8 Tips for Starting School on a Healthy Foot

8 Tips for Starting School on a Healthy Foot

Start the First Day of School on a Healthy Foot

As kids transition from a relaxed summer schedule to a more regimented school schedule, diet, sleep, and exercise are the keys to attention maintenance and learning new information.  Here are 8 tips for starting school and supporting their peak performance this academic year and beyond.

1. Break the Fast: We already know breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But this does not mean that it has to be your largest meal.  The optimal way to start the day is a meal balanced in protein and fat to help maintain a healthy blood sugar balance.  Try these two recipes for eggs or a morning shake.

2. Regulate Sleep and Food Schedule:  Life is unpredictable and we are creatures of habit. Regulating sleep and food schedules allows the body to fall into a rhythm and reduces stress on a person, especially the littlest ones.  When our schedules are more erratic, our body is wondering when it is going to rest and when it will be nourished next.  It is best to eat a balanced snack or meal every 2-3 hours.

3. Eat Well (All Day): It is essential to balance protein, fat, and carbohydrates and avoid processed foods—not just at breakfast.  Prepping a lunch for them to take to school with them is the best way to know they are getting adequate nutrition.  Here are some balanced lunch box ideas that you can look to for meal-planning inspiration depending on your family’s dietary needs:

4. Eliminate all Fruit and Carrot Juices: Juice boxes are easy additions to lunch boxes, but the spike in blood sugar only leads to an energy crash.  Whole fruits and vegetables are better options because they are a pretty crafty design, as the skins fiber helps to slow the absorption of sugar into the blood stream.  It is important to have a good fruit and veggie wash to avoid any potential chemicals on the surface. And, of course, opt for water in a reusable bottle.

5. Nourish their Brains: Though our brain primarily uses sugar as fuel, it is composed of 60% fat. The standard American diet is heavier in inflammatory fats like canola oil and soybean oil and lacks healthy anti-inflammatory fats like walnuts, flax seed, avocado, cold-water fish, and grass-fed beef.  Essential fatty acids (EFAs) cannot be made by the body and must be consumed via diet.  Of the EFAs, the best fatty acid for brain health is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supporting nerve function, enhances signaling, and reduces inflammation. Due to deficiencies in diet, it is a good nutrient to supplement.

6. Food Sensitivities: Common food sensitivities like gluten and dairy can impact brain chemicals. The proteins in foods like wheat or dairy are similar in structure to those of the cells of our nervous system. When the immune system becomes overtaxed with inflammation, our human cells are mistaken as an offender leading to an autoimmune response.  To learn more, read my recent post food sensitivities and allergies.

7. Break a Sweat: Our brain is the most oxygen demanding organ in our body and whether you are an adult or child, sitting in a chair all day can make you absolutely stir crazy.  Leading by example and exercising with your children is a great to bond and blow off some steam. Experiment with different activities they may enjoy and feel both challenged and successful engaging in. TV and video games should be the occasional reward for complete homework and exercise.

8. Power Down Before Bed: Many of the kids I work with can use a smart phone or tablet before their first word. It is important to power electronics down about 45 minutes to an hour before bed, as the light suppresses melatonin production.  Melatonin is a neurotransmitter that helps us wind down and sleep.  Artificial light can be very disruptive to this natural rhythm.  Evening activities can include reading an actual paper leisure book and/or a warm bath.

Our kids’ habits today become our future leaders’ habits, and it is important to help them understand the importance of self-care early in life.  I hope these tips help you get the school year off to a healthy and happy start! What would you add to list?

- Dr. Thalia Farshchian, Naturopathic Doctor

This post is solely for informational purposes. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for medical advice. Before undertaking any course of treatment or dietary/health changes, you should seek the advice of your physician or other health care provider.

We aim to provide you with the most honest and credible information possible. This article was reviewed for accuracy by The Honest Team and was written based on trusted sources that are linked at the bottom of the article.