Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D. shares tips to establish healthy habits at the start of the school year.
Forget January: September is New Year’s for moms.
The start of a new school year signals a return to business as usual at home. Long days of lounging by the pool are behind us, and it’s time for more activity, and more nutritious meals and snacks.
Fall offers families a chance to turn over a new leaf, and as the season changes, most moms vow to help themselves and their family to live better. Sustaining resolutions made at any time of year is challenging, however, there are a few out-of-the-box strategies that can help keep healthy routines on-track and interesting for parents and children.
Your child doesn’t like cereal for breakfast and won’t touch sandwiches at lunch? No worries. As long as it’s healthy, any food can be enjoyed at any meal.
We’ve all heard the saying that breakfast is the most important meal. Eating in the morning energizes the body and brain after a long period without food. A slice of thin-crust pizza topped with mushrooms, peppers, and onion paired with orange juice, or turkey and cheese on whole grain bread and carrot sticks or fruit are just as good for you as more traditional choices, such as cereal, milk and fruit.
A healthy lunch sustains children through the second half of the school day. Children who don’t favor sandwiches can tote hummus or another bean dip, along with celery, cherry tomatoes, and sliced white button mushrooms for dipping, and pair that with string cheese, a whole wheat roll, and fruit. For another balanced meal option, thread chunks of leftover cooked chicken, cubed cheese, cherry tomatoes, and mushrooms on skewers, and pack with half a whole grain bagel or whole wheat roll, and milk.
Dinner can be hectic once after-school activities resume. When you’re in a rush, make breakfast for dinner instead of ordering take-out, which is often more expensive and less nutritious than homemade fare. My family loves omelets with leftover vegetables, such as broccoli, red bell peppers, sautéed mushrooms and onions, along with whole grain toast, fruit, and low-fat milk.
Children and adults snack more than ever, and that means snacks should be nutritious foods, not treats, like sweetened beverages, snack chips, and cookies. Stock the kitchen with healthy choices, such as low-fat yogurt and fruit to make smoothies, peanut butter and sunflower seed butter, whole grain crackers, nuts, and raisins.
Forget about giving up your favorite foods and asking your kids to do the same. Allow yourself a small treat every day, such as a piece of chocolate, a few chips, or a frozen dessert. Most people, even those trying to lose weight, can spare about 100 calories a day for treats.
Change up your workout
Once children return to school, it’s typically easier for them to get the 60 minutes of daily physical activity health experts suggest. It may not be so easy for mom to include the minimum of 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. Exercise doesn’t have to be elaborate to be effective. If you can’t work out for at least 30 minutes in a row, find other ways to include exercise, such as three 10-minute walks during the day. Any physical activity counts toward wellness. Play tag or catch with your kids, and go for walks or bike rides as a family.
What tips do you have for starting out the new school year on a healthy track?