Consumer Health

Tips for a Healthy Back-to-School Start

As the summer break comes to a close, it’s time to start prepping for back to school. With so much to do before the first day, it’s easy for families to get overwhelmed. We sat down with Dr. Alexandra Gottdiener, chief of medicine and medical director of the Braverman Family Executive Wellness Program at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, and Nina Spiegel, a holistic nutritionist at the Graf Center for Integrative Medicine at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, to discuss ways to start the school year off right.

Q: As both parents and their children prepare for the new school year, what do you recommend for a healthy start?

Alexandra Gottdiener, MD
Alexandra Gottdiener, MD

Dr. Gottdiener: Prepare as much as possible in advance. I recommend the following:

1. Make a wellness appointment.
Before starting school, your child should get a wellness exam, including a physical, eye, and dental checkup. Make sure to check with the school beforehand to learn of any immunization requirements and recommendations.

2. Fill prescriptions and submit any health forms.
Notify the school and submit any health forms if your child has a health condition, being sure to identify triggers. For certain conditions, such as asthma or an allergy, your child may be permitted to carry medication.

3. Establish a regular sleep and meal-time schedule.
Sleep is essential for children’s development. An established routine can help make the transition to a school schedule easier. Children and teens should get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. As electronics can impact sleep, children and teens should store them away at least an hour before bed.

Meals should coordinate with your child’s school schedule. Don’t forget about breakfast! Skip the sugary cereals in favor of a hearty breakfast that combines lean protein, good fats like avocado, and complex carbohydrates made from whole grains to help fuel your child in the morning.

4. Remind children about good hygiene and safety practices.
Washing hands after sneezing or coughing, as well as before and after meals, can help prevent the spread of germs. To avoid injury to the back or neck, make sure any backpack used is not too heavy.

Nina Spiegel, Nutritionist
Nina Spiegel, Nutritionist

Nina Spiegel: Shop and prepare healthy meals and snacks.

At the beginning of each week, make a list of different meals you and your family can put together and have for the rest of the week based on tastes, preferences, and any diet restrictions. Last night’s meal can easily be turned into a new dish with a little bit of creativity. For example, chicken or vegetable stock can be added to leftovers of chicken, pasta, and vegetables to become tomorrow’s lunchtime soup.

As a family, learn about proper portion sizes, how to read labels for nutritional content, and healthy eating on the go.

Dr. Gottdiener: Also, practice stress management. Children, tweens, teens – and parents – have to balance a lot of activities, so it’s never too early to learn techniques to reduce anxiety and/or stress before and after school.

  • Shop together for school supplies, allowing your child to pick out some items, which can help them feel positive about returning to school.
  • Create a checklist together the night before so there’s less anxiety in the morning. Check off items when complete such as when lunch is packed, clothes are laid out, and backpack is ready.
  • Communicate about any back-to-school jitters and how each school day went. Discuss appropriate expectations for the school year and extracurricular goals.
  • Create a distraction-free homework space.
  • Encourage breaks when studying to help the mind and body recharge.
  • Explore gentle exercises such as meditation and mindfulness, yoga, sound therapy, and dance to help manage anxiety and stress related to homework, grades, and peers.

The Graf Center offers evidence-based sessions in yoga, therapeutic massage, meditation, stress management, nutritional counseling, and reflexology, among other relaxation services, that may be beneficial to both parents and their children. Starting in the fall, the Graf Center also will offer a back to school wellness package, healthy cooking classes, and mindfulness events to help families transition into the new school year.

For more information on the Graf Center for Integrative Medicine, call 201-608-2377, and for more information on the Braverman Family Executive Wellness Program, call 201-608-2355.

Posted October 2017

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