Five Tips to Keep Your Children Healthy When Going Back to School
You might think that the school year brings sickness but there are ways to keep children healthy during the school year. Some children might be excited to get back to school but we all know that us parents dislike the germs, sickness and unhealthy school lunches that come with the school year. Use these tips to keep your children healthy when going back to school and throughout the school year.
1. Begin the Day With a Brainy Breakfast
Above all other organs, the brain is most affected – for better or worse – by what you eat. You put junk food into a child’s brain, you get junk behavior and junk learning. Scientific studies show that children who begin the day with a brainy breakfast:
- Made higher grades
- Were more attentive and participated better in class
- Were less likely to be diagnosed with A.D.D. or learning disabilities
- Handled complex learning tasks better
- Missed fewer school days because of illness
The main ingredients of a brainy breakfast are:
- Protein, which perks up the brain
- Fiber-filled carbs, which provide a steady supply of fuel
- Omega-3 fats, which build smart brain cells
- Minerals, such as calcium and iron, which help brain biochemistry work better
Here are some tips for brainy back-to-school breakfasts from the Sears’ family kitchen:
- Whole-grain waffles or pancakes topped with blueberries and peanut butter
- Oatmeal with blueberries and yogurt
- Whole-wheat banana nut bread and yogurt
- ½ cup low-fat cottage cheese in a scooped-out cantaloupe half
- Whole-wheat tortilla wrapped around scrambled eggs and diced tomatoes
- Veggie omelet, whole-wheat toast, and fruit
- Peanut butter and banana slices on a whole-wheat English muffin with low-fat milk
- Almond-strawberry yogurt cup. Layer the yogurt and strawberries (or another fruit, such as blueberries or chopped apple, peaches, or pineapple) in a small bowl. Drizzle honey over the top if plain yogurt is used. Sprinkle with almonds and/or flax-seed meal.
- Zucchini pancakes. This is a long-standing Sears’ favorite that even our toddlers enjoyed. Add a cup of shredded zucchini to whole-wheat pancakes.
- A fruit and yogurt smoothie
Besides a brainy breakfast, send your child to school with a healthy snack. Those busy little bodies and brains run out of fuel mid-morning and mid-afternoon, the times when learning and behavioral problems are most likely to appear. Our favorite snack: Go nuts! Nuts are the perfect snack because they provide the perfect balance of healthy fats, healthy carbs, and protein. Make your own trail mix: let your children pick out their favorite nuts and add dried fruit. For school snacks, be safe and avoid peanuts because of possible peanut allergy. A handful of nuts for a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack is just what the school-doctor orders.
2. Keep Hands Clean
Germs are spread through hand-to-hand contact or coughed into the air. Instead of shaking hands, bow or nod. Instruct your children to wash their hands often. Yet, when soap and water are not available, use an antibacterial wipe, like Wet Ones. These are proven to kill 99.99% of germs and they won’t dry out the skin like alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Put Wet Ones in your child’s lunch box or in their little pockets.
3. Feed Your Child Immune-Boosting Foods
Fruits, vegetables, and seafood are your top three immune-boosters. For simplicity, remember the three S’s: salmon, salads, and smoothies. In my medical practice I have noticed that families who feed their children these three top immune-boosting foods are sick less often, especially during those early back-to-school months and the winter flu season. If your children are not fond of seafood, such as wild salmon, give them a daily omega-3 supplement. Studies have shown that school children’s performance improves when they eat adequate omega 3s. Good science and good sense go together, since omega-3 fats are the top structural component of growing brain cells. Once your children join the back-to-school crowd, they are naturally exposed to more germs, so their immune systems need a boost.
Here’s another tip from the Sears’ family kitchen. If your family’s rush-hour is like our family’s in the morning, sleepy kids and hurried parents are not the recipe for a long sit-down breakfast. On most school mornings I would make a fruit and yogurt smoothie, adding some protein powder, organic Greek yogurt, milk or 100 percent juice as a beverage, and slip in some tofu for extra protein and calcium (they didn’t even realize it was in there). I called this smoothie “school-ade.” Our kids loved this quick brainy breakfast!
4. Keep Little Noses and Sinuses Clear
School-passed germs usually settle first in the nose and sinuses. Dr. Bill’s prescription for flushing these germs out of little noses: a “nose hose” and a “steam clean.” A facial steamer and a neti pot are two back-to-school nose-clearers every family should have. At the first sign of a stuffy nose, flush your child’s nose out with a saltwater solution or show your children how to use a neti pot for a real thorough “nose hose.” Also, show them how to carefully use a facial steamer to loosen those snotty nasal secretions.
5. Keep Your Child Active
School children get labeled with a bunch of “Ds”: ADD, ADHD, LD (learning disabilities), etc. Let me add two more “D” – NDD (nutrition deficit disorder) and MDD (movement deficit disorder). Besides preventing NDD by feeding your children immune-boosting foods, get your children moving. In our family we have an MDD-prevention policy: sitting equals moving. Be sure your kids spend at least as much time moving as they do sitting. Studies show that compared with “sitters,” “movers” showed remarkable improvement in their ADD, especially in their ability to sit still and focus, and they required fewer attention-promoting drugs.
Increased movement of the body increases the blood flow to the brain. I call movement “grow food” for the brain. Increased blood flow to the brain increases the release of a substance called nerve growth factor, which helps those little brains grow. Also, movement mellows the mind. Increased blood flow to the brain releases “happy hormones.”
Encourage activity during school-time recess. Schools are beginning to realize that school children need to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, especially during those back-to-school months when they had been used to lots of summer activities. The sights and sounds of nature both relax the mind and invigorate the body. The colors, the movement, the fresh air, and the sun’s energy are just what the “D” doctor ordered. Motivate your school to move your child by encouraging recess.
Dr. Sears, or Dr. Bill as his “little patients” call him, has been advising busy parents on how to raise healthier families for over 40 years. He received his medical training at Harvard Medical School’s Children’s Hospital in Boston and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, the world’s largest children’s hospital, where he was associate ward chief of the newborn intensive care unit before serving as the chief of pediatrics at Toronto Western Hospital, a teaching hospital of the University of Toronto. He has served as a professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, University of South Carolina, University of Southern California School of Medicine, and University of California: Irvine. As a father of 8 children, he coached Little League sports for 20 years, and together with his wife Martha has written more than 40 best-selling books and countless articles on nutrition, parenting, and healthy aging. He serves as a health consultant for magazines, TV, radio and other media, and his AskDrSears.com website is one of the most popular health and parenting sites. Dr. Sears has appeared on over 100 television programs, including 20/20, Good Morning America, Oprah, Today, The View, and Dr. Phil, and was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine in May 2012. He is noted for his science-made-simple-and-fun approach to family health.