Sweet Dreams: 7 Nutrition Tips to Help Your Child Sleep

Did you know nutrition can play a huge role in how well (or poorly) your child sleeps? One reason I chose nutrition as a career path is that my second-to-youngest child didn’t sleep through the night for the first 3 1/2 years of his life. Yes, you read that right. 3 1/2 YEARS.

If you have a child with ADHD, autism or SPD, you know how challenging it can be to help them sleep. We went to multiple doctors, tried everything you can think of, and endured plenty of well-meaning but ignorant advice on what we could do better. His health (and mine) suffered greatly before I made changes to support a better night’s sleep. Read below for some of my favorite tips to help your child sleep better.

1. Make sure they consume enough minerals. Magnesium gets a lot of attention because it plays an important role in over 300 functions in the body. It not only helps kids relax before bed, but it can also reduce anxiety, muscle cramps and growing pains, hyperactivity, and constipation. Food sources include avocados, nuts & seeds, dark leafy greens, and black beans.

Have them soak in an Epsom salt bath, try a magnesium citrate drink before bed (like Natural Vitality Calm), or a magnesium lotion or oil. If you use the lotion or oil, test a small patch on your child’s skin first. It can sting a bit, so start with small amounts.

Calcium and zinc are equally important. Most people think of dairy when they want to increase their calcium, but dark leafy greens, sardines, and sesame seeds are also rich in this important mineral. It’s not uncommon for neurodiverse kids to be deficient in zinc. Foods rich in zinc include grass-fed beef or lamb, pumpkin seeds, lentils, chickpeas, cashews, and turkey.

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2. Feed them high-quality protein. This important macronutrient contains important amino acids that support mood, and it helps keep blood sugar stable. Dysregulated blood sugar can impact sleep, exacerbate mood and behavior, and more. Try hard-boiled eggs, nuts, fatty fish like wild-caught salmon, legumes, organic poultry, or grass-fed beef.

3. Rule out food allergies, intolerances or sensitivities. If your child reacts to foods that fall into any of these categories, it could contribute to inflammation, impaired gut health, mood and behavior issues, and sleep disturbances. Work with your pediatrician and nutritionist to identify problem foods.

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4. Try kid-safe herbs. I love teas and tinctures with gentle herbs that promote rest. Some of my favorite recommendations include Mountain Rose Herbs Quiet Child tea, Traditional Medicinals Nighty Night tea, BioRay Kids NDF Sleepy Herbal Drops, and Gaia Herbs Calm Restore for Kids.

5. Don’t feed them right before bed. Our bodies need time to digest food, and going to bed on a full stomach can prevent your child from settling into sleep. Aim for their last meal to be 2-3 hours before bed. If they do need a small snack, offer a hard-boiled egg, a handful of nuts and blueberries, hummus with a few veggie sticks, or a banana with sunbutter.

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6. Supplement with Omega-3s. These essential fatty acids (EFAs) support brain health, improve mood, and help with sleep quality. If your child will eat fish, opt for wild-caught salmon, sardines, trout, or herring (avoid high-mercury fish like tuna). Supplements are an easy way to make sure your child gets enough. Nordic Naturals has great options for all ages, include an algae-based version for kids who can’t take fish oil.

7. Avoid foods that disrupt sleep. This includes processed and junk foods, added and unnecessary sugars, sugary beverages, and caffeine. Besides disrupting sleep, these foods promote inflammation, dysregulate blood sugar, impair gut health, and can exacerbate issues with mood, behavior, and focus.

You might have noticed I didn’t include supplementing with products like melatonin, 5-HTP, or GABA or other amino acids. These are all great options, but they need to be tailored for each child because some can interact with medications. Please work with a qualified nutritionist who can guide you on appropriate products, dosages, and offer personalized support.

Also, look at your child’s environment. Some children are especially sensitive to electromagnetic fields (EMFs). EMFs are emitted from your child’s favorite electronics, so it’s good to remove devices from the bedroom, turn off the wireless router at night, and cut off screen time 2-3 hours before bed (the blue light emitted from these devices also disrupts sleep). Also consider using a diffuser with calming essential oils, a white noise machine, a weighted blanket, and incorporating a relaxing routine, such as a warm bath followed by a story and snuggle.

