Though you can't control what your kids are eating outside your home, you can do your best to provide them with healthy alternatives at home. Start the day off right with a nutritious breakfast. Students who eat breakfast are not only be more alert, but also are less likely to eat unhealthy snacks or overeat at meals later in the day. If you don't have time to prepare breakfast every morning, make sure quick, healthy options are available. Yogurt topped with berries, instant oatmeal and breakfast bars are terrific choices. With breakfast bars and other pre-packaged foods, check the label to make sure they aren't loaded with fat or sugar.
Prevention is a key to good health. Be sure all students from elementary school through college have regular wellness checkups. At the beginning of each school year, you also should make an appointment to have your child vaccinated, if necessary, and consider getting a flu shot for her. From daycare centers to dorms, a lot of germs are around. A flu shot can help your kids avoid a nasty flu bug.
From preschool age onward, teach your kids the basics of avoiding illness: Wash hands regularly, don't share food or beverages, drink plenty of water and eat healthfully.
One of the best ways for students to stay healthy is through sports. From Little League baseball to collegiate athletics to recreational leagues, students have the opportunity to get involved in sports now -- and throughout their lives. Encourage your child to find a sport that he enjoys from a young age. Sports offer exercise, camaraderie and fun!
Students will snack on whatever is available. So instead of stocking up on chips, candy and cookies, provide healthy alternatives at home and for bagged lunches. Keep portable tube yogurt, celery and peanut butter, whole-wheat crackers and low-fat cheese, fresh fruit and other nutritious snacks on hand. And in place of sugary soda and juices, have plenty of bottled water available.
Keeping regular bedtimes day to day can improve the chances of getting a restful night's sleep. A lack of sleep can lead to irritability, poor concentration and even weight gain over the long term. Normal sleep patterns are also essential for growth and development in children. Establish a consistent bedtime routine (for young kids: bath, storytime, lights out) to help kids fall asleep faster. Keep bedrooms dark, quiet, cool and comfortable for the best sleep possible.
Encourage students to stay healthy by participating in family fitness activities. Start when children are young by walking them to school instead of driving (if the distance is reasonable). Don't spend weekends in front of the TV or computer; get your family moving. Plan outdoor adventures such as hiking and biking, or even simple trips to the park for Frisbee or tag. Exercise, fresh air and sunshine can go a long way toward good health.
A special segment on childhood obesity and how sitting down for a home-cooked meal can make kids healthier
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