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Prepare Your Children for Good Health in School

Friday, August 4, 2017

As we approach the start of school, we can start preparing our students for routine, healthy eating habits.  Starting a routine a few weeks before the first day of school can help make the transition from a summer schedule to a school schedule easier on both parents and kids.   It’s important to remember that both good nutrition and getting adequate sleep play a role in the health and well-being of your children.  Both can also affect their ability to concentrate and learn in school.  

Making healthy food choices starts at home.  Teaching your kids good eating habits at a young age has a huge impact on their health later in life.   According to the Centers for Disease Control, the percentage of children with obesity in the United States has more than tripled since the 1970s. Today, about one in five school-aged children (ages 6–19) has obesity. Children with obesity are at higher risk for having other chronic health conditions and diseases that impact physical health, such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, type 2 diabetes, and risk factors for heart disease. 

Good nutrition can help prevent childhood obesity and these chronic diseases in our children.   Studies show that malnutrition leads to behavior problems, and that sugar has a negative impact on child behavior. However, these effects can be counteracted when children consume a balanced diet that includes protein, fat, complex carbohydrates, and fiber.

To help your child prepare for the school year, here are a few tips for getting in a good healthy routine:

  1. Start sending your kids to bed earlier. Most children and teens need at least 8-10 hours of sleep each night. Getting the right amount of sleep is essential for anyone who wants to do well on a test or play sports without stumbling.
  2. Eat a good breakfast. Include a combination of a healthy protein and complex carbohydrate with fiber.  Examples include a scrambled egg and toast or low sugar cereal with fiber and a cup of milk.   Don’t let your child skip breakfast, but also try to avoid simple sugars such as pop tarts, high sugar cereals or high calorie breakfast tacos and sandwiches from fast food restaurants.
  3. Pack a healthy lunch or make healthy choices in the cafeteria. A lunch that includes a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, an apple and milk has fewer calories and more nutrition than a burger and fries.  Good nutrition will help with athletic performances at practices and games.
  4. Encourage more water. When children are playing outside or participating in sports in this Texas heat, it’s important to stay hydrated.  Sugar sweetened beverages will not help to replace water lost through sweat, so it is best to choose water instead.
  5. Limit all screen time to less than 2 hours a day. Excessive amounts of time spent watching TV, playing on a computer, phone or video games also affect children’s health.  Multiple studies have shown that excess screen time can affect a child’s ability to go to sleep, can make it harder to concentrate and focus on non-screen-based stimuli, can cause excess calorie intake and can increase risk for cardiovascular disease. 

Every child has the potential to do well in school. Poor nutrition and inadequate sleep put them at risk for missing out on meeting that potential.  However, taking action today, to provide healthier choices and a good sleep schedule can help to set students up for a successful future full of possibilities.