As the dog days of summer begin to fade into memory and a new academic year beckons, the YMCA of Greater New York
“The end of summer and the start of back-to-school season shouldn’t mean a decrease in exercise or healthy eating habits for New York families and their children,” said Lori Rose Benson, Vice President of Healthy Lifestyles. “The key is involving kids and helping them understand at an early age that they have an important personal stake in their health and fitness choices.”
In advance of Monday, September 8 the Y is happy to provide some fun and informative tips for making this school year a healthy and happy one:
- No Excuses: The single most important tip and the one that informs all the others: families must not allow busy lifestyles and the stresses of juggling home, school, and professional responsibilities to keep them from eating healthy food and making smart fitness choices. Take a breath, make a schedule, set shared goals, and stick to them.
- Family Dinner Night: Even if both parents are working or it’s a busy single-parent household, families should make a commitment to eating at least one home-cooked dinner together each week. Shared meals foster conversation and better communication between family members and help instill a sense of appreciation for what goes into preparing healthy food.
- Draft a Family Healthy Living Contract: Organize a regular meeting to discuss family members’ favorite foods, the kind of exercise everyone is doing, and other health choices being made each day. Determine the good, the bad, and the sugary, and come to agreements around issues such as appropriate frequency of favorite snacks. Have children lead these meetings sometimes to encourage a greater sense of responsibility and leadership.
- Calendarize Your Goals: Whether it’s cutting out between-meal snacking, walking to school or work instead of taking the train or bus, being able to do ten pull-ups, or losing a few pounds, the act of setting nutrition and fitness goals helps bring them closer to realization. Make objectives fun by setting a monthly family health calendar and establishing positive incentives (e.g., a field trip or special activity or an extra hour of educational television or computer time).
- The Transparent Lunchbox: Involve your child in his or her school lunch preparation, talking through the week’s worth of meal options and the pros and cons of certain food choices. Farmers markets have become increasingly popular around the city and provide wonderful opportunities to encourage healthier lunch choices made with local, fresh, organic foods. Similar care should be taken with after school snack preparation, especially if there are gaps in child supervision between the end of the school day and parents returning from work.
- Avoid Holiday Overeating: Halloween. Thanksgiving. Christmas and Chanukah. With the fall comes a parade of holidays, each offering myriad opportunities to overindulge. Have a discussion with your child prior to Halloween about what healthy snacks the family might offer trick-or-treaters and what’s a reasonable amount of holiday treats children can expect to enjoy.
- Veggie of the Month Club: Expand the menu beyond canned corn and french fries! If your child is resistant to sampling new greens, try exposing him or her to different vegetables each month (e.g., kale, broccoli rabe, bok choy, brussel sprouts, leeks, turnips, squashes). Use membership in the “Vegetable of the Month Club” as a reason to visit farmers markets, explore different boroughs, and try different cuisines.
- Take a Tech Time-Out: Establish “no-tech zones” where parents and children are not allowed to use digital phones, tablets, or other mobile devices. These areas might include the kitchen table during meal-time and bedrooms at night. Consider instituting small penalties such as taking on additional household chores for multiple offenders!
- Get Outside: Create opportunities for exercising together as a family by playing team sports, building simple outdoor obstacle courses, walking together to school and/or local errands, and getting involved in physical volunteer efforts such as school and park clean-ups and/or working in community gardens.
- Join the YMCA of Greater New York: While all families are challenged to eat right, get enough physical activity, and find enough time to spend together as a family, the YMCA of Greater New York is here to help parents meet these challenges. Take advantage of the Y’s fall membership campaign beginning on September 4 and enroll in the Y’s amazing array of after school programs.
To learn more about how families can get ready to face the school year together, visit ymcanyc.org.