The ABC's of a Healthy School Year
Penn Expert Offers Tips to Help Parents and Children Get an A+ in Nutrition
(PHILADELPHIA) – As a lazy summer filled with cookouts and ice
cream cones draws to a close, it’s a great time to focus on incorporating
a healthy lifestyle into the back-to-school routine.
“Learning to enjoy nutritious foods and be physically active in
fun ways are life lessons that parents can teach their children to help
them develop healthy habits they will carry through their school years
and on into adulthood,” says Lisa
Hark, PhD, RD, Director of the Nutrition
Education Program at the University
of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
Dr. Hark, who also hosted TLC’s show “Honey,
We’re Killing the Kids,” offers the following ABC’s
of back-to-school nutrition for parents and children:
ACTIVITY is essential to staying healthy
- Limit TV and video game time to less than 2 hours a day. Studies
show that the more children are exposed to TV ads for junk food and
sweetened drinks, the more likely they are to consume large amounts
of unhealthy food.
- Work in at least one hour of activity every day. Children spend
most of the school day sitting, so get them outside for some play time
after school. To get moving, choose activities like baseball,
frisbee, jump rope, dancing, hula-hoop, and tag.
- Use weekends for active family bonding outings. Hiking, biking,
walking, and sports all count, so get out, get moving, and have some
BALANCE your meals throughout the day
- Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Some healthy
choices to start the day off on the right foot are low-sugar cereal
with 1% low-fat milk and fruit, or whole grain waffles with low-sugar
syrup and a small glass of orange juice, or one slice of whole
wheat toast with peanut butter and jelly and a glass of 1% low-fat
- Don’t rely on school lunch options. Pack a healthy lunch
at least 3 times a week. Healthy choices include whole wheat
bread or a small whole grain wrap with turkey, ham or tuna salad, low-fat
yogurt, fruit, and a water bottle.
- After school is a great time to get children to eat their vegetables
because they are so hungry. Try baby carrots, cut up cucumbers,
peppers, tomatoes, or celery with low-fat ranch or French dressing.
You will be surprised at what they eat!
- Everyone is busy at the end of the day, but it is important to plan
ahead and prepare a healthy dinner at least 3 times a week. Include
fresh vegetables and salads, lean meats such as poultry or seafood,
and whole grains such as brown rice or whole wheat pasta. Skip
the soda and juice and serve either water or 1% low-fat milk every
night. A healthy meal and time with the family is a great way
to end the day, teach children about socialization, and catch up on
the day’s activities!
COOK and shop with your children
- Create a healthy shopping list with your children at home before
going to the market. Before you leave, help children understand
that, “If it’s not on the list, we’re not buying
it.” Remember that it is okay to take control and say no to your
children, especially when it comes to junk food and sweets. You are
- Make shopping a fun and educational outing. Use the produce
section to teach young children about colors, shapes, and expand their
vocabulary of fruits and vegetables. They will be more likely to try
new fruits and vegetables when you get home.
- Get children involved in safely preparing healthy foods such as vegetables
for salads, scrambled eggs, turkey burgers, and smoothies. Children
will be excited to eat what they’ve made and proud to share with
others, as well!
“Children and teenagers are experiencing medical complications,
such as high
blood sugar levels, diabetes,
and high blood
pressure at alarming rates due to sedentary lifestyles and consuming
too many calories,” says Hark. “By setting a good example,
providing healthy foods in as many settings as possible, and being active
with their children, parents can play a huge role in improving their
children’s health now and in the future. Follow the ABC’s
for a wonderful 2007-2008 school year.”
PENN Medicine is a $3.5 billion enterprise
dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical
research, and excellence in patient care. PENN Medicine consists of
the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765
as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania
Penn's School of Medicine is ranked #2 in the nation for receipt
of NIH research funds; and ranked #3 in the nation in U.S. News &
World Report's most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical schools.
Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine
is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the
next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System includes three hospitals,
all of which have received numerous national patient-care honors [Hospital
of the University of Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first
hospital; and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center]; a faculty practice plan;
a primary-care provider network; two multispecialty satellite facilities;
and home care and hospice.