Ask Ginger: How to Have a Healthy School Year
You've got questions ... we’ve got answers! Email your queries about healthy foods, physical activity and screen time for kids and Ginger will answer them here on the Phipps blog.
Q: My family and I are trying to live a healthier lifestyle and with my son out of the house during the majority of the day we want to make sure those healthy habits are continuing while he is at school. Any tips? (Jackson, Squirrel Hill)
A: Great question! The start of the school year calls for major adjustments in everyone’s daily schedules. Since children spend the majority of the day at school, we have some tips on how to ensure your children are still having a healthy and productive day!
- Prepare a healthy breakfast and/or lunch the night before: A great day starts with a healthy breakfast! If your family is usually pressed for time in the morning, make breakfast the night before so you can grab it and go. Some tasty overnight oats with berries, pre-baked muffins with an apple or a premade wrap are all easy to grab options. If you’re looking for breakfast or lunch ideas visit the USDA What’s Cooking page for tons of healthy recipe ideas. Also, don’t forget to utilize your child’s school breakfast and lunch programs! Majority of these programs follow the USDA’s MyPlate guidelines which aim to provide children with well-balanced meals.
- Be aware of your child’s daily schedule: As any caregiver knows, it’s important to communicate with your children about their day! You can use these daily conversations to learn more about their daily schedule and see what they’re doing each day. Do they have an opportunity to be physically active every day? Are they served a snack throughout the day? Are these snacks healthy? Some schools are unable to provide gym class or healthy snacks every day, so being aware of their schedule can allow you to plan a fun, physical activity after school on days where your child doesn’t have gym. Or, if your little one is getting hungry near the end of the day, throw in an extra healthy snack to hold them over until dinner!
- Set a bed time and stick to it: Getting enough sleep is important for growing bodies and growing minds! Be sure to set a bed time that ensures your child is getting sufficient sleep. The 2016 guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics states that children between ages 6 and 12 should get 9 to 12 hours of shuteye a night, while teenagers need 8 to 10 hours.1
- Be an advocate for a healthy school environment: Work with your school’s PTA or your child’s teacher to apply for grants or bring in programs that will improve the wellness climate of your child’s school! Interested in nutrition lessons, starting a garden or bringing in an after school program? Download the Raise Your Hand for Health Guide to browse a detailed list of organizations in Allegheny County that can provide certain services to your child’s school or preschool! If you need money for these programs apply for our annual Champion Schools grant that awards elementary schools, preschools and childcare centers $1,000 mini grants for programs related to nutrition, physical activity, gardening and cooking!