When Preparing For “Back To School,” Don’t Forget About Healthy After-School Snacks

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groupkidsPreparing a child’s lunch is an important part of the back-to-school routine, but experts at the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital say that thinking about healthy after-school snacks is also important to consider.

“Having one-to-two healthy snacks in addition to three meals a day is what is typically recommended for school-aged kids,” said Dr. Teresia O’Connor, assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor and pediatrician at Texas Children’s. “If you’re eating three healthy meals a day, then the snacks should be small, and parents should think of it as an opportunity to get good, healthy nutrition into their child.”

O’Connor recommends picking foods that will help children get the energy they need for the rest of the afternoon while also offering snacks that will help them meet daily nutritional goals. For example, it is recommended that children get at least five fruits and vegetables per day, so a way to achieve this is to offer fruit and vegetable snacks.

“Many kids come home after school having had an early lunch and are pretty hungry, so picking snack foods that will help them feel full, but not over full or stuffed is important. That way they are not ravenous by the time dinner comes around, but hungry enough to eat a healthy meal” said O’Connor.

O’Connor suggests incorporating proteins and whole grains for satiety and also combining fruits and vegetables with proteins and whole grains. See her recommendations here.

What to avoid

She notes that snacks to keep to a minimum are those with added or excess sugar, such as candy, cookies; as well as fried foods, such as chips. These snacks should be the exception, not the rule.

“Everything can be eaten in moderation, but those kinds of foods are the ‘every now and then’ types of food and not the ‘go-to every day’ as an afternoon snack,” she said.

Snacks can be important

O’Connor emphasizes the importance of giving children a healthy snack to be sure they are able to focus on their homework and have the energy to engage in playtime or sports. However, make sure that the snack is healthy and has good nutrients in it instead of a high-calorie snack that does not have many nutrients but adds a lot of fat and sugar.

Timing of snacks

What time children have a snack varies on what your family schedule is like. Snacks should not be eaten less than an hour before dinner, because children may then not be as hungry for dinner. A healthy snack allows them to avoid being extremely hungry for dinner and eating too fast or more than they need.

“Snacks provide that balance so that you go into dinner feeling a little bit hungry but not ravenous,” said O’Connor.

After-school care

If kids are in an after-school program, check to see if the program offers snacks and talk to program leaders to see if they are healthy. If the snacks are not healthy, talk to the program coordinator to see if you can pack something small and healthy for your child.

After-school sports

boysoccerIf children are involved in after school sports, it can be important for them to have a snack before they spend an hour or two in physical activity after the school day.

“Proteins and whole grains are going to stay with them a lot longer than a candy bar. The kind of nutrients you get from proteins and whole grains give you energy for a much longer sustained time than processed simple sugars,” said O’Connor.

Healthy drinks

It is also important to think about what your kids are drinking – be sure they are not taking in empty calories and excess sugars from their drinks. Try to avoid sodas, sports drinks and fruit drinks.

Instead, try to incorporate a glass of water or a glass of skim milk.

“I find that a lot of kids don’t get adequate hydration during the day,” said O’Connor. “Try getting your kids used to drinking a glass of water when they get home to make sure they’re keeping their bodies hydrated.”

Older children

Many middle school and high school students arrive home before their parents, and O’Connor says parents should be sure they are creating an environment where these teens are more likely to pick healthy snacks rather than unhealthy snacks. This means making sure foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grain crackers and low-fat yogurt without a lot of sugar are available to them and making sure that the pantry is not full of potato chips, candies and cookies.

“Think ahead of time about how you are setting up your pantry and refrigerator and make the environment at home a healthy one,” she said.

Set the example

There are a few things that parents can do to help their kids make healthier choices. The first is getting them involved in helping you pick healthy snacks at the grocery store – they are more likely to eat the foods if they are able to choose themselves. Also, parents should act as role models for healthy eating. If parents come home and have a glass of water and fruits and vegetables, their children are more likely to follow this.

O’Connor also notes that in some cultures, the after-school meal is the main dinner and says that this still fits into a healthy diet as long as there are still only three meals and one-to-two snacks a day.

– Submitted by the Baylor College of Medicine

Preparing Your Child For A New Sibling

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By Adrienne Durkin

babyThe arrival of a new baby is a big transition for any family, and for a young child, welcoming a new sibling can be challenging. It is common for children to feel apprehensive and sometimes jealous, and it is not uncommon for children in this situation to act out.

Fortunately, parents can help prepare their children for an addition to the family in many ways. Although there is no “perfect time” to break the news, setting aside time to have a conversation and answer questions is critical.

If your child doesn’t have lots of questions right away, don’t force the issue. They might need time to process the news in their own way. When they are ready, they will ask questions. Take time then to talk with them.

