Back to School Health and Nutrition Questions Answered!

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As summer comes to a close and a new school year begins, three of our experts join us to share tips parents want to know about back to school time for their kids.

Alaina Wertz, Youth Fitness Team Lead at Ochsner Fitness Center, and Alexis Weilbaecher, RD, Ochsner Fitness Center Nutritionist answer back to school health and nutrition questions.

How can families help kids adjust from summer to their school schedule?

Be sure to start resetting the bedtime required to get at least eight hours of sleep at least a week ahead of time. It’s good to get kids back into the swing of reading and doing some problem solving to get them back in the mode of learning.

Check in with school to see if there are any summer assignments your child will need to complete prior to the first day. We also recommend limiting screen time to two hours or less a day year-round.

Back to school often means sitting in class more. How can kids keep active during the school year?

More activity during the school year can mean being active in daily recess time or during PE classes. After school or in the evening, going for a bike ride or walk with pets and family can help to continue the activity time.

What healthy snacks can parents pack for school that kids will love?

For healthy snack options, think protein coupled with whole grains.

Examples include:

  • A piece of fruit with nut butter
  • Wheat crackers like Triscuits or Wheat Thins with string cheese and turkey pepperoni
  • Nature Valley protein chewy bar or Snackwell protein bar
  • Turkey or ham slices rolled up with a slice of reduced fat cheese
  • Chobani Simply 100 Greek yogurt
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with no added sugar jelly
  • Cheese toast (slice of cheese on 1 slice of 100% whole wheat bread)

Here are three ideas for healthy school lunches and snacks that you kids will actually eat!

Why are healthy foods and exercise important for kids? How can these factors impact school performance?

A healthy diet and daily exercise is crucial for the well being of both children and adults. Balanced meals ensure that children have the energy and nutrients they need to grow and learn. Exercise ensures your child’s heart stays healthy and it helps to keep kids focused.

How can schools and teachers help students be healthy and fit?

We recommend that schools and teachers model healthy eating and fitness throughout the day. Starting with the food served to what is available in vending machines, make sure you are providing a good example.

Promoting drinking water throughout the day is great way to show kids that staying hydrated is important. We also recommend daily exercise for all kids during the school day. This can be incorporated into classes throughout the day.

Teachers and schools can assist by allowing children to take a "five minute active break." During that time children can do squats, jumping jacks and stretches in middle of class to help children stay focused.

What about walking or biking to school? What tips do you have for safety on the way to school?

First you want to make sure that before your kids set out that they are of an appropriate age and maturity level where they can cross the street safely and follow directions without getting distracted.

We recommend that you take the route on your own first to make sure there are no hazards and good visibility along the route. You also need to ensure there is a crossing guard at every intersection your child would cross.

In addition, make sure you take into account the lighting as seasons change. It also helps to dress your children in bright clothing to help make them more visible.

Should kids eat breakfast every day? What are some healthy breakfasts to help kids get ready for the school day?

Absolutely! Eating a healthy breakfast is associated with improved memory and reduced absenteeism at school. Check out these options for kid-friendly breakfast cereals.

What resources are available in your area to help kids eat healthy and be physically active during the school year?

MyPlate is a great website with meal plans for kids of all ages and teaches kids how to portion their plate on their own. It also has great ideas about how to stay active and keep screen time under two hours a day.

Your local YMCAs and recreational departments are great resources for staying active in your community.

At Ochsner Fitness Center we offer Youth Fitness programs, which provide a variety of different youth-focused group classes each day. The kids’ favorite is having a ball to throw and catch and our ab and core and cardio classes. In the cardio class, we teach children different types of cardio exercises rather than just riding a bike or running on an elliptical machine.

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