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Ask the School Nurse: Parents' Top 9 Questions for Back to School

Worried about flu? Stress? Colds? Our school health expert answers your questions about keeping children healthy.
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Getting Your Kids Off to a Healthy School Start

Need some more basic tips on keeping kids healthy? Follow these guidelines:

Healthy lunches for kids

Primary colors. Load up their lunchboxes with a colorful mix of fruits and vegetables to keep them energized and ready to learn. Apples, pears, berries, dried fruit, baby carrots, cauliflower, and edamame are easy to pack -- and fun to eat. 

Fluid motion. Drinking plenty of fluids helps active children stay hydrated. But not all drinks are created equal. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids who drink one can of soda a day increase their obesity risk by 60%. Offer water and limit soft drinks (some can pack 150 calories per 12-ounce can).

The whole truth. Whole grains are an important part of a healthy diet for kids. Offer whole grain, low-sugar cereals at breakfast and low-sodium whole grain snack bars or crackers in their lunch box. Try making sandwiches with whole grain bread (look for "100 percent whole wheat" on labels to get the most grains).

Dairy queen. Strengthen their bones and brains with nonfat or low-fat dairy foods, including yogurt and flavored milk (choose products with no more than 30 grams of sugar). 

Exercise for children

Class action. Don't assume your child is getting enough physical activity at school. Giving kids a chance to move and get their heart rates up before studying makes it easier for them to learn. Ask your child's teacher about having the class do jumping jacks, run in place, and other quick exercises in between classroom activities. 

Power hour. Make sure your kids run around for at least an hour each day. Don't have a full hour for exercise? Try short 15-minute bursts of running, jumping, or games that encourage these activities to keep them interested and active. 

Family affair. Busy families tend to skip physical activities together. Bond with your kids and boost the whole family's health by planning family bike rides, walks, or other exercise you can all do together.

Stress reduction for children

Slow start. Want to help make the start of school easier -- and halt the moans and groans before they begin? Set up back-to-school routines early and ease kids into them gradually. Push back bed and wake-up times by 15 minutes each week, for example. 

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