If they are immediately interested, there are many things that you can do to help them think about the transition in a positive way.

* Show them baby pictures of themselves when they came home from the hospital.

* If you have a friend or family member with a newborn, take your child to visit.

* Take your child to a doctor’s visit so that they can hear the heartbeat.

* Would your child like to help you think of potential baby names?

* Read books to your child about becoming a big brother or big sister.

* Have a baby doll that can play the role of your infant. Pretend play about holding the baby and setting up some ground rules can be very helpful.

If you have to make room adjustments, do them as early as possible. This will allow for your child to settle in before the baby arrives.

familyvectorMore and more hospitals now offer sibling preparatory classes. These classes usually teach children how to hold a baby, explain how a baby is born, and offer a chance for kids to express how they feel about this big change. If you can, take your child to a class. It is a great way for them to learn about the process, and it is a chance for them to meet other kids going through the same experience.

As the baby’s arrival grows closer, make arrangements for your child while you are in the hospital. Make sure that they understand what the plans are, and that they are comfortable with them.

Once the baby is born, bring your child to the hospital to meet the baby as soon as possible, preferably when no one else is around. Make the time special.

When the baby comes home, try to keep to your child’s regular routine as stable as possible. When the baby is napping, spend one-on-one time with your older child. Setting aside a certain time each day to do something special. It can be as simple as reading a short book or doing puzzle. Giving them something to look forward to doing with you each day can be very reassuring.

Enjoy the journey! It will be an adventure for all of you.

– Adrienne Durkin is the author of the Sam and Coodles series. Sam and Coodles: The Room at the End of the Hall was created when Adrienne and her husband moved their son from the nursery outside their bedroom to a room down the hall when they were expecting their second child. Adrienne wanted to create a series of books for young children getting new siblings, starting before the baby is born and continuing after the new baby comes home. For information on the series, visit SamandCoodles.com.

Preparing For A Family Walking Holiday

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By Danielle Steele

familyGetting out and about with your loved ones is certainly a fantastic experience. This is even more so when you plan on trekking through the wilderness for days on end, enjoying some of the finest sights that nature can provide. As well as experiencing some amazing vistas, you’ll also keep fit and active, bonding with your loved ones in a manner that brings everyone together. Of course, you’ll need to plan your journey in the right way, especially since you’ll have to take care of your family in remote locations away from standard facilities. Here, we’ll look at a few of the most important aspects to consider when preparing for your next walking holiday.

Is the Route Suitable?

Since you’ll want to make the upcoming trekking adventure as enjoyable as possible, you’ll also need to think about your family’s physical capabilities as well as the type of outdoor gear you own. In this regard, you’ll need to choose a route that matches their exercise level. When researching nearby trails, keep an eye on the following characteristics:

• Amount of incline
• Change in altitude
• Type of walking surface
• Surrounding scenery

If you’re going on your first walking holiday, choose a path that’s relatively flat and that has a well-marked path. This will help remove most of the hurdles, giving you a simple holiday itinerary that each member of your family can enjoy regardless of their fitness ability.

Do You Have the Right Gear?

Now, you’ll need to prepare your loved ones for the forthcoming journey by supplying them with the necessary gear. If you’re spending a few nights in the wilderness, you’ll need a decent tent, some cooking supplies, and the right bathing necessities to make a comfortable journey in which everyone can enjoy themselves significantly. You’ll also need to think about the clothing that you bring along. Avoid purchasing anything too cheap as this won’t be durable enough for the expedition.

Is Your Family Prepared?

Now that you’ve got the right equipment, you’ll have to hone your loved one’s physical capabilities to get through the upcoming walking holiday with ease. After all, if you just spend your time in front of the television, going on a three-day trek with no fitness preparation is a recipe for disaster. This means that you should plan an exercise routine before you depart to build up your loved ones’ fitness levels. You can do this by putting on your walking gear and heading to the park every weekend. Start by trekking to the maximum limit possible and then build up the duration slowly each time that you and your family practise your walking after that.

What Belongings Do You Need?

Now, you’ll need to think about what you should take along with you on your next wilderness adventure. You’ve bought your clothing and accessories, but you should also think about other items as well. Some of the most important include:

• Food and beverages
• Toiletries and bathing products
• First aid and medication
• Maps, compasses and guidebooks
• Cameras, GPS trackers, etc.

Depending on where you’re going, you’ll need different items for your adventure. For example, those walking through villages might be able to stay in a local motel instead of a tent. Likewise, if you’re passing a river, lake or waterfall, you should bring along some swimming gear, towels and sunscreen so you and the family can cool down along the way.

– Danielle Steele represents Trekwear, a company based in the United Kingdom that offers clothing and merchandise for skiing, running, and cycling. Find out more of the products such as walking sandals available from Trekwear on their website.