I recently heard someone reference “September is the new January.” And, let’s be honest, it’s very true! When you have kids, your schedule no longer matters. It’s all about the school year, what days are holidays, and the countdown until summer. From the health perspective, it’s a great opportunity to start fresh and form good habits that will last… for the family! Many patients share that their focus on health diminishes through the summer as cookouts and beer are the main staples. Food isn’t the only source of poor choices! Sleep and regular exercise are other areas that could probably use some improvement. Here’s a quick guide to help the whole family get back to the basics of health:
- A Balanced Diet. Yes, it’s that simple. Everyone needs fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Please note: SUGAR is NOT a part of a balanced diet. One of the biggest mistakes we make is having something that is packed with sugar for breakfast. It is true that it can be a quick source of energy; however, the crash that happens a couple hours later is not worth it. Here are a couple of tips:
- Breakfast- a little of each, please! Example: a bowl of oatmeal with walnuts, peaches, and a slice of bacon. Yum!! PLEASE remember to have your high school age kids have something available for breakfast either before catching the bus or while riding the bus. It is NOT ok to just skip it.
- Lunch- pack it! Time, or the lack thereof, is usually the biggest hindrance when it comes to preparing meals for the week. But let’s be honest, school lunches do not provide the best options. Get the kids involved in making lunches… it’s a great time to fit in another balanced meal. Sandwiches can be fun to change up to make it worth the time. Example: 2 slices of bread or other substitute, roasted red pepper hummus, 2-3 think slices of chicken breast, tomato, and lettuce; Include a fruit item, like an apple, and a handful of almonds.
- Dinner- make it easy! Stir fries are one of my favorite go-to meals for a balanced diet. And now with products such as the Veggetti Spiralizer, we can make even healthier choices. Example: spiralize 2 zucchinis, add garlic, shredded carrots, broccoli, and shrimp. Stir fry it all together and you have a meal big enough to feed a family of four… it’s packed with healthy foods!
- Snacks- leave the sugar alone! Fruits provide enough sugar we need on a daily basis. Reach for the guacamole and hummus and bring out the peppers, carrots, and celery for a dipping delight!
- Sleep. What more can I say? We need it! And we don’t get enough of it. This is especially important for our children as they are in the midst of their developmental years. Research has shown that we have our school schedules are backwards. Our teenagers need to sleep later; but that’s not an option here in Virginia Beach. So adapt your lifestyle! Teenagers need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep. When the bus comes at 6:30am that means the student should be going to bed by 9:30pm. That would allow for 8 hours of sleep if the alarm goes off at 5:30am. Talk about it with your child and it might help you create a better schedule for yourself. Here are some reasons why sleep is so important:
- Lack of sleep can limit the ability to learn, listen, concentrate, and solve problems.
- Lack of sleep can lead to inappropriate actions and behaviors toward family, friends, and teachers.
- Lack of sleep can contribute to poor food choices such as high sugar or caffeine intake; this can initiate a path of poor choices that can lead to nutrient deficiencies or unnecessary weight gain.
- Lack of sleep can contribute to a weakened immune system, resulting in more missed days of school or work.
- Regular Exercise. Exercise, similar to sleep, is something that is frequently neglected when life is busy. This is exactly why introducing it as the new normal this September is the way to go. If we build it into our daily lifestyle, we’ll be less likely to skip it. If you have young children, I recommend you exercise together! There are so many free apps available to coach you into fitting in a 10-30 minute workout. And it shows your young child how important it is to fit in that workout. You don’t need a fancy gym membership, just a pair of sneakers. I also recommend a combination of functional exercises like squats and pushups with cardiovascular exercises like walking or biking to get your heart rate elevated. Our “feel good” hormones called endorphins are released with exercise. Who doesn’t want the family getting along better by doing something healthy?!
So let’s get healthier… as a family!