Summer has officially come to an end and schools across the southeast are back in session, thus the back-to-school frenzy has begun. Parents are filling their shopping baskets with pencils, calculators and notebooks to ensure their child gets off to a good start this school year. The new school year is also an excellent time to focus on healthy eating and exercise habits. Studies show that good nutrition and physical activity can improve academic performance. Follow the tips below to help your child move to the head of the class this year.
- Bring Back Breakfast: Did your family fall out of the breakfast habit this summer? Bring it back! Breakfast boosts brainpower, making it an essential part of a successful school year. Students who eat breakfast have better memory, attention and problem-solving skills. The good news is a healthy breakfast can be made in just five minutes. Our family favorite is oatmeal with milk and berries. Adding milk to oatmeal, instead of water, not only adds protein but also nine essential nutrients found in milk, including vitamin D and calcium, needed for strong bones, teeth and muscles.
- Provide a healthy lunch: It’s important for kids to eat well throughout the school day, not just at breakfast, so make sure they have access to a healthy lunch. And remember, school lunch is a healthy alternative to a packed lunch. A recent study highlighted in the Journal of the Academy Nutrition and Dietetics, found that packed lunches are often less nutritious than school lunch as they lack fruits, vegetables and dairy. With the new nutrition standards for school meals including whole grains, fruits and vegetables and low fat and fat free milk, there is no doubt your child can grab a healthy lunch at school.
- Play 60: Studies show that physical activity may positively impact a student’s academic performance whether it comes in the form of recess, PE class or after-school play. Children need 60 minutes of active play each day. One program in schools that is taking aim at childhood obesity is Fuel Up to Play 60, which encourages nutrient-rich foods along with 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Learn how to get your child’s school involved at www.fueluptoplay60.com.
Laura Buxenbaum, MPH, RD, LDN