The Back-To-School whirlwind is hitting families across the nation, hopefully without the havoc that Irene caused over the weekend, but nonetheless this time of year can feel hectic and out of control as parents and their students get back into school routines.
Remember that if you want your student to find success on the wellness track, you have to take responsibility for your own health first. Modeling a healthy lifestyle will inspire your kids to follow in your footsteps, and to make healthy choices.
Take a run on the wellness track.
Exercise is a key component to everyone’s sanity throughout the school day and beyond. National Board Certified Teacher, Author, and Speaker from Santa Monica, California, Steve Reifman says to encourage your child to exercise every day for at least an hour.
“Physical activity is great for the brain. Kids who exercise frequently focus better, think better, and learn better. New research and new literature describing the powerful effects of exercise on the brain is coming out all the time.”
- 60 minutes of physical activity does not need to be consecutive. Children can play handball at recess for 15 minutes, shoot baskets at lunchtime for 15 minutes, and then skateboard for 30 minutes after school.
- Incorporate exercise into family activities. Take a walk or bike ride after school with your child – maybe you’ll even get the download on the school day.
- Help your child find a sport or form of physical activity that (s)he is passionate. The goal is for kids to love movement activities so much that they choose to remain active for a lifetime. For that to happen, children need to enjoy what they are doing.
- Turn the notch down on after school programming. As much as participating in a sport is important for these kids, unstructured “down time” is equally essential. Every kid needs “go to” relaxation activities to restore and help combat feelings of stress.
- Help your child maintain a consistent sleep schedule for a well-rested and energetic start of each school day.
“Every Fall my students and I brainstorm a long list of these activities, and then everyone puts a few on an index card that we keep in our pencil boxes for easy reference throughout the year. Reading, listening to music, spending time with family and friends, deep breathing, and exercise are always among the most popular choices,” emphasizes Reifman.
A healthy lunch does a body good.
With strong scientific data linking good nutrition to academic achievement, Junelle H Lupiani, RD, Nutrition Supervisor at Miraval Resorts gives parents some fresh ideas for school lunches.
A new take on PB&J.
A nice alternative to the typical PB&J is to use 2 slices of intact grain bread, like toasted Ezekiel Food For Life, add 2 tablespoons of almond or cashew butter along with some fresh raspberries or a half of a sliced banana. Pack sliced organic red and yellow bell peppers on the side and a piece of seasonal fruit.
For the more adventurous palette.
Whole grain pitas are a great way to incorporate left over dinner veggies. Place leftover grilled or roasted veggies (mushrooms, zucchini, yellow squash, peppers, onions) into pita, add some sprouts and a piece of all natural cheese or, if your teen likes, some smoked salmon slices. Pack sliced fruit like mango or make a fruit salad (chopped organic apples, grapes, melon, strawberries, and mint).
Send your child to school with a re-usable water bottle (Life Factory’s lunch box 9oz size is a great choice). Encourage your kids to make water their number one drink over juices and sports drinks.
Include a healthy snack for recess or nutrition break. Pair fruits and vegetables with protein foods such as string cheese or turkey slices.
Don’t skip out on breakfast.
Grabbing breakfast on-the-go isn’t the healthiest way to get through your day; you can make your own healthy “fast” foods, by simply thinking ahead and preparing in advance.
“Breakfast is important for all of us, especially kids since they have growing bodies and growing brains. Breakfast affects our intellectual, behavioral and physical well being. Furthermore, skipping breakfast has been linked to the development of obesity. Studies show that overweight and obese children skip breakfast more often than kids at ideal body weight, and recent data shows that 1 out of 3 kids in the US are considered overweight or obese.” states Lupiani
While Lupiani strongly recommends getting out of bed early enough each day to sit down and enjoy breakfast, many moms want quick/portable breakfast ideas. She says smoothies are easy to prepare and will likely hold kids over until lunch hour.
Whip up this Super Easy Smoothie: Add to blender ½ cup organic vanilla yogurt, 4-5 pitted dates, a banana, a few scoops of nut butter and ½ cup milk (soy or almond milk work great too) and blend until smooth.
Try these sweet gluten & lactose-free Banana Coconut Muffins (recipe from Smart Balance) for breakfast or after school.
- 2 cups stone-ground white rice flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup sugar
- 1/3 cup flaked coconut
- 2/3 cup coconut milk
- 1 Smart Balance egg, beaten
- ¼ cup Smart Balance Cooking Oil
- 2 ripe bananas, mashed (about ¾ cup)
- Smart Balance Omega Non-Stick Cooking Spray
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with non-stick spray.
- In a large bowl, combine rice flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar and flaked coconut. Mix dry ingredients well and make a well in the center of dry ingredients.
- In a small bowl, mix coconut milk, beaten egg, oil and mashed banana.
- Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Mix only until all ingredients are moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin pan.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until muffins are lightly browned on top. Remove from pan to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Yield: 12 muffins