We have survived another dank and dismal UK winter and are heading towards spring. Just the word lifts the spirits. We start to think of brighter, lighter days and evenings with the promise of summer warmth and lazing on beaches in the sun. But now that the kids are back at school and with colds and flu about, how do you keep your family healthy?
Rather than stress yourself out by making wholesale changes, try subtle tweaks to your routine to gradually improve everyone’s health – including your own.
Here are some great ways to improve your health as a family.
Get outside together and make the most of the daylight
Did you know that in the UK we get most of our Vitamin D from sunlight exposure from late March to the end of September?
Vitamin D helps our bodies to absorb calcium and phosphate from our diet, minerals that are important for healthy bones, teeth and muscles.
We make sure we take the kids out for a brisk weekend walk through our local woods, to our nearby beaches (usually Penarth) or Cosmeston nature reserve.
But make sure you use sunscreen
Many skin experts agree that THE most important thing we can do to protect our skin against ageing is to use sunscreen.
And we know how vital it is to protect our little ones’ skin against the power of the sun. The NHS advises that children under 6 months should be kept out of direct strong sunlight and that, from March to October in the UK children should cover up with suitable clothing and spend time in the shade (particularly from 11 am to 3 pm) and wear a sunscreen of at least SPF15.
In fact, Cancer Research UK says that getting painful sunburn, just once every 2 years, can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer.
We’ve always tried to maintain a regular bedtime routine for the kids (around 7:30 pm) which is just as important now that they are 9 and 7 as it was when they were babies.
Things tend to lapse during school holidays though but even then 8:30 pm tends to be the latest as the kids are grumpy and tired the next day.
We try to limit screen time before bed because research shows that it affects our sleep patterns, making it harder to drop off.
And the kids still have a drink of milk which, even if the jury is still out on whether the tryptophan it contains actually helps you sleep, has the effect of signalling it’s time to relax and switch off.
Eat fresh and organic
We’ve all heard this a million times and it is basic common-sense advice. Many people feel that organic food is overpriced and there certainly seems to be a noticeable price hike on produce such as organic berries.
To make the most of our food budget it’s worth remembering that some organic fruits and vegetables are worse than others for containing pesticide residue – according to the campaigning charity Pesticide Action Network (PAN UK).
It all depends on the farming methods used so they advise switching to organic for the food most affected by chemicals and sticking with the standard versions of the least affected if budget is an issue.
So which fruits and vegetables should we always consider buying organic? You can find a helpful list in this article from The Telegraph newspaper published in November 2015.
Protect young tummies with probiotics
There’s nothing worse than an outbreak of the dreaded sickness bug and one simple way you can help your children’s immune systems strong and hopefully keep the bugs away is to give them a probiotic.
These are live bacteria and yeasts in the form of a food supplement or yoghurt drink and are promoted as having various health benefits.
Probiotics are also thought to help restore the natural balance of bacteria in the gut when it has been disrupted by an illness or treatment.
As yet, the NHS says there is little evidence to support many of the health claims made for them but I give Caitlin and Ieuan a probiotic every morning on the basis that it is unlikely to harm them and if it saves me having to swab down the bathroom – great!
Make drinking water interesting
We know that drinking water is vital for our health. According to the National Hydration Council, kids should be drinking anywhere between 1.6 litres (ages 4-8) up to 2.1 litres (ages 9-13) a day. Note that this amount is water from drinks and food and includes milk, vegetable and fruit juices and plain unsweetened drinks.
As adults, we should be drinking around 2.5 litres a day for men and 2.0 litres for women.
We try to stay away from highly sweetened drinks and choose no added sugar squashes but we also serve up a jug of water at mealtimes to which we sometimes add ice and chopped fruits like strawberry slices and lemon.
We also try to bribe the kids with funky water bottles and glasses.
We’ve found if we drink it, the kids are more likely to join in. As they say, you have to model the behaviour you want to see.
As you can see, there are loads of small changes you can make to get your family healthier without breaking the bank. You can find some great ideas in this book by TV doctor Dr Rangan Chatterjee for more tips on keeping the family in the peak of health.
Keep the family medicine chest well stocked
It’s also a good idea to make sure that the family’s medicine chest is fully stocked with everything you might need for minor injuries and illnesses. We’ve usually got a bottle of Calpol stashed away and a job lot of plasters!
And remember the healing power of oxytocin, also known as the ‘love hormone’ which is released whenever we share a hug.
That’s an easy one, isn’t it? What are your best tips to keep your family healthy?