As our Michigan summer evenings begin to cool off and August winds to a close, it’s time to start thinking about back-to-school. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that there is something about new pencils and fresh pads of paper (not to mention those annoying JC Penney commercials) which makes me immediately think about personal growth and improvement–as well as nasty colds, poor diet and added winter poundage.
Whether you are in school yourself, the parent of a young student, or living it up in a corner cubicle, September is a time for new beginnings–which can sometimes leave health and nutrition on the back burner. This year, try these tips to keep yourself on track and feeling great through new schedules, long and stressful days and fall colds alike.
Eat breakfast. Not only does eating in the morning jump start your metabolism (leading to weight loss), but it also keeps your brain sharp and sets you up for a successful day. If you are like me and can’t stomach food first thing upon waking up, try drinking water or coffee first to get your digestive system awake and running before eating something small like granola or yogurt. Also, studies show that people who eat a small, healthy breakfast are more likely to maintain healthy habits throughout the day, so as tempting as that doughnut may look, the chances are slim that you will be able to undo the damage later in the day. Make sure to mix protein and carbohydrates (like eggs and nut butter on whole wheat toast) to help regulate blood sugar all day long.
Support your immune system. Whether you have young children, share a workspace, or live on campus (all fear the community bathroom), chances are good that you are bringing home multitudes of fall germs. To prevent the dreaded cold/flu season, make sure to keep up on your fluids (eight glasses of water are recommended daily–making a conscious effort to drink them really does help!) and sleep. Personally, I don’t take medication except in cases of severe illness, so when I start to feel a little under the weather, I drink hot tea, water, all-natural fruit juices, soup broth–anything I can get my hands on to flush the bug out of my system. Always works for me!
Schedule in time to get outside. Living in the Mitten can make the changing of the seasons a depressing experience for many Michiganders who hate to see our beautiful summers come to an end. But during this season of change, take advantage of the beautiful colors and crisp temps by taking your family out apple picking or on a haunted hay ride–even if it’s just a walk around the block, make it a point to soak up the fresh air and sunshine daily. The outdoor time will help ease seasonal depression and anxiety, and can even serve as inspiration for big projects.
Prep your food once weekly. Because I rely so heavily on fresh foods like fruits and vegetables, I do my grocery shopping and food prep once weekly. Plan ahead–create a healthy meal plan for the week consisting of meals which all use similar ingredients, which will cut down on cost, shopping time, and prep time. I always keep prepped veggies and hummus, homemade granola, apples and peanut butter, and other small snacks on hand for easy grab-and-go access, and if I have the time, I will even cook a week’s worth of meals on Sunday and keep individual lunch portions in my fridge to make packing lunch a no-brainer.
Cut back on going out to eat. In between tests, homework and social activities, it can be tempting to order in pizza or swing through somewhere for something quick and easy. While low-cal options can sometimes be available, rarely does fast food lend itself to any form of fresh food, and you may be doing more long-term damage than you think. All the preservatives, salt and fats found in processed food trigger hormones which can lead to access pounds long after you indulge (not to mention the addictive nature of foods rich in fat and salt).
No matter your age, the key to healthy habits is establishing a routine and sticking to it. Play around with your schedule to make the most of your precious hours of free time, give your body the fuel (and rest!) it needs to ward off invading germs, and you will dominate this school year.