Back-to-school time is all about switching gears and acclimating to new routines. There are forms to fill out, supplies to buy, and decisions galore. Young children are excited to spend time with classmates every day. College students can't wait to soak up the fun and freedom of living on their own. Parents are busy adjusting to new schedules and priorities. And everyone is feeling just a little bittersweet over leaving behind the long, sunny days of summer vacation.
Amidst all the busyness of a new school year, healthy habits can easily go by the wayside. Core health factors like nutrition, exercise, and sleep can get pushed to the bottom of the daily to-do list. Or not. It depends on how parents and students choose to approach this season. Back to school can be a great time to set new, healthy intentions.
This year, back to school looks a bit different than usual, both literally and figuratively. Amid the challenges the pandemic has created, there are avenues to help students, whether school age or college age, move through the year with healthy minds and bodies. Below are four easy ways to do just that.
Back To Basics: How To Stay Healthy Through The School Year
Focus On Fiber
Fiber tends to get overlooked, especially when it comes to the diets of school-age children. This shouldn't be the case, because fiber is important at all ages. It’s important to give children a healthy diet, including as many plant-based foods as possible. For example, choose a whole-grain breakfast cereal to start the day and include a couple of portions of fruit and vegetables in their lunchboxes, as well as some whole-grain options. This will give them fiber to support good digestive health—remembering to complement these foods with a drink, such as water or milk, as these will help with healthy bowel movements too.
For younger kids, one of the most important functions of fiber is how it supports proper digestion. Digestive health can be particularly important in regard to overall wellness. When we don't have regular bowel movements, we can feel crampy, sluggish, and generally unwell.
College students who are on the go and might feel added stress due to tests, projects, and side jobs are especially in need of a healthy diet and lifestyle. When the body is stressed, one of the ways it can respond is to slow down digestion, leading to constipation.
Keep in mind, eating more fiber may help some people, but not all. The best choice is to focus on healthy eating, choosing a diet that includes a variety of food groups, such as whole-grain cereals and plenty of fruit and vegetables. Introduce high-fiber options gradually. Take time to eat mindfully, and include non-alcoholic drinks to keep up hydration.
Fiber can be easily incorporated into the diet through a variety of foods, like whole-grain breads, cereal, cereal bars (look for low-sugar options); oatmeal; and fresh or frozen berries and vegetables. Another great way to boost fiber intake is by adding it to smoothies or shakes, like Complete by Juice Plus+, available in Dutch Chocolate or French Vanilla.
Don't Wait To Exhale
While breathing is part of the autonomic nervous system, there's a type of breathing that doesn't come naturally. And most of us don't practice this breathing that can help reduce stress, slow the heart rate, and lower blood pressure. Deep breathing might not happen automatically, but we should make it a part of our daily wellness routine.
This practice can be especially helpful for students. Younger children are notorious for holding their breath when they're visibly upset (aka tantrums), but we probably all do it from time to time. When we're under stress, we not only don't breathe normally but we also breathe in ways that actually make us feel worse. Learning to breathe deeply during intense moments—or even in regular intervals throughout the day—is a simple tool to help students better deal with whatever comes their way during the school year.
- Regulate body temperature
- Keep joints lubricated
- Prevent infections
- Deliver nutrients to cells
- Keep organs functioning properly
- Improve sleep quality, cognition, and mood