Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Tucson

The Modern Recipe for a Healthy Child

Jul 31, 2019 11:39AM ● By Erica Mills


Raising children seems to become more challenging each day. Society puts high pressures and expectations on new parents to make all the right choices along the way, making the path of parenthood even more difficult to navigate.

We asked professionals in Tucson to weigh in on the most important factors for raising a healthy, happy, adjusted child in the 21st century. Their tips range from giving them structure to keeping them off sugar, to teaching them gratitude. There is, of course, endless advice out there, but the bottom line is that giving them the love they deserve is the most important ingredient of all.

Structure and Safety

Kids crave structure. “Organize their time so they go to bed and then get up at a set consistent time. This keeps them well rested, which is vital to their growth,” suggests Dr. DeeAnn G. Saber, Naturopathic Medical Doctor at Transformational Medicine. Ask them to be responsible for something outside themselves age-appropriate like a pet, laundry, or to pick up their things every day. Let them know that there are consequences for not participating in their responsibilities.

Get them on a schedule of eating healthy food. This means local, fresh, non-GMO, pesticide-free food. “Putting healthy foods in a small person’s body gives them the building blocks they need for growth and brain health. With their organs still developing, especially in babies and small children, they do not have the detoxing capacity in their kidneys and livers to handle the toxins in many processed foods,” explains Saber. “Make sure they drink plenty of clean water.”

Keep poisons out of the yard and home. Do not spray bug or weed killers on/in the house or yard. Look at all in-home cleaners and how much plastic is used. Industrial plastics in kids’ toys, food containers, plastic wrap and personal care products all contribute to making us sick and have been linked to decreases in fertility and brain cognition, as well as causing birth defects. 

Another type of “poison” is the electronics that are so prevalent in all of our lives. “Schedule a weekly electronics-free day. Play games, go for a hike, talk to each other and read books,” says Saber.

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health recently offered a glimpse at the effects of electronics on kids’ brains, based on preliminary data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study, which is following more than 11,000 9- and 10-year-olds throughout the U.S. MRI scans found significant differences in the brains of some children who reported using smartphones, tablets and video games more than seven hours a day. Children who reported more than two hours a day of screen time got lower scores on thinking and language tests.

Steer Clear of Sugar

Many parents are concerned for their kids because of the highly processed food environment. It is important to seek a real food diet and de-escalate off the high carbohydrate, ultra-refined diet and the pharmaceuticals that accompany it, says Sheila Shea, colon hydrotherapist and director of the Intestinal Health Institute.

Robert Lustig, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist at UC San Francisco, commented on the obesity epidemic among 6-month-old babies. Did they choose that? A real food advocate, he advises removing sugar-sweetened beverages including fruit juices from babies’ and children’s diets. The liquid form of sugar spikes glucose and raises insulin levels quickly. 

Author of Breaking the Vicious Cycle, Elaine Gloria Gottschall’s daughter had ulcerative colitis, and from 4 to 8 years old, they wandered from doctor to doctor to heal her. Wanting to avoid surgery and pharmaceuticals, Gottschall found Sidney V. Haas, MD, author of The Management of Celiac Disease, at the ripe age of 94. The diet he proposed healed the child. The diet had a lineage from naturopathic traditions in Europe and tested during the wars—with no complex sugars.

One goal is the health of the mother before, during and after childbirth. “Catherine Shanahan, MD, author of Deep Nutrition, writes that pre-processed-food cultures took great care in preparing young men and women for successful childbirth,” says Shea. “Mothers waited two years before the birth of another child in order to rebuild and replenish with micronutrients.”

The goal is to build the health of our children. If they have a metabolic manifestation, help them regenerate. If they are metabolically healthy, support them in continuing greater health and strength. Lustig reminds us of the four steps to raise serotonin: connect, contribute, cope, cook. By working as a team in the kitchen, the family is performing all those skills.

The processed food world and the accompanying pharmaceuticals are not sustainable. The real food world begins in the kitchen. Whether plants and/or animals, get on a sustainable path and teach the children.

Love and Gratitude

“Because we live in fast times, children suffer from their lack of connection with the natural world. Often, children have little or no understanding of where all things come from,” warns Danakeli Devi, an initiated disciple of His Holiness Giriraj Maharaj.

Appreciation and gratitude are the essential ingredients in a healthy child. Good health stems from proper alignment. Devotees of Lord Krishna have a saying, “Everything is Krishna’s mercy.” There are no mistakes. We all have the experiences we need to grow, and so our children also have their very own karma and individual circumstances.

“But that does not mean that we should be complacent; it is our job as adults to see that children get the very best opportunities to grow into positive, mature adults,” says Devi. What can we do on a fundamental and straightforward level to facilitate their happiness?

Not all children are satisfied with phones and games and fast times. Depression or anxiety is common in children because they are out of alignment. Try as we may—serve them more, give them more, medicate them more—we fail. We become frustrated, even angry, and that anger feeds the fire of the child’s dissatisfaction and alienation.

“This is because we are also out of alignment with the source of life. Perhaps just asking a child to find the cause of all causes will help bring them home,” explains Devi. “If we use deductive reasoning, we may work our way back to the sun. The sun is the life-giving source for us humans as well as plants, but is that enough? Do we stop there and worship the sun? If we ask our children and grandchildren to ponder this, we will help them on the road to healthy.”

Alongside gratitude, Nathan S. Conlee, Doctor of Chiropractic, says that in general, the most important thing a child needs is love. After that, activity, nutrition and education are top priorities. “Activities like sports, music, art and even mechanical things will nourish their bodies and minds. Education is also important, and not just from school, but at home. Kids can learn to cook, fix their bike, fix a computer, grow a garden or anything else new,” he suggests.

Conlee, a Doctor of Chiropractic who uses chiropractic to help ear infections, bedwetting, colic, torticollis and general kids’ injuries, says that a brain needs nutrients, fuel delivery and activation. Those brains of the future need activation via sports and exercise, stimulation via spurring their curiosity, nutrition via healthy food choices and most of all, love. 

Dr. DeeAnn G. Saber, NMD is part of WellnessFirst!, a collaborative, holistic community of practitioners in Tucson, dedicated to personal integrity, professionalism and service. Connect at 520-209-1755, [email protected] or See ad, page 3. 

Sheila Shea, MA is director of the Intestinal Health Institute, using natural methods to promote gastrointestinal health. She has 42 years of experience performing colon hydrotherapy and advising on nutrition and detox programs. Connect at 520-325-9686, [email protected] or

Danakeli Devi is an initiated disciple of His Holiness Giriraj Maharaj. She lives in Tucson quite near Hare Krishna Temple and Govinda’s Natural Foods Buffet. Connect at [email protected].

Nathan S. Conlee, D.C., practices at Performance Neurology. Connect at 520-322-6161 or See ad, page 11.

Michelle Bense is a freelance editor and writer currently living and exploring in New Mexico. Connect at [email protected].