If none of those options work, your child might benefit from additional support, which could include a sleep study or a visit to a pediatric chiropractor or functional medicine pediatrician.

Here’s to a good night’s sleep!

Book Review--Cooking From Scratch by PCC Community Markets

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This cookbook is full of recipes featuring fresh produce with an emphasis on sustainability and supporting local growers, and the encouragement to make the recipes work for your dietary considerations. I loved how the authors teach readers how to build popular dishes with different flavors, including chowder, hash, sangria, vinaigrette and energy bars, as well as how to select and cook with popular produce.

The book is organized so readers can easily plan meals according to what's in season. I appreciated the recommendations for drinks and dishes that pair well with each recipe. The recipes are accessible for most cooks and focus on a simple approach that highlights the flavor and nutrition of the fresh ingredients. I bookmarked too many recipes to list them all, but I'm especially excited to try the Egyptian Red Lentil Soup, Blueberry-Nectarine Caprese Salad (this one is gorgeous!), Peach and Pickled Onion Salad with Brown Rice, Pomegranate Molasses Grilled Chicken, and Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Spread (Muhammara).

This is definitely a book I'll recommend to nutrition clients because it's a wonderful introduction to the easy, delicious results you can achieve when cooking with real, fresh and seasonal foods.

Release date is September 18th, 2018.

I received an e-copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. A copy of this review is also posted on my Goodreads page.

Book Review--Keto Slow Cooker & One Pot Meals by Martina Slajerova

If you're new to recipes for a ketogenic diet, you'll want to read this book. One thing I've found is that while most keto recipes focus on health and simplicity, many forget flavor. This book does a great job of educating readers on the health benefits of a ketogenic diet while showcasing how delicious and flavorful these recipes can be. Having recipes that can all be done in a slow cooker is an added bonus. I liked the layout of the book--gorgeous pictures for most recipes, easy-to-find nutritional and allergen information, and plenty of recipes to choose from. I'm so thankful this author acknowledges allergens and offers a handy substitution list at the beginning of the book. In fact, the concise tips and tricks at the beginning of the book will be helpful to most readers.

I bookmarked plenty of recipes for future use, and can already recommend the Red Pesto, Make-Ahead Slow Cooker Mash, and Festive Turkey Meatballs. Next on my list is the Creamy "Potato" Soup, Filipino Chicken Adobo, Korean Beef & Kimchi Stew, Spiced Orange Pudding, and Macadamia Chai Cake.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in a ketogenic diet. A number of the recipes will become staples in your weekly menu plan. Plus, these delicious recipes make it enjoyable to stick to a sometimes tricky diet. I plan to put this book on my recommended resources list for nutrition clients and I look forward to seeing more recipes from this author.

*I received an e-copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This review is also posted on my Goodreads page.

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Book Review--Healing Arthritis by Susan Blum M.D., M.P.H.

I received an e-copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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I've been a fan of Dr. Blum's work for a while, and this book didn't disappoint. It's a fantastic reference for both patients and practitioners. 
Things I love about this book:
1. She thoroughly outlines the different types of arthritis, including symptoms, diagnosis, and conventional treatments.
2. She clearly and concisely educates the reader on gut health and how it's applicable to these conditions and inflammation in general.
3. She offers a wealth of research to back up the information presented. I was especially impressed with the newer research on the possibility that we each have a gut bacteria enterotype that we might default to, depending on our diet.
4. She outlines popular diets to give readers a better understanding of why these diets may or may not be the healthiest option for their condition.
5. She offers a number of test recommendations and diet/supplement/mind-body protocols for different case studies, which practitioners and patients should find helpful.
6. Her 5 simple principles are: reduce processed foods, improve the quality of fats, improve the quality of proteins, increase fiber, micronutrients, and phytonutrients, and limit salt, food dyes and preservatives. 
7. She devotes a chapter to the impact of traumatic stress and ACEs on health. This topic needs more mainstream coverage, and I'm happy to see functional medicine practitioners taking the lead.

This book is a comprehensive resource I'll refer to again and again, and I've already recommended it for pre-order to a few colleagues and clients. It's well organized, easy to read, and covers everything you can think of and plenty you'll be happy to learn.

 

*This book review is also published on my Goodreads page.