healthy kids

With the back to school season upon us, kids are having to get back to the grind of learning, taking tests, doing homework, and more. There are two simple lifestyle factors that can greatly improve how well they perform in all of these areas, in addition to helping them do it all with happy, positive attitudes. Those two things are healthy eating and regular physical activity. 

While we will talk about how these factors can be beneficial to kids of all ages, we want to be clear that we are not suggesting that children diet or over-exercise. It should not be something that you as their parent or the child is overly focused on. Rather, we are suggesting that healthy eating and exercise be naturally and seamlessly incorporated into your days so that children grow up learning lifelong healthy habits that will benefit them when they are older as well.

Good nutrition is essential to healthy brain development in children which is, of course, critical to learning. Children who exercise regularly and eat healthily are likely to perform better academically; feel better about themselves, their bodies, and their abilities; cope with stress and regulate their emotions better; and avoid feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. 

Children need a wide variety of vitamins and nutrients for growth and development and to protect them from childhood illnesses. Daily exercise also helps children build stronger muscles and bones. 

How to Improve Kids’ Eating and Activity Level

The earlier you can create healthy habits, the better. Children imitate their parents, so it’s important to set a good example. You don’t want to make kids feel bad about their weight or focus on it too much as this can create self-esteem issues that may start at a young age. But if your family has always been active and eaten healthy foods, that’s what they are likely to do as they grow up as well.

So how exactly do all this? What does it look like on a daily basis, and what should you focus on the most as kids go back to school?

Encourage more physical activity. This is often a great place to start since it will help kids work up an appetite, and then when you provide healthy snacks and meals, they will happily eat it. Aim for 60 minutes everyday of play-based activity, such as playing catch, going for walks or bike rides, doing yard work, or playing tag. 

Introduce new foods. Eating a variety of foods means that kids are more likely to get all the vitamins and nutrients they need. Shoot for at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and look for creative ways to add these in. For example, add a sliced up banana or a few sliced strawberries to the typical bowl of (not too sugary) cereal before school. You may also try foods you haven’t previously thought your kids would eat, such as salad. Kids may surprise you with what they like.

Limit screen time. Even the best parents may relax about screen time rules over the summer, but with school back in session, you may need to revisit the amount of time your kids sit still watching TV, playing on tablets, playing video games, etc. The more time they spend doing these activities, the less time they are moving, doing homework, and studying. How much screen time works for each family is an individual decision, but something to consider carefully.

Only buy healthy options. If you buy junk food, your family will eat junk food. If you buy healthy foods, that’s what they will eat instead. Your shopping cart should be full of healthy foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables and whole-grain items. We do not recommend purchasing or serving kids low-fat foods since they may contain unhealthy added ingredients, including added sugar. This may be a good time for you to get more creative with meals and snacks. Many are quick, easy, and healthy, like these!

Eat meals together. Especially on busy school mornings or evenings, it may be easier to serve children their meals at different times or in front of the TV, but make it a goal to do this as little as possible. Eating together has many important benefits related to health and nutrition, but it’s also a time to connect and communicate.

Focus on fuel. Your thought process in feeding your kids should go beyond just getting them to eat; it’s about WHAT they eat and when. Every child needs a nutritious, filling breakfast whether they have a normal school day or if they have an afternoon of sports activities. If your child has snacks throughout the day, send something that will help refuel them. A candy bar or packet of cheese crackers will not provide long-lasting energy, but a combination of fruit, nuts, cheeses, peanut butter, and many other healthy options will help keep them going longer.

Don’t forget about sleep. Healthy eating and appropriate activity is crucial, but closely tied to both of those is sleep. Nutritious meals and exercise will help them feel ready for bed at the right time, it will help them sleep soundly, and it will allow their bodies to rest and get ready to do it all over again the next day.

How Are Your Healthy Habits, Mom and Dad?

As you focus on your kids during the back to school season, don’t forget about yourself and your spouse. Any positive healthy changes you make for your kids, you can also make for yourself. We encourage you to focus on yourself too, and weight loss surgery may be something for you to consider. When it comes to diet plans, exercise plans, and the entire recovery process, we will be with you every step along the way.

Find out more about the weight loss surgery options at Birmingham Minimally Invasive Surgery.

The caring group of professionals at Birmingham Minimally Invasive Surgery will help you get started on your weight loss journey and stay with you every step along the way. Dr. Long and his team specialize in all types of bariatric surgery, including gastric sleeve surgery, gastric bypass, and the LAP-BAND. Visit us today at or give us a call to set up a consultation at 205-833-6907.