Importance of Movement in Kids

In 1999 a teacher named Phil Lawler in Naperville, Illinois read an article that stated the health of US children was declining due to inactivity. Looking inside the school gym he saw a lot of kids that were in fact inactive. He decided to shift the focus of the ph

ysical Education class to cardiovascular fitness. Once a week students had to run a mile. Assessments were based on effort and reaching personal bests rather than skill. Non-athletes were allowed to train on bikes. He also brought in heart rate monitors to ensure the students were pushing themselves. “Your goal is to run your fastest mile…your average heart rate should be above 185.”

While this improved their performance within the school (lessons were re-shuffled to ensure those that required the most concentration were at the beginning of the day), since 1999 it has also made a huge impact on their results internationally. Academically this school performs way above any others in the area. In 1999 the 8th graders scored 1st in the world in science and 6th in the world in Maths. US schools as a whole ranked 18th in science and 19th in maths, with some areas scoring last in the world.

 

How does exercise improve learning and brain function?

Exercise encourages our brain to work at its optimum level, it causes nerve cells to multiply, connections between nerves are strengthened and they are also protected from damage. We get more oxygen and blood flow to the brain and a release of endorphins which are happy hormones that reduce stress and improve our mood.

In children, exercise has been shown to reduce restlessness and hyperactivity, decrease symptoms of ADHD, improve moods and immunity, and it also improves sleep which further enhances all the other benefits listed. It has also been shown to increase energy levels. Imagine if your child began the day with more energy, a better mood and was more settled. Imagine how much better their ability to learning would be.

Movement particularly from birth to 3.5 years is essential for laying down appropriate pathways for learning and development. It is how the brain learns to relate to the world around it. Movement develops optimal posture, eye movement and control through balance and co-ordination, better reading and better fine motor control which is crucial for handwriting.

 

How to get kids moving

  • Walking or riding a bike to school. Even if you live too far away to walk/ride the whole way, park a little distance from school and walk/ride the remainder
  • If there is time to watch TV in the morning, there is time to send the kids outside in the backyard. Bike riding, jumping on the trampoline, running around, kicking the footy, whatever it may be
  • Get to school early and play on the playground before going into class
  • Give them goals
    • “See how long it will take you to run around the backyard” and time them while you’re getting yourself ready. Then do it a second time and see if they can beat their time
    • “Go outside and see if you can get 10 goals” or “See how many goals you can get in a row” (Basketball, soccer, football)
  • Organise friends to walk/ride with before or to school
  • Ask them what activities they like and incorporate these into the daily or weekly routine
  • Get the family up 20 minutes earlier to ensure there is a little more time before school

While exercise in the morning is the best time for learning, any time is better than not at all. Even after school limiting screen time is so important for many reasons besides getting the body moving more.

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Macronutrients for Kids

MacronutrientsNutrients are foods that we need for energy, growth and bodily functions. ‘Macro’ means large, so ‘macronutrients’ are needed in large amounts in our body. ‘Micro‘ means small. Micronutrients are required in small amounts in our body and they include vitamins and minerals.

Macronutrients include:

  • Protein
  • Fat
  • Carbohydrate

There are ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ types of each of these groups.

Many children are missing out on the protein and fat groups, particularly at breakfast time. Throughout the day they are also consuming more of the ‘unhealthy’ types than ‘healthy’ types, particularly when it comes to fat.

Protein…

…is essential for growing children. It is used for muscles, tendons, organs, skin, hormones, enzymes and neurotransmitters (brain chemicals). With the running around, focusing and thinking, communicating and learning children do at school, adequate protein is hugely important to optimise their school performance. Increasing protein at breakfast time and in their lunchboxes is critical. The usual breakfast of cereal or toast, followed up by some fruit, then a vegemite sandwich at lunch won’t contain near sufficient protein for your child’s learning capabilities. Adding an egg to breakfast, some seeds (nuts when outside of school) or a container of dip such as hummus will make sure they start the day right. Eggs are a perfect snack and can be eaten whole, or made into patties, muffins or quiches that are bite size and perfect for lunch boxes.

