Sending Kids Back to School: How to Get a Healthy Head Start

As the new school year is quickly approaching, parents are gearing up to send kids back to school. Beyond the worries of COVID-19, there are still regular health concerns for heading back to school. To have the best school year yet, follow these three easy steps to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Odds are, you’re probably already familiar with them. 

Prepare Healthy Lunches

According to the American Cancer Society, it is vital to maintain a healthy diet at all ages. While it may be quick and easy to send your kids to school with snacks like potato chips or sugary drinks (or to make a box of macaroni and cheese for lunch if your kids are learning from home), it’s a good idea to take time out to prepare healthy foods for lunch and snacks during the school day. Doing so can help foster more energy, a better diet, and a healthier lifestyle for your kids.

The best way to go about getting the healthiest foods in your kids’ diet (and your own) is to ensure there are a variety of colors on the plate (or in the lunch box). Standbys like whole grains, fruits and vegetables are always a good choice for a healthy dose of carbohydrates. Including healthy fats such as cheese, hummus, avocado, or peanut butter instead of fried foods is a good way to ensure a variety of nutrients enter the body. 

By following a healthier diet during the school day, kids can learn how to make healthier diet choices on their own, setting them up for a healthier lifestyle. 

Catch Enough Sleep

Sleep is an extremely important part of a healthy lifestyle, especially for children. Not only does sleep support a healthy body, but it also supports a healthy mind. From positive mental health to good grades in school, children and teenagers need to get about at least 8 hours of sleep each night to function properly, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

According to the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, the COVID-19 pandemic may have disrupted routines and sleep schedules for children and teens alike. To help regain a sense of normalcy and support a good night’s sleep, try to create a bedtime routine that excludes electronics and is consistent seven nights a week. By removing stimulation offered by cellphones, video games, computers and television, the brain can more easily relax into a state ready for sleep. Wind-down activities that are healthier include reading, yoga, meditation, or listening to calming music. 

Much like setting a healthy diet for your kids, a healthy sleep schedule can also benefit you. By following the same rules and routine, your own levels of stress may go down, just like your children’s. 

Get Daily Exercise

According to the American Cancer Society, children and adolescents should get about an hour of moderate exercise every day to maintain a healthy lifestyle. In a time where team sports or school exercises have been made difficult by pandemic restrictions, it is important to keep your family moving. Biking, yard work, or running are easy options to get up and moving. Obesity has been increasingly common in children, especially at young ages.  We also know that obesity increases the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and cancer later in life. The best time to deal with this and set off in the right direction is when kids are still in school.

Consistent exercise routines offer a chance to decrease stress and anxiety that often comes from the pressures of school and work. Additionally, vigorous exercise can set up the body for a heavy night’s sleep, effectively checking two boxes on this list. 

How to Get Started

To get a head start on organizing sleep and exercise schedules, as well as a healthy diet, it is important to keep a tracker of each. Writing down your food, sleep and exercise plans can help keep you and your family accountable, as well as provide an easy-to-follow framework for day-to-day life. Be sure to begin these lifestyle changes a few weeks before school starts to let your kids’ bodies adjust to the new normal. 

The steps are easy: eat right, sleep and exercise. When children and teens follow these three pillars of health, they will be ready for the healthiest school year yet. 

Sources: American Cancer Society, Sleep Foundation, Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health  

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