There’s enough stress and rushing around involved with back to school that keeping kids active and healthy often takes a back seat to myriad other things. But it’s easier than you think to help your family have the fittest, healthiest school year yet.
Encourage kids to get sporty
Whether your kids are in elementary, middle or high school, opportunities for team or individual sports abound and they make a great opportunity for kids to incorporate fitness into their lives. If you’re not sure what your child would like to do to, sit down and have a talk about what activities they enjoy. Whether it’s baseball, cross country running, football or swimming, look into school teams, lessons in your area or opportunities in your neighborhood for kids to do something they like that gets them moving.
Make fitness time family time
Some kids don’t like sports and some families can’t afford to put their kids on teams or buy equipment. That’s OK. You don’t need to break the bank to get everyone off the couch. Rather than spending time together watching TV after dinner, find ways to bond that burn calories at the same time. Head to the park to throw a ball around, go for a 30- to 40-minute brisk walk at least three times a week in the evenings, play tag or hide and seek, or simply spend an evening every week at the local playground. The more active you can get as a family, the more likely you all are to continue focusing on fitness.
Focus on power-packed snacks and lunches
Being a busy parent can mean lunches and snacks end up being more convenient than healthy. This year, make a point to figure out some simple but power-packed meal ideas for your brood.
•Trade deli meats (which are sodium traps) for chicken or tofu you grill at home. Make extra when you’re cooking dinner and use it for sandwiches and wraps throughout the week.
•Cut up enough veggies (peppers, carrots, broccoli florets, cucumber, etc.) to last a school week (have your kids help) and store them in a large container in the fridge. These can be snacks or part of a picnic-type lunch with crackers, cheese and hummus.
•Instead of sugary granola bars, make your own trail mix with raw nuts and seeds, and even some dark chocolate. Make a large batch and portion accordingly in lunch bags.
•Make large batches of veggie-packed pasta or grain salads on the weekend, which can easily be packed into leak-proof containers for quick lunches. Add a piece of fruit, a few crackers and you’re all set!
Enlist post-class screen-time rules
One of the first things kids do when they get home from school is to sprawl on the couch to watch TV or play video games. We don’t expect you to take away all their screen time, but it can be a good idea to implement a rule that keeps them away from the TV for the first hour after getting in the door. They can use this time for homework (to get it over with) or better yet, to run around outside before it gets dark.
Get kids involved in dinnertime prep
While take-out or frozen entrees might be faster, they aren’t exactly the best choices nutritionally. If you’re daunted by dinnertime and your kids are old enough to help out, have them contribute to a healthy meal. They can wash vegetables, set and clear the table, mix and stir, and even offer input on what to have. The more involved they feel in the dinner-making process (without feeling relegated to the worst chores), the more excited they’ll be to try new things.