Fat…

…is an essential macronutrient for brain and nervous system development. The types of fats that are in snack are foods are trans-fats or hydrogenated fats. These are the ‘unhealthy’ fats and can be found in biscuits (sweet and savoury!), snack foods, store bought cakes and muffins, chips, margarine, salad dressings,  and in high amounts in take away foods. Trans fats increase our risk of high cholesterol and heart disease, which many mistakenly believe doesn’t matter in kids as “they’re still young”. But with the rates of obesity rising, heart disease in children is also increasing. “Healthy” fats are generally unprocessed. Olive oil, coconut oil, oil from fish and plants such as avocado are all good for you.

Carbohydrates…

…are also best consumed in their most unprocessed form. The best type of carbs? Vegetables! 🙂 The worst type? Sugar 🙁  Processed cereals such as Nutri-grain, Coco-pops and Froot-loops, which are popular with the kids are extremely processed, contain large amount of sugar and minimal protein and fat. While Weet-bix is lower in the sugar count, it is unfortunately also unbalanced in macronutrient status. Mueslis containing nuts and seeds, eggs and wholemeal toast with toppings higher in fat and protein are much better alternatives at breakfast time.

Give it a try!

It does take some experimenting and trial and error due to the fussy nature of some children. But the long term health benefits and good habits beginning early most definitely do pay off. Not just in health but behaviour, academic performance and emotional stability.

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Child and Maternal Health Month Wrap-up

Empower Nuture Nourish

Due to an influx of pregnant patients (we have had 7 patients give birth in 2 months!!) I was inspired to dedicate a month of information sessions aimed to educate and empower parents to give their children the best start to life. After setting this intention, things fell into place. 3 speakers just about fell in my lap, so planning began for Santosha’s Child and Maternal Health Month in Feburary. Each speaker focussed on a different aspect of children’s and family health. We covered birth, breastfeeding, maternal mental health, childhood development and raising a healthy family through diet and nutrition. The information was really well-received and we had some great feedback.

The month started off with Louise McCartney. She covered many aspects of 20th century health from why our diets are making us sick, to things to avoid and why ‘gut health’ is so important. We were at capacity for Louise’s talk and I am still investigating the possibility of her coming back for a second presentation. Some feedback from the presentation:

“Louise is extremely informative, providing information that is hard to access in mainstream medicine.”
“Very informative.”
“I have heard Louise speak 4 times now and every time I attend one of her sessions I learn something new or remember the importance of something.”

Louise McCartney

 

Our second speaker was Rebecca Kubenk, a lactation consultant and expert on Tongue-ties, speaking about breastfeeding and tongue-tie. This was information that is hard to find! Rebecca is extremely knowledgable on these topics and those who came went away with a sense of empowerment.

“Having had 2 children with ties, I learn something every time i talk to Rebecca. I wish I knew when my kids were babies, what i know now.”

On the same weekend Sarah Menadue from RDGP spoke to the mums about mental health particularly around having a new baby. She shared information about where to turn to in times of need and different services available in the Riverland.

Sarah Menadue

 

Anna Siebert, an Adelaide based doula (see her blog post 8 things you might not know about doulas). Anna spoke about all things birth, particuarly things you may not hear in your traditional birthing class. She covered a history of birthing practices, why we do what we do and how to have your best birth (yes! it can be enjoyable). We received a lot of verbal feedback (nothing in writing) but the general consensus was that Anna’s knowledge was extremely empowering and those who attended felt more prepared for their upcoming birth and labour.

Anna Siebert

The last weekend in February I presented to a small group on “Optimising Learning and Development”. Discussion was focussed on the normal milestones of development from infancy to childhood and why each of those are so important. I also explained what may impact these normal stages and how to prevent this from happening in children. This presentation was aimed at parents, but is extremely important information for any care-giver or teacher. Some feedback received:

“Catherine spoke very well and made us feel comfortable enough to ask questions and comment.”
“I found it very informative.”

