6 Ways to kickstart a healthy school year

The “Back to school” season seems to grow bigger each year. I feel like it’s gaining speed as another marketing ploy for us parents to spend unnecessary money.

There are school supply lists, new shoes, new clothes, and of course, the coolest new backpack. It gets costly. In fact, it’s so costly that my hubby and I have a special sinking fund (Money Peach changed our lives) just for back to school expenses.

One area we don’t spend much time thinking about though is how to increase the health of our children as the year begins. We focus on all the other “stuff”, and not on the most lasting expense for our kids…their health.

In many ways, adjusting to a new normal provides a perfect opportunity to invest in changing habits to kickstart a healthy school year. Not just for the kids, but you too!

Ready or not

Maybe you are a parent that’s so ready for your kids to go back to school.

Or maybe not?

One thing that I do know is that all parents want their kids to be happy, healthy, and ready for the start of a new school year. 

Let me help you, challenge you, and support you in making changes that will last far beyond this school year.  

Understand habit formation

Part of creating a healthy lifestyle is developing habits that will be sustainable. Habits are formed through repetition — like a lot of repetition.  

First, something must trigger the habit to be put in motion, then the action must be performed, and lastly, the habit must be rewarded in some way. This “habit loop” named by Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit, applied over and overtakes the action and stores it into memory.

There are stages of habit formation that make what seems to be an easy task much more complex. It’s called life.

Yes, the chaos of life often prevents you from seeing a trigger and beginning the loop altogether. So you must arm yourself with reminders until that trigger becomes automatic. I share with clients all the time to use sticky notes to provide the trigger while they are working on a habit.  

For many, it is a reminder on the coffee pot to defrost dinner or on your toothbrush before bed to make lunch for the following day.  Don’t let pride get in the way of creating life-changing habits. Identify where you struggle to remember a specific habit and sticky note the crap out of it.

Don’t give up when it gets messy

The initial launch of habit formation usually has high motivation and energy. Think of any time you decided you were going to make a change. You knocked it out of the park for the first two weeks or so and then things got messy. You got busy, so you were unmotivated and unprepared.

Don’t gloss over this period, the messy. This means you are about to turn a corner. If you can rely on a trigger and follow through on the action you are right on the cusp of change.

In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes just over 2 months for an action to turn habit.  Keep that in mind as you kickstart a healthy school year. Be patient, use a trigger, and realize it takes time for the little people in your life too.

Here are my 6 tips to help you kickstart a healthy school year.

Set the alarm early

Let’s be honest, the school day mornings are a disaster sometimes. Especially at the start of a school year when the kids are getting back to regular sleep cycles, new school start times, and actually having to be accountable to a schedule. It is a great time to set the alarm clock 15 minutes early in anticipation of things moving a bit slower as you acquaint yourself to a new school schedule.  

And as a reminder, you are the parent and set the tone for the day. Your kids feed off of your energy. If you wake up late, or if you’re angry, frustrated, etc, guess who will be too? Part of being able to kickstart a healthy school year is setting a positive tone for the day so your children can thrive, not just survive. You are the leader of this and in doing so for them, helps you thrive too!

Prep the night before

This is a habit worth forming on so many levels. Spending time in the evening when you are not rushed to prepare for the next morning will save you frustration, time, and will guarantee a healthy start.

Kill two birds with one stone by prepping the next day’s lunches while you make dinner or when you are cleaning up dinner. This is also a great time to think about breakfast prep too. Any steps you can save at the time of day you are mostly limited by time helps ensure your success.

Don’t overlook breakfast

Breakfast is a key component to a child’s day but also your day. It kickstarts metabolism, ensures satiation and revs up their little engines for all the learning that will take place.

Because of morning chaos, I often hear from parents that convenience prevails over health in breakfast food selections. What I’ve realized though is that parents are willing to try new breakfast options if they had easy go-to’s to also include. Preparing a well-balanced breakfast of all macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrate) for your child is key to helping them stay full and regulating energy and hormones levels.

Simple Breakfast ideas

Here are  few simple ideas for your kids that may replace a sugary cereal or a daily dose of Nutella is a yogurt parfait:

DIY Yogurt Parfait

You can take a plain Greek-style yogurt (with no added sugar) and add fresh fruits and nuts. These can be made ahead and stored in mason jars a few days in advance.  You can also sub with an alternative yogurt style if dairy allergies exist.

DIY Oatmeal Bar

The same is true for making a morning bowl of oats or overnight oats. The kids can make their own version after dinner for the next day.  Overnight oats store well in mason jars for a few days in advance.

I like to keep all the yummy and nutrient-dense mixins on hand at eye-level in my pantry so the kids can help create their favorite breakfast combos. You can learn more about how to organize your pantry HERE which is a great project to put on your list once the kids head back to school (and you have some free time).

