Back to School Tips - My Family Travels

A doctor offers sound advice for parents on healthy lunches and playground safety.

With the school season right around the corner, this is the perfect time to start preparing your elementary-school-aged children for their best school year yet.  Since parents cannot be at school to watch them, make sure you set a good example and give them guidance at home so when they go to school they are ready to enjoy themselves and be healthy and safe.

Health and safety are by far the most important ingredients to a happy school experience. Helping your children eat a nutritious and substantial lunch is critical to keeping kids productive and energized all day long. Children are never too young to learn healthy nutrition habits that will reflect on their entire life. It doesn’t matter whether the child is overweight or not, every child should learn healthy eating habits from their parents from the moment they start eating solid foods.

Here are some tips that will help you set your child on the perfect path to health:

Packing a Healthy Lunch

• Proteins: Use lean deli meats such as turkey, ham or roast beef. Wrap up the meats with thinly-sliced Swiss cheese or part skim mozzarella string cheese. Use a little mustard instead of mayonnaise for a little extra flavor.

• If you opt for a sandwich, use whole grain breads and pita; stay away from processed breads. Add a slice of tomato and a lettuce leaf for color (no iceberg lettuce please) and healthy veggies (you know it, carrots, celery, cucumbers).

• Throw in several small snacks in addition to the protein. A trail mix with your child’s favorite nuts or granola and some raisins or dried fruit like cranberries, cherries or apricots (stay away from dry fruit that have been preserved with sulfates). If your little one loves chips, corn is better than wheat and sweet potato is better than regular potato. Veggie chips are a good and healthier choice. You can also substitute with popcorn or baked potato chips. Rread the labels and make sure the list of ingredients is short and only includes the veggies you want your child to eat. No child should have to eat maltodextrin, polysorbates and gobs of sugar and salt.

• Don’t forget the real vegetables. Stuff a baggy with celery and mini carrot sticks and some peanut butter for dipping.

• For dessert, give your kids an oatmeal cookie, or fresh fruit such as orange slices or grapes instead of a bag of Oreos or Jell-o which are all chemicals and of no nutritional value.

• Drinks are just as important as the food your children consume. Skip the sugary fruit juices. Try water or skim milk. If water is too bland, have your child try some flavored flat or sparkling waters at home to see which flavors she likes. If he’s a huge fan of fruit juices, make sure to look for ones that are 100% juice or diluted with water. Stay away from artificial sweeteners. Sugar and honey are perfect sweeteners but I find it best to teach your child not to use any type of additional sweeteners so their taste buds don’t get hooked on sugar.

Staying Safe at the School Playground

• Personally check out your child’s school playground before the school year begins. Check for broken or rusted equipment, sharp edges or points and tripping hazards. Report any dangers to the school administration immediately and make sure the problem is corrected before your kid and all the others get exposed to unnecessary dangers.

• Teach your children, before they go to the playground, the rules for safe playing. Explain to them that there is no shoving, pushing or yelling. Explain how important it is that they listen to their teachers on the playground. Show them which pieces of equipment are suitable for their age. Help them understand how to play correctly on the specific pieces so they don’t injure themselves. Take them to the local playground and show them on similar pieces of equipment so they are familiar with the equipment before faced with it in the schoolyard.

• Check for protective surfaces surrounding each piece of equipment on the playground.

• Finally, make your child’s experience in school and on the playground fun and enjoyable. Do not scare your child or worry them, Life is to be enjoyed and not feared.

Dr. Erika Schwartz is the Medical Director of Cinergy Health.

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