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Monday, August 26, 2019

Back-to-School Health Tips to Get a Smart Start This Year

Posted By: Advancing Care

WMCHealth experts help you kick off the school year on a healthy note.

By Rita Ross
As seen in the September/October 2019 issue of Advancing Care

Back-to-school-season: It can be a cause of dread for kids — and a cause of celebration for parents.

But along with the usual back-to-school shopping for clothes and supplies, it’s important to consider your youngster’s physical and emotional readiness for the school year ahead. Help ensure a smooth transition with these suggestions from two experts at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth): pediatrician Rebekka Levis, MD, and Abraham Bartell, MD, Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.


If this topic is something you or a loved one might need help with, please don’t hesitate to reach out by clicking here or calling 914-493-7000


Update immunizations. Schedule an annual pediatric checkup; it offers a snapshot of your child’s health and ensures immunizations are current, says Dr. Levis. In New York State, children entering kindergarten should have two measles, mumps and rubella vaccines; two chickenpox shots; and be up-to-date with polio and DTaP vaccines. Children entering seventh grade should have one meningitis vaccine; those entering 12th grade should have two meningitis vaccines, unless the first was given after their 16th birthday.

Shift bedtimes. Start adjusting kids’ sleep schedules during the final week or two before school starts, advises Dr. Bartell. Keeping in mind that youngsters aged 6 to 18 optimally need 10 to 12 hours of sleep, begin moving bedtime up by 15 to 30 minutes nightly (and prohibit electronic screen time for at least an hour before bedtime). Also, have children awaken earlier in the morning.

Meals matter. According to Dr. Levis, a healthy breakfast and lunch fuels kids to help boost their focus and academic performance. Pack them a healthy midday meal that includes protein, fruit and complex carbohydrates, such as whole grain bread. If lunch is served at school, encourage nutritious choices.

Pick the right backpack. A child’s backpack should weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of his or her body weight, says Dr. Levis. Check that it has wide, padded straps, a padded back and that the bottom rests at the child’s waistline. Urge kids to use both straps instead of slinging the pack over one shoulder, for even weight distribution.

Encourage conversation. The shift back to school can trigger anxieties for youngsters, according to Dr. Bartell. Discuss any unresolved, lingering concerns they may have from the past school year, and if they were seeing a therapist or counselor, consider working with a professional again.

Review medications. Some parents of children with conditions like Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may have been advised to stop giving youngsters certain medications during the summer, since they might have been prescribed to aid academic focus and performance, says Dr. Bartell. Resuming prescribed medications – after consulting with your pediatrician or child/adolescent psychiatrist to adjust dosages if needed – will help ensure your child is set for the new school season.

Pack a Nourishing Lunchbox

With these tips from Lauren Brown-Brandel, RD, CSPCC, a pediatric dietitian at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, a healthy school lunch is in the bag.

The sandwich make over.

A simple sandwich is our go-to option as parents.  To ensure the nutrition is there make sure your bread product is a whole wheat product.  Whole grains are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates which is just the right fuel for children’s brains.  

Read your food labels and look for the fiber.  Aim for a slice of bread that has a minimum of 3 gm fiber per slice.  Check ingredient lists for additive our kids should be avoiding like “high fructose corn syrup” and “Partially hydrogenated oils”.    You can also try bread alternates like wraps, pitas or even crackers to create variety. 

Go Bento.

Bento box eating is trending for our little ones as it keeps the variety plentiful in your child’s lunch box.  Make sure to stick to whole foods like fruits and vegetables.  Add crackers and cheese, a yogurt with granola or pasta salad will help keep your kids happy and satisfied at lunch.  Limit the number of items added to these boxes to 3-4 selections.  Children can become overwhelmed with too many options. Don’t have a “bento box”.  You can make one easily with a Tupperware container,  using cupcake liners to keep food items separate.

Make your own salad.

Salads can be a fun way for kids to get their veggies in at lunch time.  Keep your kids engaged in their lunch time choices by creating a make your own salad bar. 

Giving kids their own options will help you ensure you child actually eats the healthy meal you have lovingly prepared.  Add some baked pita chips or whole wheat crackers of the side to power pack this lunch with those complex carbohydrates that provide long-lasting energy throughout the day.

Beverages matter.

Beverage selection will often add unnecessary sugars or preservatives to a child’s diet.   It is best to stick with water or low fat milk at lunch.

Remember, time is limited for our kids at lunchtime, therefore, be mindful of what you really want your child to eat.  If the cookie is added for a treat after they eat their vegetables, most kids will eat the cookie first.  Pair your lunch items down to what’s important to keep up their energy and focus for the rest of their day.  Focus on complex carbohydrate sources like breads, whole wheat crackers, pitas and pastas.  Make sure that proteins sources are added like turkey, ham, cheeses, or Greek yogurts.  Lastly don’t forget those veggies; even if they are packed in small quantities, it establishes good eating habits at an early age.

Visit us at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, a member of Westchester Medical Center Health Network, to learn more. Advancing Care. Here.