11 Back to School Tips to Keep Your Family Healthy (and Happy!)

By Brooke Bouwhuis, Unite Fitness Retreat Dietician

As summer is winding down it’s time to gear up for school.  We have a few tricks up our sleeve to help with sending healthy lunches, boosting the immune system and even a few ideas on how to cope with back to school jitters.

  1. First things first though, everyone who just arrived home from school must wash their hands soon as they cross your threshold. The end. A little OCD, but a really effective way of keeping the crud from spreading.
  2. What we eat plays a huge role in how well our immune system works. Give your body good things that fuel life and healing and in return fewer days of school are missed.
  3. What goes into a lunch box doesn’t have to be super time consuming and sealed with a kiss from Betty Crocker. It does need to include less sugar and heavily processed crap food because eating less junk will boost your immune system.

It’s no secret that sugar and processed food is inflammatory, rots your teeth and messes up your immune system. Studies have shown that when we consume 75-100 grams (20 tsp) of sugarin a sitting it decreases the amount of white blood cells that kill bacteria and germs by 40-50%.This decreased immunity begins within 30 minutes and can last up to 4-5 hours. Yes, 20 tsp may seem to be a lot but if your teen downs a large Slurpee for lunch (and they do) they have managed to consume 84 grams of sugar. A 12 oz can of coke (39 grams sugar) and a bag of skittles (57 grams sugar) consumed for lunch adds up to 96 grams of sugar.

Packing a lunch filled with healthy delicious things does take a few more minutes than packing an apple, a Pop Tart and a Mountain Dew but it’s worth it when they don’t miss school days because their bodies are run down.

4.  Leftovers are our first secret. We use thermos’s that are insulated keeping hot food hot and they work beautifully. Think minestrone soup, chicken enchiladas or stroganoff. Whatever you had for dinner can be packed for lunch the next day. Double your dinner recipe if you need leftovers and make the mess and clean up only be a burden once.

5. Try these healthy, easy lunch ideas. Keep cold foods cold with freezer packs added to the lunch bag. Think grilled chicken with a side of BBQ sauce for dipping, squeezable Greek yogurt or cheese slices with cubes of ham and whole grain crackers like Triscuit. Veggies like carrots, cucumbers and peppers and perfect for dipping in hummus. Turkey, spinach and avocado sandwiches on whole grain bread or a wrap with a side of cherry tomatoes and sliced peppers. Grapes, apples, mandarin oranges, blueberries, mango and fresh pineapple are favorite fruits around here.

6. Probiotics – chewables for the younger crowed, pills/capsules for the bigger crowd. It also helps to eat plenty of live probiotic rich foods like kefir, good belly shots or kombuchu, they boost the immune system by adding more good bacteria to your intestines. The more good stuff in your gut the greater the chance of crowding out the bad stuff that will weaken your immune system and increase your chances of getting sick.

7. Vitamin D– tiny pills and super cheap – you can get drops or chewable pills for the younger crowd – Anyone who lives north of Miami should be supplementing with Vitamin D. It boosts your immune system and is important in building bone density.

8.Water– drink plenty all day every day. It’s cheap, clean and easy to find. Pack your own water bottle, most teachers will allow water in the classroom. Drinking water boosts the immune system because your body doesn’t have to fight dehydration. Your blood can be filtered properly allowing your kidneys to work their magic keeping toxins out of your bloodand your team at school where they should be.

9. Exercise promotes good circulation, clears the lymph system and is just an all around excellent habit. It helps us deal with stress, allows us to sleep better and builds muscle which burns calories. Improving our health is a system and exercise is part of building a stronger system.

10.Getting enough sleep is critical to staying strong and healthy. If we don’t allow our bodies enough time to rebuild and rejuvenate each night, it’s so much easier to get sick. Having good sleep habits with a routine before bed, getting 6-8 hours, limiting caffeine so you can wind down are a few things to consider.

11. Meeting teacherswalking your class schedule in cavernous junior high and high schools can help take the edge off with back to school jitters. Even kids can benefit from using an app like Calm or Headspace. They are guided meditations that can help you relax, turn off your head and help you get to sleep faster.When you sleep better you can deal with the stress of change and “new” better.

What you put in your body and how you treat your body matters on so many levels. Fueling it to stay well for school is just one of the benefits. A healthy team is where it’s at. Good luck and have a blast this year!