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Chocolate Smoothie

Chocolate Smoothie


This chocolate smoothie, packed full of goodness went down really well with the kids. I saw a few sneaking back for a second serve. The first time I tried it was in the Thermomix. I made the full amount and it came out to over a litre of smoothie, so it will need to be scaled down if you’re not feeding a family. The second time I tried it, I did scale it down and used the Magic Bullet, not the thermie. It took a long time to blend and even then there were chunks of dates and some ice. The Thermomix is second to none when it comes to processing something as hard as ice, but it can be done if you’re patient and don’t mind chunks. Obviously I would recommend the Thermomix for all it’s other functions. If you’re interested in taking a look at the Thermomix and perhaps even hosting a no-obligation demo, send us an email and we’ll pass on Larissa’s details.

What you need:

  • 5 Medjool dates
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 200g ice
  • 30g raw cacao powder
  • 200g frozen banana (about 2)
  • 200g avocado (about 2)
  • 120g baby spinach (this is a lot of baby spinach, but it blends down)
  • 600g water or coconut water
  • 100g activated almonds (if you don’t have activated, soak them overnight in filtered water)

What to do:

  1. Process the almonds, chia seeds and dates
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth
  3. Serve with a thick straw, this is a thick smoothie

Tips:

Larissa tells me ice breaks everything up and makes it smoother. I’m going to start doing this is more of my smoothies.

Bananas are apparently easier to digest once they’ve been frozen. I always have frozen bananas in my freezer. Once they start to turn a little bit black, peel them, pop them in a ziplock bag and they’ll always be ready.

Coconut water has a lot of sugar, natural sugar, but it’s still sweet. If your after a bit of sweetness use all coconut water, but gradually swap out the coconut for filtered water.

 

This recipe comes from Jo Whitton’s Quirky Cooking, a brilliant book to accompany your Thermomix. See more on her website.

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Gelatin Treats

Grass Fed Gelatin Snacks

Most kids love jelly. But most jelly is the aeroplane sort. Full of sugar, colours and ‘numbers’.

Grass Fed gelatin offers an easy and healthy alternative. There are so many different variations of gelatin treats. The options are literally endless. I’ve seen all sorts of juices, coconut milk, almond milk, coffee, ginger, fruit, whatever you can imagine. Use moulds, cut them in squares, store in jars and eat with a spoon, however you please.

It’s definitely not just for the kids! It makes a great high-protein, healthy snack for all ages.

Begin with:

  • 1 tbsp gelatin powder
  • 1 cup liquid

At the Santosha 1st Birthday, Amy supplied us with two flavours made with:

  • Charlie’s Spirulina Whole Fruit Smoothie
  • Nudie Apple Juice

You can use more or less liquid depending on the consistency you’re after.

Why consume gelatin?

Gelatin is almost all protein, which means it makes a great, energy boosting snack. It is the richest food source of the amino acid glycine, which is particularly important for your health.

Gelatin is derived from collagen, which is the most abundant protein in the human body. It is found in skin, bones, tendons and muscles. Therefore collagen can help to improve skin (bye bye wrinkles!), strengthen bones and increase lean muscle mass. Collagen is found in the parts of animals we don’t often consume, like the cartilage and bones. Bone broth is a great way to extract the goodness out of these parts (see post on bone broth), but thankfully we can also easily access these nutrients in gelatin or collagen powders.

Santosha is now stocking Vital Collagen products including Beef Gelatin (don’t worry, it doesn’t taste like beef) and Collagen Peptides.

Grass Fed Girl’s Easy Paleo Gelatin Treats contains many more recipes: Click here to view more details

 

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Thermomix Play Dough

Home made Playdough

Home-made play dough is reasonably simple to make. Its a great alternative to store bought play dough as you know what’s in it, it’s all natural and a much cheaper option.

This recipe can also be adapted for stove-top.

