I’m super delighted to have one of my very good friends join me today to chat about raising healthy kids. Jessica Donovan is a mama of 2, naturopath and holistic health expert that helps families thrive. Jess is passionate about educating parents on nourishing their children with real food; helping to boost their health and heal naturally. Jess combines her extensive naturopathic knowledge with a realistic, empathetic, inspiring and down-to-earth approach to empower women to look after themselves and take charge of the well-being of their families.
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Tell us how you became passionate about raising healthy and happy kids.
I decided early on that I wanted to be a Naturopath as I was interested in doing something related to health. I was interested in nutrition and how the body worked so Naturopathy seemed a great fit for me. In 2000 I graduated and decided to go travelling where I was lucky enough to get some great work experience overseas as a Naturopath.
After I had returned home, the arrival of my first child is where my interest in kids’ health stepped up a notch. I’d always enjoyed working and treating children in clinic but becoming a mother myself made me realise how precious they were. It also led me into researching different areas when it came to kids’ health. Then once I returned to work after becoming a mum, I started attracting other mothers and kids into my clinic, so that almost accidentally became my area that I worked in.
Three or four years ago, I decided that I wanted to expand my reach so I started my online business Energetic Mama. It started with a focus on mums’ health and I worked with lots of women on hormones, adrenal fatigue, stress management, and all those things that tend to fall out of balance when you become a mother.
From communicating with my audience, I found out that they wanted more resources in kids’ health. In clinic, I was helping children with eczema, allergies, gut issues, and immune problems, so I started creating content and blogging in that area and it was really popular. I launched my Natural Superkids Course and kids’ health is really what I focus on now because there’s not a huge amount of resources on this topic compared to women’s health.
What challenges are our kids facing today and why are they more susceptible to toxins?
We are seeing more of the multi-factorial chronic conditions in kids. These are conditions that we are unable to pinpoint a specific cause but it’s quite clear that there is dietary and nutrition involvement plus the effect of toxins in our environment. These conditions include eczema, asthma, and allergies which have just gone through the roof.
Many mums out there can relate to the fact that when we were kids there may have been 1 or 2 children in the school with an allergy but these days there’s 1 or 2 in every classroom. These sorts of challenges are really on the rise.
Toxins and chemicals affect our kids more than they affect us as adults. There are a few different physiological reasons behind this including that our children’s detoxification pathways that happen in the liver are immature. Also, a child’s gut is still somewhat ‘leaky’ which means that particles from the food that they have eaten can leak into the bloodstream, so the toxins that they are exposed to are much more likely to end up in their bloodstream and affect their health. We need to be mindful of these things when it comes to our kids.
Children’s brains are changing and growing rapidly so there’s more processes going on that could potentially be affected and that’s where my concern is; the neurodevelopment that is still happening and the neurobehavioural problems that can come from being exposed to toxins. This includes Autism, ADHD, and Dyslexia and can extend to slight behavioural issues that our kids are having. Could these be linked to toxins in our food and environment? It’s hard to say.
What health issues do you see a lot in kids?
It’s quite varied but something I see a lot of and one of the most common questions I get asked is related to fussy eaters. Parents want to know how to get their kids to eat healthy foods. This is a big challenge that parents have that I see a lot of. This then leads to different health issues through nutrient deficiency and unbalanced gut health.
I also see children that get sick often and not bounce back very well either. It’s normal for our children to get sick as their immune systems are still developing, but there are a lot of kids out there that are constantly sick during the winter or they seem to get one infection after another. Of course, parents take their kids to the doctor and the only real answer they have is antibiotics which can be great in some instances but in my opinion they’re way overused these days.
When antibiotics become our go-to, it trains our immune system that it doesn’t need to do too much work because there’s going to be something coming in to help kill that infection very soon. So, it makes the immune system lazy and I often see instances of that in clinic where after multiple antibiotic courses, their body just doesn’t seem to be able to fight off infections anymore. Antibiotics also wipe from the gut all the good bacteria which has an important role to play in having both a strong and balanced immune system and works to prevent those allergic conditions such as asthma, eczema, and food intolerances.
What are some simple steps parents can take to raise healthy kids?
We should look at what we have control of as it can be overwhelming as parents to think of all the different pieces of the puzzle when it comes to health and trying to implement it in the real world. I’m big on nutrition but I do have a balanced approach. I don’t think we all necessarily have to go vegan or paleo to improve the health of our kids. I think that’s the trap that so many parents get caught in, it seems too hard to do these sorts of health programs.
Small changes that you can make include increasing the amount of real or wholefoods that their family is eating. So, less food from packets (which benefits the environment as well) and more foods from nature. That doesn’t mean we must serve our children a green salad every night, because we all know that’s not going to go down well, but getting creative and figuring out some different ways to serve vegetables. Eggs are also fantastic as well as fruits, salads, and fish. These are the foods that we need to focus on getting into our kid’s diets.
When it comes to getting kids to eat these sorts of foods, one of the big things we need to do more of is sit down as a family to eat a meal. I understand families are busy and mum or dad aren’t always home when the kids need to eat. The pattern that I see families falling into is kids eating early and adults eating later and this sets up serving ‘kiddie food’ to the kids and serving the ‘real food’ to the adults. This means that kids are getting are narrower repertoire of foods that they will accept. Exposure to different foods is important for kids and it will help them to accept new foods over time. I recommend having a one meal for the whole family approach.
Tell us about your program Natural Superkids.
I’ve been running Natural Superkids for a few years now but I’ve just upgraded everything so it’s exciting to be launching it in a new way this year. It’s a six-week program all about inspiring and educating parents on how to nourish their kids and boost their kid’s health naturally.
We talk a lot about nutrition and cover the foundation of nutritional principles when it comes to kids and I aim to do it in a simple way. You don’t have to weigh food and get a calculator to figure out if your kids are getting enough nutrients, it is simple formula that I use to make sure that all the good stuff is getting in.
There is practical advice and resources in there as well, we have lots of breakfast, dinner, and snack recipes plus ways to pack a healthy lunchbox. There are videos of me in the kitchen walking you through different recipes and after we have those foundations, we delve into some of the real essentials for kids’ health.
We talk about toxins and chemicals and how to reduce your kid’s exposure to these. We dive into the all-important gut health as anyone who as ever talked to a naturopath knows that we value good gut health because it affects so many things in the body including the immune system, mental health, and behaviour. We discuss easy ways to improve your child’s gut health and how to determine if their gut health is okay or not. We talk about immunity of course and how to boost and balance the immune system. We also discuss the link between gut health and mental health which is an important consideration when it comes to kids. Guest experts also join us to talk about emotional well-being, communicating with kids, technology for kids, and feeding kids with sensory issues.
It’s an all-rounded program when it comes to kids’ health and we also have a beautiful Facebook community where you can ask questions and get support from other mums who are doing or have done the program. You also get lifetime access to all the materials in the program.
Where can we learn more about you and your work?
Well there you have it, I hope you enjoyed these tips from Jess on how to raise healthy kids in the modern world. I really hope that you take advantage of this once ever offer to buy Home Detox Boot Camp and get Natural Superkids for FREE. This deal is only available until Midday (ACST) Friday March 3rd 2017 so you’ll have to act quickly. Click here to register now!