Submitted by Christopher Calloway, American Heart Association

Parents are preparing their children to return to school. The American Heart Association has some tips to make the transition a little healthier and easier.

  1. Get Back on a Sleep Schedule

Normal sleep hours for kids tend to loosen during the summer break. Now is a good time to re-establish a set bedtime. Healthy sleep habits can lower psychological strain, help kids maintain better self-control and replenish self-regulatory energy.

Start transitioning bedtime and wake-up time ahead of the first day of school, so your child can get used to it. Turn off screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime, since blue light can interrupt the body’s natural sleep rhythm. In general, kids ages six to 12 need nine to 12 hours of sleep, while teens should get eight to 10 hours.

  1. Get Kids Active

During the summer break many students stay indoors staring at monitors and screens. Regular physical activity has been shown to boost academic results and may help kids focus. Get kids moving again. Make time early in the morning or at the end of the day to take a walk with them. Ask your kids if they are excited to go back to school. Share your back-to-school memories.  It will benefit both of your health while strengthening your bond with your children.

  1. Make Healthy Lunches

When kids help make their lunches, they’re more likely to eat that lunch! Let the kids choose which piece of fruit or what type of whole grain bread they want and let them assemble their lunch. It’s another great way to spend family time together.

Think about using the leftovers from a family favorite dinner for lunch the next day. The prepared/packaged versions of many foods sometimes have a lot of sodium, so make them homemade with little or no salt. Another option is to compare nutrition facts of similar products and choose the ones with less sodium.

Avoid offering sugary drinks like sports drinks, soda, or sugar-added juices to your kids’ lunchboxes. Water or school purchased milk are great low-sugar options. Let the crunchy snacks be fruit or cut veggies – not fried, fatty chips.

For heart-healthy kids recipes visit AHA Kid-Friendly Recipe Collection | American Heart Association Recipes.