What you need

  • 250g water
  • 100g salt
  • 1 tbsp cream of tartar
  • 250g plain flour
  • 20g olive oil
  • Natural food colouring of choice

What to do

  1. Place water, salt and cream of tartar into mixing bowl and heat 5 min/60°c/speed 3
  2. Add flour and oil and mix 40 sec/speed 4, then knead 1 min
  3. Divide dough into 3 equal portions, then line work surface with baking paper to avoid staining. Working 1 portion at a time, add a few drops of food colouring and kneed through dough. Adjust food colouring as required to create desired shade.
  4. Store each colour in a separate sealable container to keep play dough from hardening.

Tips

Food colouring may colour hands. Wearing rubber gloves while making your play dough will prevent staining

To create more colours, simply divide your play dough into as many equal portions as you like in step 3 and proceed as per recipe.

 

Recipe courtesy of Thermomix

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Santosha’s 1st Birthday Kid’s Party Wrap-up

Photos from Santosha's 1st Birthday

We were blessed with a beautiful Spring day, 27 degrees with a slight breeze, to celebrate one year of Santosha Health and Wellbeing Centre.

The purpose of the celebration (besides the milestone) was to throw a kids party and demonstrate that it doesn’t have to be all fairy bread and lolly bags. We wanted to create a party to present to parents and kids, that foods with a healthy twist can be yummy and there are many fun activities that are also educational. We were nourishing little minds and little bodies all under the guise of a party with balloons, cupcakes and bunting!

Fitting with the philosophies of Santosha, Health Living, Optimal Living, Sustainable Living, there was an emphasis on promoting businesses, particularly local, who also fit under these themes. We invited local businesses to participate by including their information in our goodie bags and if possible a take home sample. The result was amazing! We had home-made playdough, tomato plants, honey, body scrubs, apples, fish oil tablets and much more!

The celebrations started by congregating the children with Megan and then playing a game to organise them into youngest to eldest. After dividing the group into three based on age, the activities began.

Suzanne from Art Play by Zuska lead an art activity where everyone was encouraged to choose colours with their eyes closed based on how they felt. They were encouraged to not just draw with the materials on hand, but to run their fingers over the page and replace thinking about the drawing with feeling the drawing. This kind of activity allows children to create art not based on what ‘looks good’ but more an expression of themselves. Suzanne believes that art is beautiful and avoids encouragement based on how it appears, but rather how it felt while creating it. Children and adults alike LOVED this activity so much that Suzanne had actually run out of paper by the end of the party!

Larissa was demonstrating some simple recipes with the Thermomix. She started with the older children’s group and whipped up a delicious strawberry sorbet which was devoured by everyone there. Next she proved that healthy can be yummy by blending a chocolate and green smoothie. I witnessed many kids sneaking back for another cup. The nutella was also a hit with most.

The unfortunate thing about foods that we eat today is that anything processed generally has a lot of added sugar, whether its a ‘sweet’ food or not. This leaves many taste buds and palates narrowed to just sweet tasting food. Anything outside of this just will not taste good. This is not the time nor the place for a discussion on sugar and its impact on our health, only to say that it is a big problem and slowly but persistently swaying children away from the processed and store-bought foods, to home made varieties where you can control the ingredients and sugar levels will benefit them in the long term, in more ways than most people can imagine!

Megan, operating as her business “me. The Mindful Mother” held a very popular mindfulness and mediation class for all three groups. Speaking to a few parents after they had been in Megan’s room, they were pleasantly surprised at their children’s participation and ability to sit and be ‘mindful’, even the very young ones. In our busy, crazy, noisy world, learning to just sit and be is such an important skills for children to learn.

While all of this was happening, Georgia from Wellness Pilates and Massage generously gave a few lucky parents a seated massage.  Those I had the opportunity to speak to after their session were extremely pleased, very relaxed but all commented that they “had a few sore bits”.

