Healthy Lifestyle

Parents’ Tips for Preparing Your Kids to Have a Healthy School Year

It’s Back to School Time

Transitions can feel like a challenge for everyone. One minute, you’re relaxing by the pool or returning from a relaxing vacation. The next, you’re stocking up on the upcoming year’s school supplies and registering your child for classes.

And then, before you know it, the first school day begins.

A new school year means back to basics and a renewed mindset toward focus and functionality. Life becomes a lot more structured come late August or early September.

Shifting gears might feel challenging, but transitioning from summer bliss to fall’s formality shouldn’t feel very difficult. 

These five strategies can help as your child — and you! — make that pivotal transition from relaxed, carefree summer days to the structure of fall and a new school year.

Get the Right Backpack

Whether your child prefers a fashion-forward or fitness-forward backpack, weight matters. Many professionals recommend children carry no more than 10 – 15 percent of their body weight in their backpacks, but many carry a bag above that weight. 

How your child wears a backpack matters too. Wearing one incorrectly — on only one shoulder, or straps too tight or loose — or lugging a poorly designed backpack can lead to spinal compression, and create shoulder, neck, and back pain. Poorly designed backpacks or backpacks carried incorrectly can also create bad posture and potential injury

You and your child can feel better with the right backpack using these four tips. 

  • Buy the right one. A good backpack helps properly carry gear while preventing injury. Invest in quality and spend the time to find the right one. A waist strap can add extra support. Alternately, consider a rolling backpack. Read reviews online to ensure you’re buying a well-designed, built-to-last bag.
  • Ensure the right fit.  Make sure the backpack has equally distributed weight. Encourage children to use both straps, properly positioned. Remember that different thicknesses of clothing might require your child to readjust the straps.
  • Support good posture. Being mindful about posture goes beyond just finding the right backpack. Standing up straight and avoiding slouching can mean less back pain, the potential for injury, and a healthier spine.  Plus, remind your child they look a lot better when they stand up straight! 
  • Encourage an as-needed basis. Backpacks weren’t intended to be worn for hours on end. Whenever they can, encourage your child to take off the backpack. They’ll feel more comfortable and their spine will appreciate their effort! 

Pack a Healthy Lunch 

Research shows lunch programs that include fruits and vegetables help reinforce a child’s preferences for these foods. They have healthy options to choose among, and their peers eat those same healthy foods

Unfortunately, not every school presents that option. Some offer less-than-stellar food options, while other schools might not provide lunch at all. These four tips can make lunchtime healthier for them and less stressful for you.

  • Get your kids involved. Packing lunches make a great opportunity to establish healthy habits your kids will use for life. Be creative and make healthier versions of their favorites. You can always use a lettuce wrap or gluten-free tortilla to replace bread. Sliced carrots or apples with little servings of almond butter also pack well. So do little bags of healthy trail mix or raw nuts. 
  • Foster mindfulness. Studies show children eat lunch too quickly. Time constraints and peer pressure contribute to this, but so do the habits kids learn at home. Encouraging kids to eat slowly and mindfully at breakfast and dinner can carry over into their potentially rushed school lunchtime. Remind them to chew slowly. It helps with digestion. 
  • Create a lunch co-op, and share in the work. If you’re among health-minded moms and dads, you might consider designating lunch duties to one person in the group every week. This takes some financial planning and commitment, but it can also make healthy lunches easier while saving you time.
  • Teach kids to do the best they can. Even the most well-organized parent forgets to pack lunch or finds their kids having to choose unhealthy school lunches. Teach your child to make the healthiest option. That might mean pulling the grilled chicken breast off the bun or eating sweet potato fries rather than regular fries. Every little effort counts towards a healthier lifestyle and fosters the right attitude for life. 

Make Time for Family Fitness and Physical Activity

Teens spend on average about nine hours a day on electronics, whereas those aged eight to 12 spend six hours.

That’s an astounding amount of screen time daily on cell phones, tablets, laptops, television, and other electrical devices, which cuts into physical activity time. 

But active kids do better academically and thrive in other areas of life. These four tips can help them become more physically active even if sports or the gym aren’t part of your child’s daily routine.

  • Make Time for Family Fitness. Family fitness helps everyone get in better shape while spending more time together. Schedule — and make it mandatory — a Saturday afternoon touch football game, frisbee throwing, or even a long lake walk. If you don’t have a hiking trail nearby, make a day outing at a nearby destination. (Bonus: Cell phone reception can be difficult in more remote environments!) Even your vacations can become physically focused, whether that entails a 10-day Hawaiian adventure or skiing in Colorado. 
  • Find something fun. If exercise feels like a chore or a “must do” on an ever-growing list of duties, kids are less likely to want to do it. While it might require some trial and error, find something your child enjoys. That might be group sports, weight lifting, yoga classes, swimming, or gymnastics. The point is to move more and foster a stay-fit attitude they’ll have for life. 
  • Be an example. When they see mom or dad schedule the gym or an at-home workout, kids are more likely to feel inspired and find their own physical activity they like to do. If you have excuses about why you can’t work out, they’ll find those excuses too. Find a gym that is kid-friendly, like a YMCA, and take them with you. They might find other kids to play with or even join you in your fitness routine. 
  • Move more. Children don’t need any special equipment or a gym to stay fit. Little decisions like choosing the stairs instead of the elevator or parking further from the mall doors can add up to healthy gains. 

Eat Healthy Snacks

Packing a healthy lunch or eating one at school should keep your kid full and focused all afternoon. But everyone gets the munchies, and a healthy snack can provide an energy boost and mid-afternoon satisfaction. 

Unfortunately, snacking is where children — and adults — get in trouble. You know the scenario: You send your kid a healthy lunch, but they visit their friends’ home after school where they serve homemade brownies or potato chips.  

Try these four ways to avoid unhealthy foods from entering your kids’ pathway. 

  • Pack grab-and-go bags. You can pack nuts, seeds, healthy trail mix, and apple slices with almond butter in baggies that kids can conveniently grab whenever they want something to munch on. A little prep work will save you money while ensuring your kids aren’t reaching for candy bars or corn chips for snacks. 
  • Upgrade their favorite foods to healthy ones. Healthy snacking doesn’t mean deprivation or eating boring foods. Nearly any food can be “health-ified.” Take crackers: Our Gluten-free, Grainless Crackers provide the perfect munch without junky ingredients in boxed crackers. If they have a sweet tooth, our Brookie Cookies or Almond Butter Fudge provide decadent deliciousness without the added sugar.    
  • Make a protein shake. This fast, filling snack or mini-meal also provides you the opportunity to slip in healthy ingredients like leafy greens and freshly ground flaxseed that your kids wouldn’t normally eat. Blend healthy fats like coconut milk and avocado with our grass-fed whey protein and frozen berries. Play around with consistency and texture until your child finds a shake they love.
  • Make healthy popsicles. Nothing quite satisfies on a hot day like a popsicle. Blend our grass-fed whey protein with unsweetened coconut milk and berries, pour into molds, and freeze. These will go quickly so make several batches! 

Become Engaged Socially, Academically, and Creatively

Kids deal with a lot of stress these days: They may feel the stress to excel academically, have peer pressure, and experience the stress of our fast-paced life. As adults, that probably feels like a lot of pressure. Imagine what it might feel like for your child!

The answer involves taking things gradually, mindfully, and cultivating a routine they can use for life. Being involved — with academics, with family and friends, and in extracurricular activities — plays an important role in a child’s upbringing. These four tips can help.

With the right mindset and these strategies, you can create a healthy school year for your kids.  

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