Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wellness Wit and Wisdom

By Maureen Deutermann, MSN, R.N., Director of Community Education

When I was a kid, it wasn’t going back to school that I dreaded (I was actually kind of a nerdy kid), but the fact that my dad was usually the one sending us off to school, as mom worked early. Don’t get me wrong, my dad was a prince of a guy, but he believed in launching us into those hallowed halls of learning with a good “stick to your ribs” breakfast on board. That usually meant the “o” word….oatmeal. I not only didn’t like oatmeal, the stuff made me literally gag.

My solution was to dig in and get it over with as soon as possible; confessing my oatmeal aversion to my sweet dad was not an option. Unfortunately, sweet dad took my gobbling as a sign of enthusiasm and would invariably plop another helping in my bowl…sigh. Then there were his boiled tongue sandwiches cleverly smuggled into my lunch sack…but that’s another story.

The point is: dad was not only sweet but wise, knowing that a good breakfast was important for energy, concentration, and learning in general. Another school year is upon us. For those of us with students at home, our efforts may be concentrated on securing new outfits, backpacks and school supplies. We would do well to take stock of what we’re putting into our little scholars as well!

Here are a few nutrition tips to help ensure a successful and healthy school year:

• By all means provide your children with a healthy breakfast before they board the bus. Include protein (egg, milk, peanut butter), whole grains (toast, whole grain cereal), and fruit. Beware of the sugar bombs being passed off as cereal!

• Lunch time is a challenge as you won’t be around to play food Gestapo. Check out your child’s lunchroom menu ahead of time, if possible, and help him/her make healthy choices. If you pack your child’s lunch you’re more in control, but make sure it’s something your child will eat. For years I packed an apple in with my son’s typical peanut butter sandwich and chips (yes chips…no one’s perfect!). It was only when one of the “lunch ladies” at his school casually informed me that the apple was consistently used for hoop practice that I switched to grapes. To this day grapes are the preferred fruit of choice for my now college-aged son. Who knew???

• Ah dinnertime: you’re tired, the kids are tired, let’s fly through McDonald’s. Right? Wrong! If you can’t remember the last time you all sat down at the dinner table together, a new school year is a great time to start. Children who regularly eat dinner at home with their parents have lower risk of substance abuse, lower stress and anxiety levels, and higher levels of self esteem, not to mention higher grades than their “take-out” peers.

This year, make sure your beloved scholars are packing good nutrition into their school days; you may just see a surprise payoff at report card time! Reference: