Who else can’t believe that August is nearly over already? It seems like just yesterday we were busy planning our summer adventures and now there are only a few more days to go. There is definitely something in the August air that screams pencils, backpacks, folders and notebooks, which can only mean one thing: the start of a new school year!
As I approach my senior year in the dietetics program at Michigan State University — the last first day of school I will have (maybe for a while) — I’d give anything to go back to the days of Lisa Frank folders and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I know my parents tried their hardest to make sure I was developing healthy habits during those years, but like any other child, I wasn’t always the easiest to reckon with when it came to bed times and healthy after-school snacks.
If you find yourself anticipating the upcoming year with concern as to how to make sure your child has his/her healthiest and happiest year yet, here are some tips and suggestions to keep in mind. Yes, what kids learn in school is important, but the habits that they begin to establish now are the ones that they will carry with them to college and beyond!
A good day begins with a good night’s sleep
A consistent sleep pattern is crucial to a child’s functioning and learning at every stage of growth. Getting on a good sleep schedule may actually be easier during the school year because they are going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday. This will prevent irritability and ensure that their attention and memory at school is on point.
Aim for a calm morning routine
For me, waking up and seeing that I only have 10 minutes to get dressed, get my stuff together and grab breakfast sets a rushed tone for my whole day. To ensure that mornings before school are calm (somewhat, at least), have kids prepare for the day the night before. Packing backpacks and picking out clothes the night before can make for a smooth morning. The extra time saved can therefore be spent at the table enjoying breakfast!
Is breakfast still considered the most important meal of the day if it never happens? There is much research that supports the importance of eating breakfast for brainpower. A developing body needs a fresh dose of blood sugar (glucose) first thing in the morning. The key is not to have what your child eats for breakfast be high in sugar. Foods like frozen toaster pastries are quick, yes, but receive a nutritional grade F because of their high sugar content and lack of essential nutrients. A mixture of fiber (whole wheat toast, oatmeal, fruit) and protein (eggs, yogurt, milk) will help to keep your little one full and attentive until lunchtime.
Take the guesswork out of packing lunches
Use these easy lunch ideas to involve kids in planning their lunches. By letting kids take part in choosing what they will have for lunch you are less likely to get a lunchbox back home with half of an eaten sandwich and untouched apple slices.
Get kids cooking!
When kids feel as though they have had a part in creating their own lunch they are more likely to eat it. Setting aside a shelf in the pantry of “take-to-school foods” that kids can pick from is a great way to get them involved. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or turkey wraps are easy for kids to assemble the night before school. Working with your child to make lunch creates a teachable moment for you to tell them why it is important to eat fruit and veggies at lunchtime. Building this foundation will impact their future food choices and show them that it can be fun and easy to make something nutritious.
Make Food Fun!
The Smart Eating for Kids Pinterest boards “Make Food Fun” and “Eating on the Go” are filled with ideas to spice up lunch boxes. Imagine the look on your child’s face when they open their lunch to find a dinosaur shaped sandwich or a fruit kebob. A fun touch gives them something to look forward to and on days when something fancy is not feasible, a little post-it note always goes a long way!
What healthy habits are you making a priority this fall? Share in the comments!