All summer long we enjoy the warmth, fresh air, and sunshine along with an increase in physical activities. Our schedules are less hectic which gives us more opportunity to relax. Fresh fruits and vegetables are in abundance, and we tend to eat lighter, more nutritious foods which give us lots of energy and boost our immune system. Back to school means back to busy schedules. Time constraints and convenience have many children eating the not-so-nutritious school lunches and resorting to vending machines for quick snacks. School activities and community meetings are in full swing and every spare moment after school and on weekends is spent rushing from one activity to another. This adds stress to our lives which can take a toll on your body making you more susceptible to illness. Additionally, back to school means at least six hours per day when our children are slouching in uncomfortable chairs at desks and carrying heavy book bags. When summer is over, activity levels are decreased and time outside is often limited to a 20-minute recess period. So how do we keep our kids healthy and their brains ready to learn?
Here are some strategies to help you and your children have a healthy and happy school year.
- Breakfast: Start the day with breakfast including protein and fruits or veggies to jumpstart your brain. Here are some examples to get you started.
- Eggs - There's a reason why eggs are a breakfast food. Eggs are full of nutrients to kick-start your brain, easily digested protein and omega-3 fats for your brain and nervous system. Not only that, they are economical and can be made so many different ways. I love to add kale and other veggies to my eggs which can vary from sunny side up one day and scrambled the next. You can do eggs in muffin tins for breakfast on the go.
- Protein Smoothies: These are easy and portable. There are many options for protein smoothies. Use 15-20 grams of the protein powder of your choice (whey, brown rice, egg white, hemp, beef isolate, etc.) but read the ingredients for added sugar. Blend this with 2c. of water or milk (cows, almond, coconut, etc.) + 1c. frozen berries + 1-2 scoops Dynamic Greens whole food powder (whole food powder is a great way to add fruits and vegetables in a convenient form).
- Greek Yogurt: Plain, Greek yogurt is high in protein. You can add fresh berries or other fruit, hemp seeds, chia seeds, cacao nibs, cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup (1/8 tsp.) for a power packed breakfast.
- Steel Cut Oats: Adding nuts, hemp and/or chia seeds will give you the protein you need. One of my favorite ways to eat this is with diced apple, chopped pecans, cinnamon, hemp seeds and unsweetened vanilla coconut milk.
- Fruits & Veggies: Add a new fresh fruit and/or vegetable into your family's diet daily. Work towards ten servings of fresh and/or frozen fruit and veggies each day. Fruits and vegetables are full of phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Organic produce is higher in nutrients and lower in toxins so choose that whenever you can. Including lots of fresh veggies and fruits will help your immune system get ready to handle the fall and winter colds and flu. Remember to get as many of the different colors of fruit and vegetables as possible. You can even make this a little game with your kids on who can eat the most of each of the colors every week.
- Water: Add more purified water into your child's daily routine, working up to 50% of body weight in ounces of water. Often when we are tired or lack concentration, it is because we aren't getting enough water. Work towards the amount required over a 2-3 week period, adding a bit more water every day. Fresh fruits and vegetables are packed with water, so eating more of those will be an added water benefit.
- Omega 3 Fats: Omega 3 fatty acids are the building blocks of every cell membrane in your body, and they make up 60+% of your brain and nervous system. They are found in cold water fish such as sardines, salmon, herring, tuna, etc. Most of us do not eat a serving of salmon every day, so an omega 3 oil supplement is a good idea. Adding a good omega 3 as a supplement to your daily routine will improve concentration and memory. A good omega 3 oil supplement should not smell or taste fishy and should be stored in your refrigerator.
- Protein: Include protein with every meal and snack. Protein not only provides the building blocks for muscles and tissues, but it helps to maintain your blood sugar at a normal level.
- Protein sources - Choose grass-fed and free-range animals and poultry or wild-caught fish whenever you can. These are lower in toxins and higher in nutrients. You can also get protein from legumes, nuts, and quinoa.
- Protein Snacks - Nuts, nut butter, organic peanut butter, Greek yogurt (watch the sugars if you are not buying plain), or hard cheese.
- Physical Activity & Exercise: Movement is life for our body. It stimulates our brain and nervous system. Regular physical activity helps to improve concentration, attention, retention of information and overall attitude. Getting active after sitting all day in school is a great way to increase energy. It is also an excellent precursor to homework. The devices we use for information and communication today cause us to look down and put a strain on our neck, shoulders, and back. This leads to poor posture, fatigue and eventually different types of pain. Replace TV and video/computer time with physical and/or family activity.
- Backpacks: Have you ever picked up your child's backpack? It is heavy. A backpack should be no more than 10% of your child's weight, but often are much more. Rolling backpacks are an option for kids as it puts less strain on their body. When children are older and heavier, they can carry the backpacks on their back. Carrying a backpack on one shoulder puts a strain on the neck, and shoulders which over time could lead to postural problems, and pain in the neck and/or back.
- Car Seats: As kids get older they want to get out of their booster seats. If your child is not 4" or taller and does not weigh 80 pounds, they need to be in a booster seat. This is for their safety and not to make your life difficult. Besides, it is the law. The seat belt could cause serious injury to your child in the event of an accident.
- Positive Reinforcement: Children are sponges for encouragement and positive reinforcement. When you focus on the positive aspects of your child, you will get more of that. This means less stress for you and your child. I use the 80-20 principle of focusing most of my energy on the 80% I want to reinforce. For the 20%, I would like to see improvement on, I try not to criticize but instead use the sandwich method. This is where you compliment your child on something they did well, followed by what you would like to see improvement on, and finally reinforce the positive again. Our children want our attention even when it is sometimes negative. So when my kids misbehave, I look at it as a signal that I am not focusing my attention on them enough.
- Sleep: Sleep is so important especially to a growing child. Sleep is when our bodies repair and heal. Sleep also helps our immune system fight the colds and flu that seem to go hand in hand with school. School-age kids need approximately 9-11 hours of sleep nightly. Having a consistent nighttime routine helps with no TV or IPad/computer time within at least 30 minutes of bedtime. Lack of sleep over time will take its toll making you and your kids more susceptible to illness, so try to make rest a priority.
Back to school doesn't have to mean back to illness. Use some or all of these strategies to help your child make this school year the best yet.
Dr. Wendy Henrichs has been practicing with her husband Dr. Scott Henrichs at Timber Land Chiropractic in Rhinelander since 1994. Drs. Wendy and Scott Henrichs provide comprehensive chiropractic care among other services including rehabilitation and wellness services. Dr. Wendy Henrichs specializes in pediatrics and women's health. Drs. Wendy and Scott Henrichs are board certified and licensed to practice chiropractic and nutrition counseling in Wisconsin and are committed to excellence in meeting your healthcare needs. Timber Land Chiropractic is located at 1 E. Courtney Street in Rhinelander. For a complimentary chiropractic, nutrition or lifestyle counseling consultation, call 715-362-4852 or visit us on Facebook.