Although the schedule of activities was a little lost by the end of the day, this allowed the children and their parents to gravitate towards areas that interested them. It was also a great opportunity to chat with like-minded people and also of course enjoy the sunshine.

The gluten-free cupcakes in chocolate and vanilla were gobbled up early. As were the Bliss Balls made with activated almonds and walnuts, kindly made and donated by Riverland Activated Nuts. It wasn’t until the very end that we realised we had forgotten to bring out the jelly! So those left had a special opportunity to taste test some home-made jelly cleverly made by Amy.

After months of planning, the day turned out well. We hope those who came along had a great day, enjoyed the activities and hopefully also learned something along the way.

Thanks to the following people for contributing on the day:

  • Amy Martinson for helping me plan and brainstorm ideas, help with recipes and keep me on track
  • Josh Kenyon, my husband and maintenance man, for cleaning up around the clinic, weeding, fixing, sweeping and bringing me food and everything I forget
  • Trisha Langford, AKA Mum, for baking the cakes while on nightshift, making the bliss balls, donating Riverland Activated Nuts to the goodie bags and forever doing my dishes
  • Megan Petersen for helping plan, put together the goodie bags and holding the Yoga and Mindfulness activity
  • Jemma Smith for ideas, organising goodie bag contents and setting up on the day
  • Suzanne Macphersen for bringing her unique art class
  • Larissa for the thermomix demonstration and patience while we tried to choose recipes
  • Georgia Tsanavaras for dedicating some of her day to massage
  • Tammy Spinks for taking photos on the day
  • Maarten Smits for beginning to help with balloons and for taking photos on the day
  • Diana Van Meel for blowing up and hanging balloons
  • Everyone who brought their kids along
  • Everyone who helped clean up
  • Anyone I have forgotten (I do apologise)
  • And lastly, all the businesses that contributed to our goodie bags which were filled to the brim. Please support these businesses where you can:
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Banana, Coconut and Lime Ice Cream

Banana Coconut Lime Ice Cream

What you’ll need:

  • 3 frozen bananas
  • 6 tablespoons coconut cream
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Juice and zest of half a lime
  • Toasted coconut

Peel and freeze 3 bananas at least one day before.

Measure 6 tablespoons of coconut cream and freeze for about 30-60 minutes before you intend on mixing the ice-cream. I have learned that my ice cube trays are kindly 1 tablespoon in each cube, just in case you have the same ones. Also handy for freezing lemon juice for when lemons go out of season. I digress.

Add banana, coconut cream, cinnamon, lime juice and zest into a food processor.

Blend until smooth.

Serve into four bowls.

Garnish with toasted coconut.

This recipe originally came from Alexx Stuart from http://alexxstuart.com/ I have made various versions of this recipe but have stripped it back to basics here. If you are looking for many more delicious real food recipes, I definitely recommend Alexx’s wesbite!

The coconut cream will help with the metabolism of sugar by slowing down the process so you don’t get the sugar highs and lows (even though there is only minimal sugar in the banana in this recipe.)

The cinnamon will do the same.

Some people report being able to digest frozen bananas, better than fresh ones. I always freeze my bananas before adding them to my smoothies, except when I forget to. Then I don’t.

Toasted coconut is a great thing to have ready in the pantry. I used shredded coconut in my picture above, but you can also use coconut flakes. Lay the coconut flakes/shreds on a baking tray. Turn the oven onto grill. DON’T LEAVE the kitchen. I did once. Then I saw some towels that needed putting in the laundry. Then I saw there was a load of washing that needed to be folded. Then I smelt smoke as I folded the washing. My coconut was on fire! In my brand new oven. I repeat. Do NOT leave the kitchen while toasting coconut. Anyway, you may need to take it out and toss it around a bit while it is toasting. Toast (but don’t leave the kitchen) until your level of coconutty goldeness is reached. Wait until it has all cooled, place in an airtight container and store in the pantry.

The toasted flakes can be used as a garnish for ice creams, other desserts, stir fries, other Asian dishes and much more. I also eat them straight from the container as a snack.

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