The back-to-school season is in full swing! Here at ACHS, we're gearing up for the start of fall semester, September 16, which is one of our favorite times of year. Starting a new academic year brings with it all those memories of being a kid and heading to your new classroom with lunch and school supplies in hand—it's nerve racking and exciting at the same time. We hear some of our adult online students feel the same way at the start of the term (minus the packed lunch), and rest assured, we can relate.
I know many of our ACHS students are also parents. For you, this can be an especially busy time of year. There are many details to organize in preparation for classes—your classes and your kids' classes, too!
If you're a Huffington Post fan, you may have already seen the article by Dr. Gail Gross, "Back-to-School Preparation Tips for Parents." In this article she mentions a few things I found interesting, and that got me thinking about how to take a holistic approach to back-to-school preparation.
In the article, Dr. Gross spends some time talking about how parents should "begin at the beginning." Basically, to make sure you have all the supplies you need and to avoid last-minute shopping, she recommends you shop in advance. Well, this is not exactly a new idea, but it got me thinking about how to prepare for the start of school from a holistic health perspective. Do you send your kids to school with a plastic lunchbox? Do you prepare lunch in advance and when you prepare lunch do you involve your kids in the process? These are just a few questions that initially came to mind for me.
I think all you holistic nutritionists will agree that eating healthy, nutritious foods has a lot to do with preparation. But, you can't buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs too far in advance or they'll go bad before you can eat them. Here are three holistic nutrition back-to-school tips to try:
- Reduce your kids' exposure to pesticides as much as possible. Some fruits and veggies are worse than others. When you shop keep the Environmental Working Group's (EGW) "dirty dozen" and the "clean fifteen" lists handy. You can download the App on your iPhone or print it out and carry it with you. The dirty dozen are those foods you are best never to buy unless they are organic. Recently EGW added summer squashes and leafy greens saying they were commonly contaminated with highly toxic pesticides.
- Avoid buying Genetically Modified Food (GMO). Tricky since the U.S. law does not require labeling of GMO foods. According to EGW most tortillas, chips, and corn syrup are made from GMO field corn and nearly all zucchini, Hawaiian papaya, and some varieties of sweet corn are GMO. GMO food cannot be labeled certified organic, so that is one measure of protection.
- Discover smoothies, if you haven't already! It is amazing what you can pack into a smoothie and still make it taste great. Check out this great blog article from the smoothie queen, Erika Yigzaw, who manages to make kale taste great! And while there are still some lingering last days of summer, try freezing smoothies into an iceblock. They make a great nutritious after school snack.
Another thing Dr. Gross talked about in "Back-to-School Preparation Tips for Parents" that really stuck with me was the importance of sleep. Dr. Gross says to, "Start a bedtime schedule one week in advance of school so that your child gets at least 10 hours of sleep at night. As an adult, we know how cranky we get when we are tired, and so do our children."
In the summertime, it can be difficult to keep kids on a regular sleep schedule. However, research from the University of Michigan shows, "School-aged children still need somewhere between 9 and 12 hours of sleep at night." (There's an interesting list of questions in this article you can run through to see if your kids are getting the right amount of sleep—go to http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/sleep.htm)
While your kids are getting back into their new sleep schedule, they may need some additional support. Avoid caffeinated beverages, like hot chocolate, before bedtime, which can keep your kids from falling asleep. Pick a bed time that feels natural for your kids, that reflects when they naturally get tried. And, try using aromatherapy essential oil, a few drops of lavender Lavandula angustifolia essential oil on your kids' pillowcases. As your kids inhale, the lavender can be very soothing and relaxing. (You can also try adding a few drops of lavender essential oil to your kids' bath water—always do a skin patch test first.)
Lastly, Dr. Gross emphasized having a 'safety first.' What about sending your kids to school with a little Holistic First Aid Kit in their backpacks? Or, you can drop if off with the teacher or school nurse on the first day of class. In the Holistic First Aid Kit ACHS offers through the Apothecary Shoppe College Store, we recommend supplies like calendula Calendula officinalis flowers and lavender Lavandula angustifolia essential oil. While it may not be appropriate to send your kids to school with raw materials, a mild, all-purpose ointment may do the trick. There is a recipe for Calendula Ointment on the Apothecary Shoppe website you can make at home if you want to give it a try (have the whole family participate!).
Have your own back-to-school holistic health tips to share? Be sure to leave a comment! I'd love to hear your ideas.
 Gross, G. (2013, July 25). Back-to-School Preparation Tips for Parents. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-gail-gross/backtoschool-preparation-tips_b_3654582.html
 University of Michigan Health System. (November 2010). Sleep Problems. Retrieved from http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/sleep.htm
 Field, T., Field, T., Cullen, C., Largie, S., Diego, M., & Schanberg, S. (2008).
Lavender bath oil reduces stress and crying and enhances sleep in very young infants. Early Hum Dev., 84(6):399-401. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18053656
This article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, cure, heal, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.