“Non-Oat” meal

If you can’t do oats or don’t prefer them, try a bowl of “non-oat” meal. Add 1 cup applesauce,1 tablespoon nut or seed butter, and ¼ cup of your favorite milk (coconut milk is yummy here) together in a bowl. Heat in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute or until warm. For adults, you can even add in 1-2 scoops of collagen (you can find my favorite brand here) to boost protein.

Egg Sandwiches

Another easy one is a fried egg, egg whites or a combo, tucked in between two slices of sprouted bread (read more about sprouted bread here) with added extras like greens, ham or whatever their heart desires.  These also can be wrapped in foil and made in advance to store in the freezer.

Lunchtime

Nighttime prep also includes lunchtime. Use the night before to prepare the kids’ lunches and yours too.

Some of our favorite well-balanced lunches include a ton of sandwich ideas on sprouted bread which you can find here. In addition, the kids love to create their own knock-off Lunchables with our favorite crackers like Nut Thins or Mary’s Gone Crackers. We also make lettuce wraps, cucumbers roll-ups and many more options to keep diversity.

My kids also love leftovers. Each has a thermos like this one that they will pack with them. My trick to keeping food warm all day is to boil water and pour into the thermos and allow it to heat up for about 5 minutes.

While heating, I reheat the leftovers for them. After five minutes I dump the hot water, wipe it dry and quickly pour in the leftovers and cap it. The kids tell me every time that the food is still warm (not piping hot of course) but just right. I love this option because it saves time and energy by using dinner for lunch.

Get the kids involved

Parents underestimate their kids’ desire to be a part of the action in the kitchen. Kids who get involved in the cooking process better understand where food comes from, appreciate the energy put into food preparation and (drum roll, please) are more likely to eat it when they make it. The last reason alone could change your life.

The way you organize your kitchen can create a place to foster the inclusion of your kids. I have invested in awesome bins and organization so that my kids can see what is in there and grab healthy options for lunches and snacks.  

You can check out how I organized my pantry here and download my FREE healthy pantry checklist too.

So, get them involved. Ask them to be a part of picking their lunch items, prepping breakfast, and cooking dinner with you. Teach them how to cut and chop, peel and wash. One of the best gifts my daughter was ever given was a set of kid-friendly knives like these. She began to experiment and gain confidence in the kitchen that has truly exploded since then. It also allowed me to take a deep breath and not worry about her chopping off a finger.

Another great way to get them involved in the beginner stages is to use a sorting style lunch box like these Lunchbot containers. You can help your kids by asking them to fill each compartment with a vegetable, a dip, a protein, a fruit, and a healthy starch.  

Make some healthy swaps NOW

This is prime time to begin to expose kids to new items in their lunches. They have forgotten the last school year (well, sort of) and they are refreshed and ready for more veggies. Give them more credit. Don’t assume because they didn’t eat it before that they won’t eat it now.

Their taste buds are changing just as fast as their shoe size. Studies show that we taste buds are regenerate every 10-14 days depending on the type of taste receptor.  That means you should try reintroducing foods to them they didn’t eat previously because they just might surprise you.  “Taste buds tell your brain whether or not to swallow what’s already in your mouth,” according to Dr. Trey Wilson.

Here is a big “ah-ha” when it comes to “picky eaters”…repeated exposure matters.  Studies who that when kids are invited to consume a new food every day for two weeks, that their liking to it will improve.  In fact, this evidence-based article is worth the read for parents of “picky eaters” as it is often the behavior of the parents that determine the preference of their children.  So if at first, you don’t succeed, try and try again.

And just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean they won’t. Put on your parenting pants, take one for the team, and let them decide what they do and do not enjoy.

They are hungry at lunch and you will be surprised at what happens when the only options they have are the ones you provided them (and hopefully decided upon together).

Send the kids with a refillable water bottle

Dehydration is a real thing and it doesn’t always manifest itself in symptoms that are immediately critical. Not having enough water during the school day could lead to sluggishness, lack of ability to pay attention, nausea, and headaches. More severe symptoms of dehydration can include irregular heart rhythms and vomiting. I live in Arizona, and at the beginning of the school year, it is still 115 degrees or more. Dehydration can be and is a real thing.

It’s a great time to swap out the boxed juice at lunch and invest in a refillable water bottle like this Hydroflask or another brand. It is a worthwhile investment to fill that bottle every day and ensure your kids have water as their primary drinking option.

Now — focus on you!

Lastly, vacations and summer events are over and now you too can regain routine and focus on you. The kids’ and their lack of schedule are no longer an excuse. It’s time to bounce back and work towards your goals. I know it is easier said than done and that is exactly why I wrote a recent blog post about this very thing. Click here to read my 8 easy ways to bounce back into your routine.

If you need an extra push and support, I’d love to help guide you too.  You can click HERE to learn more about my work with clients and how we can change your life too!

How are you going to make this school year the healthiest yet?

Work Hard Be Kind,

AWalk

 

This post may contain affiliate links to the products I know and LOVE to use in my kitchen.  If you want to support my continuation of adding content to my blog, I appreciate you using the link to purchase.

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