the record, toddlers snack a lot. Like an alarming amount. Which means you need like a zillion snacks per day.
And since kids are always on the move, it means that having healthy snacks for kids to both fuels and keep fill is important.
A piece of fruit is awesome, but it won’t keep kids full for longer than a few minutes.
Instead, choose snacks that are healthy, whole-food-based, and contain a protein or healthy fat. Kids need a good amount of healthy fats in their diet to help brain development so they’re normally a pretty good choice.
Kids also need more calories per pound of bodyweight than adults (not more calories in total just more per pound) and fats tend to be calorie-dense.
What kids do not need is a low nutrient, processed food used as filler. Cheerios are quick but they’re not an actual food group.
When we opt for lower quality processed foods during the day kids:
- Have reduced energy
- Have trouble focusing
- Can gain unnecessary weight
- Go from 10 to 100 and then crash again
- Can have poor physical performance
When it comes to healthy snacks for kids, food literally is their fuel. This means as moms learning how to raise healthy children, we should be choosing quality snacks most of the time.
Here are some of the common snacks I recommend to expecting mamas and use for kids my kids also. But I’d have to say that our staples are:
- Veggies & Hummus/Guacamole
- Fruit & Nuts (or nut butters)
- Energy balls
- Granola bars
- Muffins & Fruit/Veg
- Yogurt & Berries With Flax
- Fruit & Avocado
Healthy School Snacks
Choosing healthy school snacks for kids can be a tricky task. Not only are you not there to reinforce what they should eat, but there’s variety about the kid's lunches too.
This has been my biggest struggle with school. I adore packing lunches but I’m waiting for the day when my kids come home asking for fruit rollups. Here are a few ways I’ve been using to get around this:
- Talk to your kids about food! Explain what healthy food is and why we chose it. This is one of the most important points when helping kids eat healthy
- Let them help you make their lunch
- Make healthy variations of popular treats (pudding, cookies etc)
In Canada, all of our schools are completely nut-free. This can be uber tricky for a healthy mama like me because we rely on nut flours, nut butters and sometimes nut milk as healthy options. So, here’s a few swaps to still choose healthy school snacks:
- Use sunbutter in place of peanut or almond butter
- Opt for unsweetened hemp, oat or chickpea in recipes
- Use seeds more than nuts
Most of the time you can make nut-free variations of your classic recipes by using these healthy swaps. One of our new favorite healthy school snacks is this crunchy granola I whipped up. Still LOADED with healthy fats and ingredients but nut-free.
Since kids spend 60% of their time at school, it’s not something you can ignore. Those habits still count. It may take some planning but coming up with healthy school snacks is possible.
We literally rotate through 5 of our favorites each week and it works (overnight oats, chia pudding, energy balls, bars, fruit, and avocado).
The biggest complaint I hear from moms is of course about kid-friendly veggies! Well, more so about their kids not eating any veggies. At all.
So first off, let’s touch on the fact that yes, veggies are important (very!). But it doesn’t mean your kid is unhealthy if they don’t eat veggies “when they’re supposed to”. If your toddler doesn’t eat their broccoli at dinner but had a bunch of veggies at lunch- it’s a win.
Kid's bodies regulate just like ours so, sometimes, they do know what’s best.
However, if your kid is eating little to no veggies there’s an issue.
The first thing I always tell my mamas is that taste buds are formed early. Get them used to eating vegetables a variety of different ways and push back sugar and processed foods as long as possible.
No one, not even you, if going to binge on broccoli after just having donuts. Stop with the sugar. It’s one thing most moms hate hearing but the earlier and the more frequently you give kids processed foods the more they’ll want them and the less they’ll want real food staples.
Tips To Get Your Kids To Eat More Veggies
- Let your kids help choose which ones they want for dinner or at the grocery store
- Learn to sneak veggies in everywhere
- Rock smoothies with toddlers
- Stop making veggies gross
Somehow, we think that placing the steamed broccoli or Brussels Spouts in front of our kids will make them eat them. It won’t.
