Going back to school means getting back to a routine including making time to pack lunches and snacks and scheduling time for being active.

Getting Physically Active

Some schools have limited PE programs, which means it is even more important to get kids active outside of school. As technology promotes sitting and focusing on electronic devices, we should be encouraging our kids to keep moving. Some great activities include:

  • Walking (with the dog, to the store, around the block)
  • Building a fort, creating an obstacle course
  • Organized sports, swimming
  • Group games: dodge ball, kickball, red rover, laser tag, tag
  • Playground (jungle gym, wall ball)
  • Hula hoop, jumping rope, juggling
  • Running, biking, hiking
  • Gymnastics/tumbling, dance (jazz, ballet etc.)

What doesn’t classify as being active? Screen time. The following activities should be limited:

  • Watching TV/movies
  • Playing on the computer or playing video games
  • Playing on a digital handheld device (Smart phone, gaming system, etc.)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that kids get at least one hour of physical activity per day1 and limit their screen time to one to two hours per day2. If your kids resist physical activity, think about using the following strategies:

  • One hour of physical activity can earn your child a half hour of screen time
  • Avoid screen time during the school week and limit screen time on the weekend
  • No food when watching TV, using the computer, or playing video games.

Need some ideas for making physical activity more fun?

  • Create achievable goals (keep a record of miles/laps walked) and reward them (check off a box, stickers)
  • Play games and sing songs, go on a scavenger hunt
  • Have an “I’m bored box” so when your kids are bored, they go to the box to find something to play with instead of having more “screen time.”

Healthy Snacks and Lunches

Creating healthy routines for kids also means offering them healthy snacks and lunches. The new food pyramid3 encourages balance: whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy. Eating fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of obesity, heart disease, cancer, and high blood pressure. Offer fruits/vegetables in some of the following fun and various ways.

  • Kiwis cut in half and served with a spoon
  • Apple wedges with dipping sauces (yogurt or peanut/almond butter)
  • Ants on a log (celery with nut butter and raisins)
  • Baby carrots with hummus
  • Frozen blueberries and/or bananas
  • Fruit Smoothies turned into popsicles
  • Dried fruit and nut trail mix.

When buying fruits and vegetables, focus on fresh, local, and in-season foods. Teach your kids about farmfresh foods by taking them to the local farmer’s market or farm to see where and how it grows.

Avoid “sugar added” fruit products. Opt for unsweetened or homemade applesauce, light canned fruit, dried fruit, or natural fruit leathers. Also avoid sugary beverages (soft drinks, sport drinks, and juice). When buying juice, buy 100 percent juice without added sugar and mix it with water or club soda. As a healthy alternative, serve your kids low-fat plain milk or water.

Healthy whole grains are high in energy and will keep your kids feeling full during the day. Search for products that contain “whole” grain.

Low-fat dairy is a great source of calcium for kids, but dairy products can also be a big source of saturated fat. Low-fat string cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt (beware of high sugar), and cream cheese are also good sources of protein and will help your kids feel satiated.

Involve your kids in making their own lunches/snacks to help them enjoy the food more and understand what it takes to eat healthy.

Most importantly, when helping your kids to be active and eat healthy, practice what you preach. Keep junk food out of the house and demonstrate an active lifestyle by eating healthy yourself.

Sources:
  1. http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/factsheetprof.aspx
  2. Active Healthy Living: Prevention of Childhood Obesity Through Increased Physical Activity. PEDIATRICS Volume 117, Number 5, May 2006
  3. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/