Well, it’s that time of year again: time for kids to go back to school after a fun-filled summer. I know that many schools around Limestone and Madison County have already opened their doors to students, and that for most the learning has already started in full swing. I remember as a kid being excited on the last day of school, and at the end of the summer dreading the first one back. But as I’ve gotten a little older, I’ve found that I miss those days much more than I’d like to admit.
It’s important to focus on ways to keep your child healthy this school year, not just at the beginning. Below you will find some tips to help you do that, and keep your little ones (or not so little ones) on top of their game all year long.
I start with nutrition because it is the building block of all the rest. We’ve all heard that a healthy breakfast can help students concentrate better, and studies show that this is actually true. If your child doesn’t eat breakfast, they may not get another chance to eat for several hours, and their academic performance may suffer because of this.
Cooking Light says that a healthy breakfast “contains a mix complex carbohydrates and protein.” They also suggest “pairing whole grains such as oatmeal, whole-wheat toast, or whole-grain cereal with a protein source such as milk, yogurt, peanut butter, eggs, or cheese. Add a side of fruit for a boost of vitamins and minerals.”
Also, pay attention to the meal calendars your child’s school sends home or posts online. This may help you plan which days you want your child to eat in the cafeteria or which days you want to pack them a lunch. I would suggest packing a lunch most days rather than buying something from the cafeteria so that you can save money and pack something nutritious for your child.
Here are 8 tips from one mom’s online blog (www.brightonyourhealth.com) that she incorporates when packing healthy lunches for her kids:
1. Variety and color-changing it up ensures that your child gets different sources of vitamins and minerals from the food they eat. Color makes the meal more appealing. If there is something your child simply will not eat, try hiding it in smoothies.
2. Whole grains-increased fiber as opposed to white breads and rices
3. Fresh fruits/vegetables-the US government recommends that fully half your plate at each meal should be comprised of fresh, raw fruits and vegetables.
4. Food safety-your child’s lunchbox will be unrefrigerated for several hours, so it is important to keep things cold that need to be kept cold. A good insulated lunch bag or blue ice may help.
5. Taste-involve your children in the selection of their lunch. Choose foods that they like to eat and that taste good to them. If they won’t eat the lunch you pack, it is a waste of time and money.
6. Water-water is the best choice for kids. If your child dislikes plain water, then try adding lemon or other fruits/juices to it to make it more appealing.
7. Fun desserts or snacks balanced with healthy options-at least one day a week, give them a treat that isn’t quite as healthy as some other choices. It’s a balancing act. Give them something to look forward to.
8. The less processed the better-though these options may be convenient for you and desirable for you kids, they aren’t as nutritious as things you make at home from scratch.
It is important to choose the right backpack for your child to prevent injury and problems later on in life. Here are a few guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (aap.org):
1. Wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back
2. Pack light-use all of the backpack’s compartments, and pack heaviest items closest to the center of the back. BACKPACKS SHOULD NEVER WEIGH MORE THAN 10-20% OF THE CHILD’S BODY WEIGHT.
3. Always use both shoulder straps, slinging over one shoulder can cause muscle strain and injury.
4. Consider a rolling backpack if the school allows them. There are downsides to a rolling backpack though, including being carried upstairs, not rolling as well in water/snow/ice, and may not fit into some lockers.
No matter what venue of transportation your family chooses, it is important to review basic safety rules with them (aap.org).
• Walking: Choose a safe route with a responsible and well-trained adult to accompany your child. Identify other children who might be walking with them. Identify whether or not your child is a good candidate for walking as small children may not be as careful.
• Biking: Your child should always wear a helmet and ride in the same direction as traffic. Use appropriate hand signals and obey traffic lights and stop signs.
• Car: Always wear a seatbelt and use child safety seats as indicated for your child’s height and weight. Children under 13 years old should ride in the back seat. If your teenager is driving, always use a seat belt, restrict the amount of other teens in the vehicle, and don’t allow eating, drinking, or cell phone usage of any kind while behind the wheel.
• Bus: Always enter and exit the bus safely. Wait for the bus on the curb, not in the street. Ensure that your child is where she can see the driver, allowing the driver to also see him or her. The child should not stand up or walk while the bus is in motion. If the bus has seat belts, encourage your child to use them when available.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN