At Back-to-School Time, Get Back to Good Health Habits

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images-1Back-to-school time is fast approaching and offers an opportunity to examine family activities, food choices, and health practices to reinforce good habits and develop new behaviors. 

Use back-to-school season to reassess not only your family’s health, but also your own.   While making your children’s physical exam appointments, make appointments for your annual physical, PAP smear or eye exam.

When was the last time you went to the dentist?  Biannual teeth cleaning reduces cavities and risk of heart disease.  Consider using a smart phone application to store immunization and medication information for all family members.  There are many apps that are free, easy to use and secure.

Take a look at the first-aid kits in your car and home.  Are they prepared for an emergency with Band-Aids, antiseptic, and antibiotic ointment?  Don’t forget about an asthma inhaler and epi-pen.

When you reach for medications in the car or home, you want to be sure they are current and ready to use.  Check the expiration dates of anti-fever, headache, cold and flu, and anti-diarrheal medications.  Since you finish all antibiotics prescribed, I know you don’t have any in the cabinet.  If you do, pull these or other expired prescriptions, grind pills and mix into coffee grounds before discarding in the trash.

Assess your pantry.  Do you have staples to create quick, nutritious meals?  Have a weekly meal plan to facilitate shopping and reduce food cost. Buy in bulk, cook once, and eat all week.  Keep brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and quinoa that combine easily with frozen vegetables without sauce to make a fast, healthy meal.

Frozen berries and fruits combine with ice and banana or kale to make a healthy smoothie for a snack or fast breakfast.  Almonds, walnuts, and pecans travel well and are loaded with protein and vitamins; a small handful stays hunger.  While at the market, read the labels with children to personalize food choices and reaffirm healthy eating habits.

Even though summer is over for kids, returning to school comes at the warmest months of the year.  Continue to protect against sun and heat.  Wear sunscreen and reapply for afterschool sports or walks.  Have water readily available and continually hydrate while active.  Don’t wait to get thirsty to drink, for then it’s too late.  Stay in the shade when possible.  Wear a hat and mist with water.

Create opportunities to exercise as a family by adding evening walks.  For parents, remember to get in a quick workout while children are at soccer practice or in a tutoring center.  You can take a walk anywhere if you keep athletic shoes and a bottle of water in the car.

Dr. Morris
Dr. Morris

Buy a pedometer for each family member and conduct a weekly contest with a prize for the person who walks the most steps.  The goal is to walk 10,000 steps daily.  Use non-food rewards including free time, stickers, new books, song downloads, batting cage time, and others according to the age, appropriateness, and desire of the winner.

Balance outside activities and school with time to reconnect to one another with healthy face time.  Remember eating at the table, technology-free, builds healthy connection and a lifetime of memories.  And on the weekends, decompress without electronics to allow uninterrupted family time.

Continue to be a shining example for your children in word, thought, and deed by modeling healthy eating habits, regular exercise, and using medicine appropriately.  Be well.

Sylvia E. Morris, MD, MPH, is a board-certified physician in internal medicine and holistic medicine.   In addition to her clinical practice, she is a community health advocate as well as a medical consultant and commentator for media outlets such as The Weather Channel, Atlanta Fox 5 News, and CNN.com.  Tell her what you think on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

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