Back to School Suggestions of Monica Pierson, MD
Parents with school age children are about to start another 9 month race The School Year! There is the pre race excitement of school supply and clothing purchases, enrollment, meeting this years teachers and goals and commitments for the best year yet. The ALARM sounds on race day morning; children and adults suit up and dash out the door to begin yet another school year marathon. There are strategies during the race that increase the opportunity for a strong finish.
Running a race takes preparation and planning to insure a strong finish. Optimizing a childs health during the busy school year requires much preparation. Here are the A, B, Cs of planning around food and exercise to work toward the healthiest school year.
A healthy breakfast. The fast between the previous days food and breakfast can often be 10-12 hours for children. Providing good nutrition is essential to brain and body function. Whole grains (cereal or bread), lean protein (eggs/egg whites/yogurt/one tablespoon of natural peanut butter/low fat cottage cheese/string cheese or skim milk) and fruits, vegetables (any fruit, 100% juice with no added sugars/veggies in omelets) are great choices. Many items can be put together the night before for a quick breakfast.
For more energy and health benefits, plan to serve a minimum of 5 fruits and or vegetables each day and drink water. An easy water calculation is one-half a childs weight in ounces of water each day. Water consumption becomes simple when there are daily bench marks to meet. It is also an easy, inexpensive health source with a multitude of benefits. Often thirst, tiredness and boredom masquerade as hunger.
Food has the power to make or break a childs day. Skipping breakfast gives a message to the body and brain to slow down and conserve calories and fat because it thinks it is in a starvation state. The brain slows down to conserve available energy. To start a cascade of hormones that increase attentiveness, decrease colds and infections, aches, pains and lethargy, eat a balanced meal. Foods to include are lean protein, a complex carbohydrate, a fruit or vegetable, and monounsaturated fat such as natural peanut butter, avocado, olives or olive oil.
Be active. Physical activity is a way to support academic performance. It increases blood circulation through the oxygen and glucose that reaches a childs brain to support the learning process. Physical activity helps children learn and focus. Other benefits to exercise are increased self-esteem and awareness while decreasing the risk of obesity and related health consequences. Parents are the best advocates for school physical education and increased leisure time activity. Speak with school officials and at home limit daily screen time on computers, video and text messaging to two hours or less a day.
Create time for planning. Good intentions can sideline any race strategy. With hectic days it often seems there is not enough time to eat healthy and exercise. The difference between KNOWING and DOING is PLANNING which make it more difficult for old habits to return. In the midst of this years race, when good intentions are difficult to execute; commit to few minutes at the end of the day to plan food and activities for the next day.
Simple. Implementing a few principles as the school year starts will prove to make children and parents winners. Children will have tools to support their learning and health. Planning gives parents the opportunity to engage in the health and well-being of their child and finish this years school race as a winner.
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