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Christina Scirica, MD, a MassGeneral Hospital for Children pulmonologist and weight expert, shares tips on how parents can help their kids kick off the new school year with healthy eating and activity habits.

A Healthy Start Back to School

29/Aug/2012

 

Back to school is a great time for resolutions and fresh starts. With a little preparation and minimal effort, it is possible to set the stage for a healthy year. Here are some small steps that will get you moving in the right direction.  

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Pack healthy school lunches

Despite recent nutrition guidelines, school lunches are not always the most nutritious, so try packing your child’s lunch whenever possible. Having a few of the following items on hand can make the process easier and more efficient. 

  • An insulated lunch container for each child (and one for snacks, while you’re at it).
  • Freezer packs. Two for each child can be helpful in case you forget to put one back in the freezer. If you’re committed to sending fresh, healthy food to school, consider getting a small freezer pack for snacks as well.
  • Plastic containers in multiple shapes and sizes, including at least one for sandwiches and multiple smaller ones for fruits and veggies.
  • Water bottles, preferably dishwasher-safe, with an opening large enough for a scrub brush and without lots of pieces that need to be washed and reassembled each day. My family’s favorite (that meets all these criteria): the REI Nalgene Everyday Wide-Mouth Loop-Top bottle. The 16-oz size is perfect for younger kids; older kids may want the larger size, especially for sports.
  • A thermos with a top that converts into a bowl. This is great for sending leftovers from dinner to school as lunch – just microwave the food in another container and transfer to the thermos and, voila, lunch! A practical tip for ensuring that it’s still hot at lunch-time: While you’re microwaving the food, put hot water into the thermos for a minute or two to warm it up before adding the food.
  • A re-usable sandwich or snack bag for sending forks and spoons to school in. These can be found at many supermarkets and are also available at the Container Store.

Keep kids fit

Sign your child up for after-school activities that will keep him active. If your child likes sports, sign her up for a team, club, class or lessons. If your child is not a sports fan, think outside the box and explore the many alternatives. Kids who are nervous about playing a team sport may do better with something less competitive or more independent. While some sports programs are more costly than others, there are ways to keep your child active without breaking your budget. Check out your local YMCA or Boys and Girls Club, and ask about cost adjustments if you need one.

Shop smart

If clothes are on your back-to-school shopping list, make them clothes your child can move freely in. Resist the temptation to send your child to school in ballet flats, crocs, flip flops or anything else that isn’t easy or safe to run in.  Your best bet? Sneakers!

 

 

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