Make a back to school plan for healthier kids

Back to School is a time for new beginnings. Are you worried that your kids eat too much of the wrong food, don’t get enough exercise, and are stressed to the point of needing medication, headache remedies or pills for upset stomachs?

Stop and think. Why not start back to school this new year with a whole new drug-free plan for helping your kid enjoy a healthier, happier life?

It’s not too late. Get a kid off television and into sports and games, and you can expect better grades, slimmer, stronger bodies and greater self-confidence. It can happen. You can make the grade, starting today.

Here are three back-to-school lessons to help get you started:

  • Make an activity calendar. It’s a shame, but many schools, for many reasons, have cut recess and playtime from your kids’ school day. It’s stupid thinking on the school’s part, because kids need physical stimulation as much as they need mental challenges.

But blaming the school, which is likely overburdened and underfunded, is also a dumb idea. You’re the parent. You’re in charge.
Begin by turning off the television. Sit down with your kid at the start of the new school year and figure out how and when he or she will do something physical 30 to 60 minutes every day. Keep a weekly calendar and revisit it frequently. A walk, a run, a bike ride, washing the family car, organized sports, disorganized sports, jumping rope, dancing: Just about any form of physical fun qualifies, excluding television, computer games, and all things passive and electronic.

If the kids resist, keep cool and don’t give up. Of course, the best way to inspire them is to be a role model. Make time in your own day to play, to get physical, to have fun. Exercise isn’t a luxury. It’s part of a balanced healthy lifestyle and the sooner you educate your kid to that fact, the better off you’ll all be.

  • Educate yourself in good eating habits. No matter how bad your kids’ eating habits are now, know one thing: They can change. Kids can learn new ways of eating - more real food, more fruits and veggies, less sugary pop and high-fat fried snacks - but you have to be the main teacher.

Educate yourself this new school year about balancing carbs, fats and proteins, about portion size, about food labeling. Offer your kids a wide variety of good food choices. Involve them in cooking, shopping, even growing food. Don’t give in to fast food factories that tempt your kids with toxic treats. You are the parent. You are in charge.
If the school lunchrooms are part of the problem, work to change that. There’s a wealth of good info online about healthy lifestyle choices for kids, including an online body mass index calculator to help you determine if your kid is truly overweight.

Check it out at, a co-venture between the University of North Carolina School of Public Health and the Gatorade Company.

  • Help your kid deal with stress. Going back to school means stress for kids. No doubt about it. The sources of worry are unending: grades, friends, safety, home-front issues, pimples, and so forth. Yet few schools help kids handle stress in healthy ways. That’s where you, the parent, must lead the way.

This school year, watch for signs of stress in your kids. Headaches, stomach aches, back pain, anxiety. Before you reach for a drug, devise a plan for helping your kid deal with stress. Make sure your kid gets enough sleep, enough exercise, enough unconditional love and listening.
Expose your kids to activities that link body and mind, so they can experience what true relaxation feels like. Yoga for kids is a great new thing. So are many of the martial arts. The meditative arts are good too. It’s up to you.

Remember: Back-to-school time is a good time to start new healthy habits with your kids. Book time with your kids now to talk about the changes: more time for physical activity, less time for television, more food that is healthy and energizing.

As you know, or may have guessed, there are 10 jillion Web sites out there giving advice and information about fitness, weight loss, exercise, carb counting and so forth. I can’t keep up with them. I don’t even want to try.

But I do want to tell you about one site that’s lots of fun, easy to digest, and filled with good information, clever art, and smart writing. It’s, founded by Janice Taylor, whose book-in-progress won me over with the title, “Our Lady of Weight Loss: How the Patron Saint of Permanent Fat Removal Led Me to a 50-Pound Weight Loss and Forever Changed My Life.”

Now Janice wants to help you change your life, by making you a member of her Kick in the Tush Club, a free e-mail newsletter “for light-hearted, low-cal loving, nutrution-friendly folks who crave mammoth portions of food facts, recipes, art and inspiration.”

Check out OurLadyofWeightLoss

.com. Slim down while you laugh it up. Be inspired by Janice Taylor’s success story. If she can do it, anyone can. So what if she now wants to turn her success into a business? It’s a good thing. Losing weight and keeping it off isn’t easy, but it is possible.

Write Marilynn Preston in care of The Light, 565 Pearl St., Suite 300, La Jolla, 92037.