The back-to-school season is upon us, and that means pretty soon your kids will be exposed to lots of germs: on the bus, in the classroom, in the cafeteria and just through increased interactions with kids and teachers in enclosed spaces. This year when you’re preparing your child to head back to school, make sure they’re as healthy as possible to make it harder for illnesses to take hold.
- Start by establishing healthy diet habits. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for a reason: It provides your child with the nutrients he or she needs to power through classwork and stay focused and energized until the next important meal: lunch. Include protein and whole grains for long-lasting nutrition that keeps your child feeling full and satisfied.
- Incorporate healthy diet habits at lunch, too. Skip the school lunches and pack at home, including protein, whole grains, fruit and veggies. Don’t forget calcium – if your child doesn’t like milk, consider yogurt or cheese. Slip in an icepack to keep everything cool.
- When your child gets home, provide a high-quality snack to stave off snacking until supper and to avoid sabotaging all your healthy diet efforts.
- Let your child take control of their own healthy diet by allowing them to make at least some food choices on their own. Provide them with lots of healthy alternatives and occasional treats and let them help you prepare their school lunches so they’re more likely to eat them. Include crunchy foods like nuts or raw veggie sticks, or make some homemade granola. Cut foods in bite-sized pieces for easier eating.
- Schedule a back-to-school physical to make sure your child is in optimal health before the school year begins. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends annual checkups for kids to help them stay healthy as they grow.
- Don’t forget the vision test. The vision test your child gets at school is not comprehensive; to make sure your child’s vision is as healthy as possible, schedule a checkup with an ophthalmologist, especially if it’s been some time since your child’s last visit. Having a comprehensive vision test is the best way to find minor problems before they have a chance to affect your child’s school performance.
- Make sure your child is equipped with hand sanitizer and uses it throughout the day. Touching a germy pencil and then rubbing the eyes – or eating lunch without washing up – are major causes of illness in school-age kids.
Keeping your child healthy this school year begins with you. Make the effort to help your child establish good eating habits and other healthy behaviors to avoid the colds and flus that can make both of you feel miserable.