Steamed, plain veggies don’t taste good, so why in the eff would kids want them when you can barely get them down?!
Instead, make vegetables practical by giving kids something to dip into (hummus, bean dip, guac), roasting them (we love sheet pan roasted veggies or candied brussels sprouts), or generally making them not gross.
Likewise, use common favorites (like these AMAZING morning glory muffins) to get in a few more veggies each day. Every little bit matters.
How To Raise Healthy Children - Physical Activity For Kids
Just like adults, our kids have gotten a bit lazy. It’s not anyone’s fault specifically, it’s just how our society has adapted. We do more of nothing and less playing.
Unfortunately, our bodies were not designed this way and it’s causing issues as adults.
I can’t stress this enough: we were made to move
And yet kids are playing less and less it seems every year. We have screens and online groups and half of our learning is now done on technological surfaces. We’ve forgotten how important movement is.
Benefits Of Physical Activity For Kids
Most of the benefits of physical activities for kids are the same as adults:
- Weight regulation
- Better heart health
- Less risk of disease
- Strengthens the organs
There are all sorts of physical benefits. But, there’s also a lot of other benefits of physical activity for kids:
- Less stress and better all-around wellbeing
- Kids learn through play
- Helps develop cognitive skills (children who are physically active actually tend to score better on school tests)
- Helps them focus when it IS time to sit and learn
- Better self-esteem
And personally, I find we’ve been taking a lot of that away from them. School is no longer play-based, at home we have screens when it rains, we watch movies (no judgment, the Disney Channel is my lifesaver haha). Us mamas need to move more and so do our kids.
The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines state that by age five our kids should be getting 60 minutes of energetic play.
Toddlers should accumulate 180 minutes throughout the day.
Our kids when they’re young start off moving like crazy and often as they age, they move less. We need to change that if we're figuring out how to raise healthy children.
Ideas For Physical Activity For Kids
When it comes to raising healthy kids, we need to make sure our kids are moving. In that first year, much of that comes from tummy time, learning to crawl and walk, and practicing basic movements over and over.
For toddlers, keeping them going with:
- Outdoor play at parks
- Stair climbing
- Bike or scooter riding
In my experience, toddlers do best by being silly. Let them move in an unstructured way and give them lots of opportunities. Drag them outside and play silly games. Don’t be too rigid, just MOVE.
As our kids get older some great ideas are:
- Joining a sports team
- Biking, walking or running to school
- Making playdates physical
- Go for hikes/forest walks
Instead of having their friends come over to play video games, make play dates at parks. Go for family bike rides. Play tag.
Remember, kids, learn from movement. It’s just as important as learning all the technical stuff. And it definitely doesn’t have to be structured, but it does have to happen- a lot.
How To Raise Healthy Children - Fun Activities For Kids
How to raise healthy children is about more than structure- it’s about fun too! And in my experience having fun activities for kids on hand is better than any structured play.
That said, I most definitely am not a “crafty mom” which means my fun activities are often very different than that of my girlfriends.
Activities For Toddlers
With my first babe, thinking of activities for her was overwhelming when we were inside. I thought we needed to have far more structure and planning. What I’ve learned since then is that activities for toddlers are best when they’re simple.
Don’t overcomplicate anything, just have fun. Below are a few of my favorite indoor activities for toddlers.
Some are silly, some are creative, and others are just plain random. But raising healthy kids isn’t about perfection, it’s about learning and playing. So, don’t stress mama.
- Tinfoil boats (make boats out of tinfoil and float them in the bath)
- Pillow forts
- Stacking EVERYTHING- let your toddler learn to stack cups, different shapes etc
- Straw necklaces- use paper straws and string them together
- Sock puppets
- Moving water, snow or ice from one bowl to another with different tools
Remember, when it comes to activities for toddlers, don’t overcomplicate it (these activities for 14-month-olds are super simple). Keep it simple, let them be silly and everyone will have better days.
