5 Tips for Parents
It’s back-to-school time and whether you’re celebrating the end of summer break, mourning it, or a little of both, you can help make this a healthy school year for your children. This time of year can be a bit overwhelming as you juggle the return of schedules, homework, and activities.
My top five tips for a healthy start:
- School Rules: Get familiar with the school and district wellness policies. These are rules that define what should happen in a variety of wellness areas – nutrition, physical education, recess, etc. A strong school wellness policy lays the foundation for healthy school practices. Some specifics to look for include not using food as a reward, healthier celebrations, and healthier fundraising. If your school or district doesn’t have a wellness policy or you are unsure how to interpret the content, contact the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. They can help!
- Back away from food prizes: Are your kids coming home with candy instead of gold stars on a regular basis? A strong school wellness policy should not allow the use of food as a reward. If your school’s policy does not address this or it is not being enforced, consider sharing with your school leaders the recommendations from the major health organizations to not use food as a reward. Just as schools shifted away from using corporal punishment years ago because it was not in the best long term interest of students, we need to help schools shift away from using food as a reward. The same goes for taking away physical activity, such as recess, as punishment.
- Fun AND Healthy Parties: Did you know children consume an average of 300 calories at a typical school celebration but that number drops when fruit is also available? Serving water instead of sugary beverages also makes for healthier celebrations. Studies show that people do not compensate for the calories in sugary drinks by eating less. This is because they do not feel as full as if they had eaten the same calories from solid food. School is a great place to teach children that not all celebrations need to revolve around food. It is a great life lesson to learn early on!
- Food is Fuel, not Funding: With diet-related disease wreaking havoc on our nation’s health, it’s time to rethink the typical cookie dough and candy fundraisers. Ask to replace them with fundraisers that enhance the well-being of students like a Jog-a-thon, PTA 5K, or fruit sale. There are positive changes taking place across the school building to improve the nutrition quality of school meals and snacks.Make sure fundraisers are following the healthy trend!
- Find the Fruitcakes: Speaking of fruit, there is power in numbers so be on the lookout for other advocates of school health. You may find them at a PTA meeting, working on the school garden, or coaching an afterschool program like Girls on the Run. Speak up about school wellness so they can find you too. You can also connect via the web and social media. Some suggested sites include Rudd Root Parents, The Lunch Tray, Spoonfed, School Bites, Real Mom Nutrition and Red, Round or Green.
Healthy students make better learners so encourage your school to do all it can to create an environment that supports student health. The good news is they don’t have to go it alone. The Alliance has a six-step process to bring everyone together and get started. Use it as your roadmap guiding you to a healthier school. Join the movement and learn more today!
What are your plans to make this a healthy school year?