Back to School: A Handy, Healthy Checklist for ParentsChildren's Health
From packing healthy lunches to fitting in family physical exams, keep your kids on the right track this school year with these handy tips from the experts at Lee Health.
Stephanie Stovall, M.D., Chief Clinical Officer of Quality/Safety and Hospital-Based Care, offers some tips to make your family’s transition to the new school year less stressful. And registered dietitian Erika Graziani says fueling your kids with well-balanced meals can improve their learning capabilities and help battle early morning fatigue.
To learn more, read on!
Schedule a well-child care visit
“Going back to school should coincide with an annual well-child care visit with your pediatrician or family doctor,” Dr. Stovall says. “These visits and recommended vaccinations are essential for helping to make sure children stay healthy.”
Dr. Stovall says well-child care visits include getting physicals and recommended vaccines, both of which are essential for all children. Vaccine updates are especially important for children ages 4-5 and 11-12, she notes.
“Talk with your doctor about your child’s vaccines because your child may also need vaccination against other preventable infections such as chicken pox or human papillomavirus.”
Back-to-school and sports physicals
Anyone participating in school sports, community activities, or attending school should receive a physical, Dr. Stovall advises.
“Getting a physical examination protects your child, classmates, and teammates from avoidable injuries,” she says. “Many athletic leagues and schools require pre-participation physical exams (PPE) for kids and teens participating in activities such as bowling, cheerleading, cross country, football, golf, marching band, swimming, and volleyball.
“Your child should receive a physical exam, especially if they are participating in sports for the first time. Both sports PPE and physical exams help to identify any unknown issues that could affect your child’s ability to play a sport and their overall health.”
Sports PPE and school physicals are offered at the four Lee Health Convenient Care locations. Appointments are not required. To find a Lee Health Convenient Care location near you, go here.
Practicing healthy habits protects everyone, including your child
Dr. Stovall suggests giving your child a refresher on how they can protect themselves and others from getting sick by practicing healthy habits like hand washing.
“Teach them how to wash their hands properly or use a gel-based hand sanitizer throughout the day to avoid getting sick and spreading germs,” Dr. Stovall says. “Also, show them how to cover their mouth with an elbow or sleeve when coughing or sneezing. If your child has a fever, they should be kept at home and not return to school until 24 hours after they are fever free.”
Here are other key tips to ensure your child’s health, wellness and success during the school year:
- Help keep your child from falling asleep in class. The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following sleep schedule:
- preschoolers (3-5 years old): 11-14 hours
- school-aged children (6-13 years old): 9-11 hours
- teenagers (14-17 years old): 8-10 hours.
- Make sure your child wears their backpack correctly (with the weight evenly distributed). To prevent injuries and strain, Dr. Stovall recommends that your child carry no more than 10-15 percent of their body weight.
- Try to organize your child by using a wall calendar or planner to record due dates, extracurricular activities and need-to-know information (phone numbers, locker combinations, teachers’ names, class times, etc.).
A note about healthy lunchbox options
Families and children are busy these days, and it can be difficult to eat healthy while on the go, especially once school starts. Plan for how everyone will eat when schedules get busy. Discuss healthy meal options for breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks with kids.
Registered dietitian Erika Graziani, Outpatient Nutrition Program Coordinator with Lee Health, shares some healthy lunchbox options to promote better health and learning.
Brain foods are the perfect addition to your child’s lunchbox to help them retain new information and maintain focus during school while supporting healthy brain development and function, Erika says.
“Certain foods are higher in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Those are the foods you want in your child’s lunchbox,” she says. “These brain foods release hormones that can increase productivity and attention span without relying on stimulants like caffeine or sugar.”
When preparing meals, be on the lookout for the following nutrients:
- Proteins are found primarily in meat, seafood, poultry, beans, nuts, eggs and dairy products.
- Zinc is present in meat, fish, nuts and dairy products.
- Iron can be found in red meat, beans, leafy green vegetables and baked potatoes.
- Iodine is abundant in fish, sea vegetables (seaweed) and other seafood; dairy products and eggs are also good sources.
- Choline is found in eggs, dairy products and meat. It also can be found in many vegetables.
- Folates are present in foods such as spinach and fortified breads and cereals.
- Vitamin A is primarily found in carrots, spinach and sweet potatoes.
- Vitamin B6 is found in fish, potatoes, starchy vegetables and fruits like berries and melons.
- Vitamin B12 is found in eggs, fish, meat, dairy and fortified breakfast cereals.
5 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cup Energy Bites
Author: Minimalist Baker
Servings: 15 (bites)
Freezer friendly: 1 month
Will keep in the refrigerator for one week
- 1 cup dates (pitted - if dry, soak in warm water for 10 minutes, then drain well)
- 3 tablespoons all-natural salted peanut or almond butter
- 1/4 cup dairy-free dark chocolate (roughly chopped)
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds (or sub flax or hemp seeds)
- 2/3 cup gluten-free rolled oats
Using a food processor or blender, pulse pitted dates until they are in small pieces or a ball forms. Add oats, chocolate, chia seeds and peanut butter and pulse or mix until combined. You want consistently small pieces that are overly processed. Carefully roll into 1-inch balls (29-30 grams per ball), using the warmth of your hands to mold them together. This should yield 14-15 balls (amount as original recipe is written. Adjust if changing batch size). To set, pop it in the fridge or freezer for 15 minutes. Otherwise, eat as is!
Hidden Veggie Crisps
- Reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
- Shredded carrots
- Chopped chives
Preheat oven to 375F. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a tablespoon of cheese in circles on the parchment paper. Top with shredded carrots and chives. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until they turn golden brown. If you want crisper chips, make smaller circles. Once done, transfer to a paper towel to cool and store for up to three days in your pantry.
Homemade Healthy Personal Pizza
- Any colorful vegetables such as broccoli, shredded carrots, zucchini, spinach, bell peppers, mushrooms, etc.
- Your favorite marinara sauce
- 1/4 cup serving reduced fat mozzarella
- Whole wheat/whole grain tortilla
- Turkey pepperoni, if preferred, depending on your preference
Steam or boil your vegetable of choice to soften them. Add the softened veggies to the marinara sauce and blend until smooth. Add the desired amount of marinara sauce to the center of your tortilla. Add cheese and pepperoni or any other topping you wish to include. Place the tortilla in the air fryer for 6-8 minutes on medium heat, or place folded tortilla in a toaster until desired crispiness. After the tortilla is cooked, let it cool and cut it into triangles. Put them in your child’s lunchbox for an easy snack throughout the day!