Outdoor Activities For Kids
Outdoor activities for kids are easily my favorite. I love being outside and just find life so much easier when we can get out. Plus, getting kids outside (yes, even in the cold) comes with a host of health benefits.
- Getting outside boosts the immune system
- It improves mood
- Being outdoors burns more energy
- It helps the body regulate
But sometimes, mamas get stuck with what to DO with our kids outside. We live in Canada, but we make it a point to play outside every single day regardless of the season. Here’s a list of our favorite spring activities for toddlers as well as what to do with toddlers in the summer.
And obviously, when it comes to outdoor activities for kids you can rock the basics (the park, splash pad, biking etc). but below are a few other useful staples we rock in the warmer season.
- Feed the ducks (oats not bread!!!)
- Scavenger hunts in your yard (have them find one rock, one red leaf etc)
- Hula Hoops (umping through them or as a bean bag toss)
- Freeze Tag
- Saving the worms
Getting kids outside gets them moving naturally but it can also stimulate their creative side. Again, kids learn through play so little games like scavenger hunts are a great way to chat about nature!
How To Raise Healthy Children - How To Boost Kids Immune System
When it comes to keeping kids healthy, learning different ways of keeping their immune system high is crucial.
According to my doctor, kids age 5 and under have a “cough” and “runny nose” 6-10 months out of the year- that’s the majority of the year!
This is insane to me and that’s partially why I do everything I can to boost my kids immune system with the tips below
Quality food is the easiest way to boost the kid's immune systems. And the bonus is that as moms, we have so many opportunities to feed our kids! Some big ways to boost the immune system through food are:
- Reducing Sugar
- Loading up on colorful veggies and fruits
- Using probiotics
- Rocking fermented products
- Bone broth
Most of the items on the list above should be common sense. Ensuring kids' systems have the tools they need to fight bacteria is the best course of action to boosting the immune system.
And since sugar tends to gum everything up (especially the protein enzymes which help to transport everything) keeping sugar to a minimum is a big step.
Your immune system stems from your gut! If you’ve never read The GAPS Diet, it’s my biggest suggestion. I learned a crazy amount from that book on what gut bacteria can actually. Do.
One of the ways to help out our gut flora is with probiotics (this is the probiotics brand I use) which basically help replenish all the good bacteria.
The other way to boost your good bacteria is to consume fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, etc). this can be tricky when it comes to actually get kids to eat them which is why sometimes the pro-biotics are easier.
Bone broth. Bone broth is one of the main foods I think all littles should be consuming. It’s loaded with collagen which the gut lining loves. If the bone broth is a bit much for you to make on a regular basis (hello... busy moms!), Perfect Supplements has a bone broth powder that I keep on hand for when I'm in a pinch.
Let Kids Get Dirty
Another way to keep immune systems high is actually to let kids play in dirt! Getting them used to the soil, the pollen and their natural element early will help kids develop better immunity to the bacteria they encounter.
Basically, once they are exposed to it the body begins to develop anti-bodies against anything “bad”. And so, letting your kids play in the dirt is actually awesome.
On the flip side, constantly sanitizing them is not. Using sanitizer all the time doesn’t allow our bodies to build up a resistance to any pathogens and thus hinders our immune system.
There’s actually a whole book on this subject: Let Them Eat Dirt.
And there you are! The pillars of raising healthy kids. As a busy mom, it can be tricky to nail them all down but remember- every little bit counts. Raising healthy kids doesn’t contain any mind-blowing tips, the truth is it’s getting back to basics that does the trick.
And sometimes, it's better to STOP doing than it is to try and rock perfection.
So, eat quality food, play a lot (outside!) and generally let kids be kids… but more so like the kids of fifty years ago haha Basically, do everything your grandma told you?
Don’t forget to pin these tips for moms on how to raise healthy children!