School success starts with healthy habits

Linda Benedict, Blanchard, Tobie M.  |  8/13/2013 6:46:16 PM

It is not unusual for healthy habits to take a back seat to summer activities. Youngsters may stay up later and sleep in more. When and what they eat may change. But with schools in session again, LSU AgCenter nutritionist Denise Holston-West says parents should reestablish consistent patterns for eating breakfast, family meals and bedtime.

Holston-West said youngsters need at least nine hours of sleep and parent should stick to the child’s bedtime routine even on the weekend.

“Sleep deprivation affects their mood. It affects their ability to concentrate, and that is especially important in school,” she said.

Making sure your child gets a healthful breakfast is another way to help their school performance and their disposition, according to Holston-West.

“We know that breakfast eaters miss school less. They are less tardy. They concentrate more and are better able to problem-solve,” she said.

A child who skips breakfast may have headaches and stomachaches and may seem distracted, she said. A healthful breakfast will help sustain a child until lunch.

Quick and easy ideas for breakfast include whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk or yogurt with fresh fruit.

Many schools offer breakfast programs, and parents can take advantage of these. Holston-West said parents should check the school menu and help children make good choices at breakfast and at lunch time.

Parents who pack their child’s lunch should include a whole-grain, a fruit, a vegetable, a lean protein and a low-fat dairy item. Having variety will keep children from getting bored, Holston-West said. She suggested parents keep on hand different fruits and vegetables to pack in the lunch and rotate whole-grain bread with a whole-grain pita or whole-grain crackers.

Snacks after school can include yogurt, fruit, cheese cubes with crackers, baked chips, pretzels or plain popcorn.

Holston-West also said children need to receive an adequate amount of physical activity each day. Children will likely receive some in school, but not the full recommended 60 minutes. This can be broken up into bouts of activity.

“This is a perfect opportunity for families to be physically active together,” the nutritionist said. “They can take the family pet for a walk or go on a bike ride after dinner.”

She said regular amounts for physical activity improve a child’s mood and help with their physical development.

Holston-West also reminded parents to see that their children stay hydrated.

“It is still very hot outside, so it is important for kids to have proper fluid intake,” she said.

Parents should give their youngsters water when they return home from school and encourage them to drink from the water fountain at school, she said.

Tobie Blanchard

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