When families are busy – and who isn’t busy nowadays? – it is imperative to stay in optimal health to keep viruses at bay and stay strong in the winter months.

The moment the cold weather comes in, flu-like symptoms abound. (I feel like I am continually upping Vitamin C mixtures and giving my kids hand sanitizer to keep the sickies at bay!) Moms have to be diligent about their own health and that of their loved ones because, more often than not, it is up to us to take care of the family when the chips are down.

Hands up if you’re one of those moms who is taking temperatures and changing bedsheets even when they can barely stay upright. 🙋 Been there, done that, got the “I’m sick too…who is taking care of me?” t-shirt.

“You have to take care of YOU,” says Dr. Jen Tanner, a Toronto naturopathic MD and mother of three active kids. Like the oxygen-mask-on-the-plane scenario, moms need to be proactive with their own health and the health of their loved ones. “Moms are great at being moms and keeping the family alive. Our downfall is that we forget to take care of ourselves,” says Tanner.

Too true. I know with my own family I burn the candle at both ends – doing drop-offs, extracurricular activities, working and all the household duties. If one of my kids comes home sneezing, I am the first to shove Oil of Oregano on my tongue – a proven homeopathic remedy to keep a cold away.  

Something has to give, but I believe my health remains somewhat strong because I eat well and exercise. Abundant research supports the fact that people who exercise regularly get sick less often than inactive people – blood flow is improved and cellular growth is continuous in an active population. If you can fit in 20 minutes a day, you will help offset most preventable diseases like hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, many types of cancer and heart disease. If these diseases run in your family, exercising is a necessity – 150 minutes per week gets the job done.

But, there is more you can do to stay on top of your health. Read on…

Six Healthy Life Hacks for Busy Families

1. Invest heavily in probiotics for everyone

The whole family needs to be taking probiotics, including the kids. “They keep our family’s immune system strong,” says Tanner. “The research on this bacteria powerhouse is on fire right now with connections to its role in modulating pain and inflammation as well as supporting neurotransmitters and mood health.”

2. Exercise as a family

One way to do this simply is play games where you are getting your heart rate up. A hike, game of soccer at the park or hockey at your local rink are all fun ideas. If you have stairs in your house, play a game of timing how long it takes the adults and the kids to do five stair laps (one lap equals up and down). The next time, try to improve your own time. Whoever improves their time the most, wins! While one team is doing the stairs (kids) the adults can be holding planks, doing squats or doing push-ups.

3. Drink smoothies in the morning

There are thousands of smoothie recipes online that can help you sneak in veggies to your kids each morning. Dr. Tanner says, “Every time I make them, I add different fruits for variety and hide other ingredients like ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil, pureed pumpkin or chia seeds.” She also encourages parents to have at least one plant-based meal per week.

4. Eat a robust diet full of many plants and take a multivitamin

“Moms need energy. We don’t often think about how vitamins and minerals help our energy level,” says Tanner. “Some of my favourite foods to boost energy are walnuts, apples and ginger – oh, and dark chocolate. I can’t live without it.” (I think we can all get on board with chocolate!)

5. Sleep

You’ve read the news stories: lack of sleep is the new smoking – the health care crisis facing us. When you don’t sleep, everything else gets out of whack: our hormones become imbalanced, we exercise less and we eat more starchy foods and sugar. Take melatonin to help get into a good sleep pattern, but also recognize that with little babies sleep is something you have to try and get whenever you can. “When I see a mom who is really drawn out and exhausted, I immediately think that mom needs adrenal support. The adrenal glands get tired too. I often recommend B Vitamins to support energy and help combat adrenal fatigue.”

6. Meal prep on Sundays

Every organized and healthy mom will attest to the joy of being able to go in the freezer on Wednesday and pull out a healthy turkey chili or a soup. Map out the meals you want to eat for the week and stick to the calendar. School-age kids make great helpers, so get them involved whenever possible. If you can afford it – order in one night. Moms need a break too!

When we get busy, it is easy to cut corners – skip the workout, sleep less and eat sugar like a food group. If you think proactively about your health this winter, you can come out the other side vibrant and brimming with health! When you live in a healthy way, you can create a healthy, balanced life. And we’re all striving for a little more balance in our lives. ❤️

Erin Phelan is a health and fitness professional, personal trainer and writer based out of Toronto. Find her at www.80-percent.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.