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Back-to-school routines are healthy for everyone

Back To School - Kids with Backpacks

Whether you’re sending kids off to school, heading back to the office yourself, or simply continuing to work from home, everyone can benefit from refreshed routines and new healthy habits. In fact, it may be especially important to establish routines during the uncertainty of the ongoing pandemic, both for your mental health and immune system.

Here are my tips for adults who want to reap benefits from back-to-school routines:

Sleep. If you’re not routinely waking up rested after about eight hours of sleep, think about your pre-bed habits. If you’re snacking and staring at your screen right before bed, try curling up with a mug of hot herbal tea or water and a good book instead. Quality sleep can boost your immune system, energize you, and discourage unhealthy eating.  And if you’re a snorer, talk to your doctor about the possibility that you might have sleep apnea.

Exercise. You don’t need to try out for the varsity soccer team, but 60 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per day will help your heart. That includes everything from dancing to walking to yard work.  You don’t have to start at 60 minutes though!!  60 minutes a day is your goal.  If you just start with 1 minute and add 1 minute per day, in two months you’ll be at your goal!

Meal planning. Like everything in summertime, meals can get a little lazy, and that’s OK -- especially if it means you’re munching on fresh seasonal produce all day. But once schedules get busy, it’s easy to fall into a trap of fast food without some planning. Here’s what I eat in a typical day -- it’s not time consuming, but it does require a little thinking ahead of time: Step One Foods Oatmeal or Sprinkle for breakfast, a piece of fruit or handful of almonds for a mid-morning snack, a bowl of farro with olives, feta, tomatoes, and pine nuts for lunch, a Dark Chocolate Crunch Bar in the afternoon, and salmon with zucchini and peppers for dinner.

Healthy snacks. Since you’re reading this, I’m guessing you already swap out two snacks per day for your favorite Step One Foods products. Keep it up!

Extra curriculars. Many people had time to pursue new hobbies during the pandemic. Reflect on what brought you joy and prioritize them.

Hand washing, mask-wearing, immunizations. If you’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19, you may have let some other precautions lapse.  But hand washing is always a good idea, pandemic or no.  And make sure you’re up to date on other immunizations as well, including the annual flu shot.  Finally, remember that a healthful lifestyle helps boost immunity.  What you eat, whether or not you move your body, the quality of your sleep – it all contributes to resilience.

Limit screen time. Setting limits on your teens’ phones? Pat yourself on the back...and then add similar restrictions to your own. You’ll have more time for family and friends -- and your new healthy habits!

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