Back to school health and nutrition check list: Dr. Krantz guide for parents.
7 steps for a Healthy Start to the new school year!
1. Physician well visit- Make sure your child’s vaccines are up to date. The list of required and recommended vaccines keeps growing and requirements have continually changed. Additional shots added to the list of requirements in many states include the second Varicella (Chicken Pox vaccine) and the Meningococcal vaccine, especially for college bound students. Try to schedule your child’s annual doctor’s visit ahead of the usual preschool rush. Check your insurance policy to understand how often your plan covers a physical examination. Generally speaking it is once a calendar year and you need to be aware of some of the time frame requirements from many local schools. They might overlap with insurance requirement and you may have to discuss this problem with your child’s school administration. This year there is added concern because of the possibility of having to get two flu vaccines. Make sure you keep current with the recommendation of the CDC and your physician regarding the necessity, availability, and safety of the seasonal flu and H1N1 vaccines.
2. Sports, fitness and forms. Most school sports teams require a separate participation form. Make sure your child’s physical exam is up to date and current, at least within the last 6 – 12 months for this form. Consider having an EKG if your child we be playing a particularly intense sport. Ask your child’s doctor if they can include a sports examination to determine their readiness for organized sports. In addition, initiate a workout program to get ready for their seasonal sport. Do not wait for the first day of practice to get them off the couch. Warm up their muscles by stretching and aerobic exercise. Encourage them to gradually increase the intensity of their workout over the course of one to two weeks prior to the start of training for their sport. Talk to the coach ahead of time to get an idea of what will be required for your child to be in shape. Ask about any suggested exercises to work up for appropriate fitness for that particular sport.
3. Sleep-We all know what it feels like to not get enough sleep. We feel listless, weak, and cannot focus. Just try to remember what it was like when you had to sit all day in school while trying to keep your eyes open from fatigue. Let alone learn, play and study. You want your child to have sufficient energy and focus to get the most out of the school day. Sleep is the most basic requirement to starting the school year on the right foot. The summer bed time hours have probably dramatically changed if your home is like mine. You would be better served if you did not shock them back to reality and their first battle with getting up early for school was the first day of school .It might take them over a week or two to adjust to waking up earlier and functioning competently. The best way to catch up on sleep and avoid be tired is to go to bed early. Start getting your children back in the routine at least one week before school starts. Sleeping late on the weekend to catch up does not work either. You only start the whole cycle again. Tired on Monday and not alert till Thursday. Remember we want a healthy beginning to the school year and sleep is the first place to start.
4. Back to school shopping- Should not be just for school supplies and clothes. Make grocery shopping for school day food and snacks a fun outing. Prepare for the process. Include your children in the discussion ahead of time. What are the family nutritional goals for the year? Be open to their tastes and suggestions when engaging in conversation regarding foods for school. Then use the opportunity to educate about health related issues and be prepared to negotiate for better choices. Always include some of their choices and favorites as part of a reasonable concession.
5. Controlling the Television and other multimedia activities- Begin the process of TV control by going through the fall television schedule and have each child select their favorite shows that they cannot live without seeing. If the list is exhaustive then help them choose the one or two they like the most. Make a plan to record, TiVo, or YouTube their chosen shows. They should work towards setting aside the time each week to watch their show. You can get double benefit by using this show and time as an incentive to getting work and chores done. The same plan can be implemented for all non-educational activities including game boy, computer, etc.
6. Exercise- If you haven’t already started to schedule in fitness, it is time to initiate some sort of realistic routine that can be continued during the school year. Exercise is a wonderful distraction from the daily grind of school work and home work. It is not only good for your physical health but it is also important to your mental health .Studies show that exercise enhances memory and learning. Develop a consistent and fun plan to incorporate exercise into the daily routine. It should not be complicated, extensive, or overly time consuming. It just has to be mobile and simple. Have balls in the car, for any down time. Have a jump rope, play hop scotch. Use their IPod or phone music for dancing. Be ready for extended waiting time together and instead of everyone instantly turning on their phone, and game boy, use the waiting time as a play time. Any way to get your children moving is important.
7. School day Breakfast , lunch, and dinner-
Breakfast- The age old adage that it is important to start your school day with a good breakfast. But what constitutes a good school morning breakfast. Make sure your child has a consistent breakfast emphasizing nutritional content. Choose from a variety of food groups to both fill them up and meet their nutritional needs. Make sure adequate fiber as well as complex carbohydrates are part of the routine. Try to include fruit, grains, and fluid intake. Try to limit the sugar content of cereals and breakfast promotional meals.
Lunch- In spite of your best efforts, when they get to school they exchange their healthy snacks, meals and dessert for the premier junk food available. You cannot run interference for them in the cafeteria. They have to be involved in lunch choices at home and hopefully they will make them on their own as well. The question always arises, do you buy them junk food you have negotiated (relatively healthier) or leave the influences in the lunch room up to chance. You should plan ahead in order to educate for school. Game planning should start with a realistic approach. Pack it together the night before. Do your negotiating in the grocery store, not on the morning of school. Include an exchange program. You will put a treat in the lunch box if they agree to eat the rest of the healthy food you include. If they exchange food with a friend it has to be for the same type of snack. Healthy for healthy, treat for treat. You can encourage your treat to be organic, sugar free, etc.; but planning for the ultimate exchange is key. If they do exchange, try to use positive reinforcement by indicating that if they stick to the healthy food and resist the temptation to exchange for junk food you will have special treats or fun activities. Dinner time should be together time. Take this as an opportune time to discuss the day’s activities.Make an effort to begin a schedule which is school friendly, namely earlier, healthier, promoting good habits and choices. A schedule that is practical for everyone’s schedule. Start by having a simple discussion on ways to improve your health content of meals for school nights. Cut out sweets, particularly chocolate at night. Educate your children to the importance a food’s quality has on attention, learning and school behavior.