Fall has arrived, leaving Daylight Savings behind us. This means fewer hours of daylight and colder weather. Adapting to shorter and darker days can be hard on your family's health.
Ever wonder why the fall and winter are known as cold and flu season? Researchers have discovered that cooler temperatures result in a "sluggish immune response," leaving people more prone to infection. Viruses tend to live longer in colder and drier climates, making it easier to pass from one person to another. The dry, cold air makes you more susceptible to germs because the cold air dries up your nose. Without the helpful mucus that lives in your nose, germs have an easier path into your body.
Your mental health can also be affected by colder weather. Dark days with less sunlight may lead to a gloomy mood and even depression. Have you heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? Millions of Americans suffer from SAD each year, or the "winter blues," resulting in low energy, extreme sadness, and just an overall funk.
We've put together 10 ways to 'Fall Back into Health' to keep you and your family's mental and physical health in check.
1. Start increasing the amount of Vitamin D you consume. Most of the Vitamin D we get comes from the Sun, and with the colder weather arriving, we tend to go outside much less. To make up for less time in the Sun, try eating foods high in Vitamin D, such as fish, milk, and yogurt. A great recipe to try is our Tuna & White Bean Wraps, packed with Vitamin D and many other healthy nutrients that your child is sure to love!
2. Eat immune-boosting foods. Boost your immune system by drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, and eating nutritious foods. One nutrient that sure to help keep our immune system healthy is Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps build white blood cells. White blood cells fight off infections and destroy free radicals in the body. Beta-carotene, Vitamin D, and Zinc also increase immune function. You can check out our blog post with 6 Quick & Easy Snacks to Boost Your Immune System for recipes that your child will have a ton of fun making.
3. Prioritize sleep. When we don't get enough sleep, it can compromise our immune system and harm our overall health. Therefore, ensuring you and your little ones get adequate sleep is essential. In general, toddlers need around 12-16 hours of sleep, children age three to six require 10-12 hours of sleep, pre-teens age seven to twelve need 10-11 hours, and teenagers and above about 7 to 9 hours of sleep. You can read more about the benefits of sleep in our Back to School with Better Sleep blog.
4. Buy food that is in season. Did you know that when you buy in season, it tastes better and is even more nutritious? It's true! Seasonal fruit and veggies vary slightly depending on where you live. Still, the fall brings apples, beets, broccoli, cabbage, kale, pumpkin, winter squash, root veggies like sweet potatoes, pears, and other produce bursting with immune-boosting nutrients. Buying foods in season gives you a chance to introduce your child to new ones. Take your child to the Farmers Market to see what foods are in season and learn more about where it comes from. Find out which foods are in season in your area using this Seasonal Food Guide.
5. Bundle up. As the colder weather arrives, layer up with jackets, scarves, and warmer attire to protect your body from dropping temperatures so you don't get sick. With flu season upon us and COVID-19 still present, it's best to be prepared and take care of each other, and you can do so by following our 4 Tips to Help Beat the Flu.
6. Practice good hygiene. It is always essential to practice good hygiene, but even more so during the colder months. Ensure your little ones are washing their hands and keeping germs to themselves. Be sure to check out our Snack Science Germs Playlist to help your child understand the importance of good hygiene.
7. Stay hydrated. People tend to drink less water as it gets colder since they don't feel the need. People experience 40% less thirst in winter than in warmer months, even though the body's need for water remains the same all year.* Although you may not be as thirsty, make sure you and your child get enough water throughout the day. Your immune system will thank you. If you are having trouble getting your child to drink more water, read 5 Ways to Help Your Child Drink More Water.
8. Stay active. In colder weather, we tend to want to stay indoors, bundled up on the couch for hours, plus the current pandemic guidelines encourage families to stay at home for their safety. Just because you're stuck inside doesn't mean you can't be active! It's no surprise that staying active is vital for your child's health and mood. One way to be active indoors is to play our Dance Attack Game. This game also teaches your child how their heart keeps them moving and grooving. Staying active yourself encourages your child to join in on the fun. You may want to try an at-home workout work together.
9. Find time for joy. One of the reasons shorter days and less light may cause moodiness or even depression is that reduced sunlight causes your Serotonin levels to drop. Serotonin is the brain chemical responsible for mood. It also throws off our body's internal clock and may affect our sleep leaving you feeling stressed, depressed, or low energy. When this happens, it's harder to take care of yourself and others. A great way to combat these feelings is to find time to do something that brings you joy. This is true for you and your little one. Maybe that's playing a favorite game or having some craft time. For more ways to help your child when they are feeling blue, check out 6 Ways To Help Kids Deal With Stress Now.
10. Stay in touch with loved ones. The current pandemic is forcing us to spend time away from our loved ones, which can be incredibly hard during the holidays. Being away from family can be isolating and make your little ones feel lonely. So make time for your children to talk to their loved ones and close friends often. Set up a time to Zoom (or other conference call platforms) with the whole family. You can even use remote calling platforms to play games like Charades or host a talent show. Another way for your child to feel connected is to have your child write a letter or draw a picture to give to a loved one.
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