It’s that time of year again when we leave behind weeks of summer fun and get our children back to school. We know your focus, as a parent, is on keeping your kids healthy so they can learn and grow. Whether summer was jam-packed with activities or filled with complaints about being bored with nothing to do, kids often have a tough time making the back-to-school transition. You can help them adjust quickly and stay the course by taking a look at their nutrition which in turn helps keep their immune system working optimally.
FUEL FOR SCHOOL
Nutrition is an important factor in academic performance. Studies have shown that children who eat healthy, balanced breakfasts, lunches, and snacks are more alert throughout the school day and earn higher grades than those who have an unhealthy diet.
You’ve heard it before and it is true – breakfast is the most important meal of the day. When kids skip breakfast, they could be going hours without food, which can make them inattentive and ill-behaved in the classroom. Also, kids who skip breakfast are more likelyto be absent from school more often. In contrast, kids who regularly eat well-balanced breakfasts generate higher scores on standardized tests and show improvements in math, reading and vocabulary.
A healthy lunch provides the fuel your child needs to finish the school day, to attend after-school activities and to get a head start on homework before dinner. Best bet to making sure your kids are eating a nutritious lunch is to send them to school with a well-balanced packed lunch whenever possible. Make sure to include a good source of protein and to skip the sugary drinks, cookies and other energy-zapping goodies.
Eating between meals is a good idea for your kids as long as you make sure they do it right with nutritious snacks. Make sure snacks pack a lot of vitamins and minerals to keep your kids going strong by combining at least two food groups and always include a protein. Carbohydrate-heavy snacks like chips and pretzels may provide a quick burst of energy, but it wears off quickly. Protein keeps your child full longer and with enough energy to make it to the next meal.
Remember – although adults usually decide what kids eat, we all know that kids eat what is available. So surrounding them with healthier options leaves them no choice but to eat better food.
CURBING THE GERMS
While germs are invisible, exposure to them can be a big problem as children go back to school. Germs can cause infections, live on all surfaces and can easily be spread by any child, adolescent, teen or adult.
Addressing the spread of germs in schools and at home is essential to the health of your child as well as your own. Studies show nearly 22 million school days are lost in the U.S. each year due to the common cold alone.
You can help your child avoid and prevent the spread of germs by encouraging them not to share drinks and personal hygiene products (like hairbrushes and lip gloss) with friends. Also encourage them to wash their hands frequently and use hand sanitizers whenever possible.
If you think your child is sick, it is best to keep them home from school. The older your child is, and the more he understands about how to minimize passing germs to others, it may be OK to send him to school if he isn’t feeling well, unless he has a fever.
EXERCISE IS IMPORTANT TOO
More time in front of “the screen” means less time playing and running so it is always a good idea to limit TV, video game time, and computer time. Also not a bad idea set a good example by being physically active yourself.
GETTING ENOUGH ZZZs
Nodding off in school may not be the only outcome for otherwise healthy high schoolers who don’t get enough sleep. A study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) found that teens who got less than 6 ½ hours sleep were 2½ times more likely to have elevated blood pressure than teens who slept longer. Also, teens that had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep were 3½ times more likely to have high blood pressure or pre-high blood pressure than teens that slept well. High blood pressure, if left untreated, can increase the risk of stroke and heart diseases later in life.School-aged children and teens need at least nine hours of sleep a night. Adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a night.