Five Health Tips for Going Back to School

September 21, 2015 Your Health

Summer has come to a close, and your child’s days of playing, movie marathons and staying up late are over. Going back to school is a bittersweet transition, and most kids will need help getting back into productive, healthy school-day routines. Here are our top five tips to make going back to school easier on the whole family.

1. Pack a Healthy Lunch

Say goodbye to the pizzas and sodas of summer pool parties; now that school is starting, your child will need proper nutrition to maintain focus during class. Check the school’s cafeteria menu and decide which days to pack a lunch instead. Some cafeteria meals are still pretty unhealthy, despite new dietary guidelines. The safest bet is to pack healthy options like fruit, vegetables and non-concentrate fruit juice. Try to stay away from preservatives and sugary snacks. And sodas should definitely be cut out: just one can a day can cause a weight gain of 15 lb/year. You are what you eat, so choose wisely for your kids!

2. Get on those Shots

Sorry kids, but almost every year in school means another shot or two. It all depends on the child’s age; besides the annual flu shot, children may need vaccinations for Hepatitis B, HPV and DTaP. It’s good practice to keep a current immunization record and review it at the start of every school year. The CDC provides a table for every shot a child needs until age 18, which you can keep with your records.

3. Set Breakfast Routines

Studies show that parents’ eating habits influence the dietary choices of their children, so try to sit down for a healthy breakfast as a family each school day. Breakfast is a great family ritual that will keep your child healthy, happy and mentally prepared before school. And their grades will show the difference: studies show that kids who eat breakfast do better at school than those who don’t. Of course, it all depends on what kind of breakfast they get, so nix the sugary cereals and prepare healthy options such as whole-grain bread, fruits and low-fat yogurt.

4. Schedule an Annual Physical

A lot can change from year to year, and the annual physical exam is a great way to keep a running discussion with your pediatrician about your child’s development and an opportunity to bring up possible health concerns. The AAP recommends keeping continuity with the same set of healthcare professionals throughout childhood, in what is known as the “medical home” approach to primary care. An ongoing relationship with your physician will make assessments, record-keeping and potential interventions much easier. Discuss diet, exercise and extracurricular options that might be appropriate for your child in the new school year.

5. Sign up for Sports

While kids have lots of natural energy and may be getting exercise from playing outside, signing your child up for a sport is a sure way to instill healthy exercise habits for the new school year. Regular exercise has been shown to be a crucial component of child development, and playing on team sports has been shown to increase a child’s self-confidence and mental health. And don’t forget to schedule a sports physical, which can help determine whether it’s safe for your child to play a particular sport (the school or sports team will often require it).