It’s that time of year again! Time for new notebooks, packing lunchboxes, getting back into a normal bedtime routine, and embracing the excitement— and maybe even a little nervousness—that comes with each back-to-school season. Maybe you’re going to college the first time, going back to college, have kids in school, or are in middle or high school. No matter what the situation, each back-to-school year is different for all of us, and that means keeping things as simple as possible in order to succeed and stress less throughout those first few months until we all get adjusted. To help you stay on track and stay healthy this year, we want to fully support you and give you some of our favorite tips that we love and hope will help you have a great back-to-school season and feel GREAT while doing it.
Here are some of our top important tips for a healthy back-to-school season, and we wish you the absolute BEST in your year ahead as you #loveyourguts every step of the way.
1. Prioritize a Healthy Sleep Schedule
Everyone’s sleep needs in terms of hours are different, but most people need at least 7-9 hours sleep minimum each night. Children and early teens may need anywhere from 8-10 because they’re still growing and require more sleep than adults do. Sleep is vital for muscle repair, restoring brain function, allowing the liver to do its job overnight and cleanse the body naturally as it’s supposed to, it is important for the function of a healthy gut, and it improves mood the following day. Be sure to go to bed earlier depending on what type of schedule you have the following day so you can allow yourself to wind down before bed. If you struggle with this, we have some great tips for you!
First, try turning off most of the lights in your home 2 hours before it’s time to go to sleep. Excessive light, especially blue light from devices, can trigger our brains to “wake up” and disrupt melatonin production. Melatonin is the natural hormone our bodies produce when it’s time to go to bed. If that gets disrupted, it can cause us to stay awake longer. Take a hot bath or shower before bed with Epsom salt or sea salt, which is rich in minerals that support relaxation. Add some lavender essential oil to your bath, which can also help sleep and relaxation. Have a hot cup of bedtime tea; these come in various varieties but are all made with calming and relaxing herbs that can assist with a healthy sleep cycle. You can also try reading before bed instead of scrolling social media.
2. Eat Foods High in Vitamin C on a Daily Basis
Anytime we start a new schedule, our bodies need ample time to adjust and this requires our immune systems to ramp up more than normal because they are undergoing more stress to keep us healthy. Since we’re around more students and peers, it also means that school settings can expose us to more germs, even if we take the best precautions. So eating foods that support immunity is an easy way to provide your body with everything it needs to work at its best. Vitamin C is an antioxidant-type vitamin that the immune system uses to repair cell damage and protect invaders throughout the environment, such as germs, viruses, and environmental toxins. As a bonus, it’s also great for skin health since it supports collagen production!
Eating foods high in vitamin C on a daily basis all throughout the day is important since vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and is excreted more frequently in the body than fat-soluble vitamins are (those are vitamins A, D, E, and K). Foods high in vitamin C include some of the following fruits and vegetables: broccoli, all types of orange, red, and yellow bell peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, romaine lettuce, spinach, kale, cantaloupe, mango, papaya, pineapple, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, kiwis, lemons, oranges, and other citrus fruits. Include at least 3-5 of these throughout the day so you are consistently giving your body natural sources of vitamin C instead of popping pills, which aren’t (usually) naturally derived. Since vitamin C only naturally occurs in plants, it’s an easy way to ramp up your fiber each day to provide your microbiome with plenty of “food” to do its job!
3. Have Healthy Snacks on Hand Throughout the Day
Having healthy snacks on hand throughout the day helps you have more energy, supports your mood, and keeps your bodies (and guts!) healthy all day long. Foods that are more close to nature and don’t have a laundry list of ingredients are a great place to start choosing healthier options over those offered in school vending machines, for the most part. Instead of processed chips, crackers, cookies, and sugary sodas, try some of the following choices we love.
Keep an apple, banana, or orange in your backpack since these pack well and don’t require refrigeration. While you’re at it, consider packing one of our convenient probiotic Lifeway Kefir 8-ounce bottles with you; these travel well and are great for lunchboxes instead of sugary yogurt drinks. They also come in a variety of different flavors and support your gut health with 12 different probiotic cultures in every single bottle to provide you with 25-30 billion units of probiotics per serving. Probiotics support a healthy gut, mood, and so much more. Getting them naturally from fermented foods is more effective than popping probiotic pills, which may or may not provide you with the amount advertised on the front of the bottle. Our ProBugs are the perfect option for kids because they also contain our one-of-a-kind culture blend rich in probiotics with protein, B vitamins, calcium, and vitamin D. They’re are low in sugar and come in delicious kid-friendly flavors with natural ingredients everyone will love. Even many adults love our ProBugs and we have to say, we can’t blame them!
Other nutrient-dense snack choices are mini packs of natural raw almonds or cashews, which are natural sources of protein plus vitamins and minerals. You might also enjoy nut butter cups with celery and carrot sticks or raw fruit and nut/seed bars. Instead of sugary pudding cups, try unsweetened applesauce or 100% fruit cups (in juices) without added sugars. These are all great choices to keep you feeling your best and keep your metabolism up all day long and will keep you from having energy dips throughout the day due to fluctuating blood sugar levels.
4. Be Sure to Eat Enough Protein Spread Out Throughout the Day
We all know we need protein, but it’s important to remember to spread out your protein choices throughout the day. Don’t try to eat one protein-heavy meal a day and consider this done because our bodies can only digest and use so much protein at one time (usually around 20-25 grams depending on our age). Anywhere from 10-20 grams per serving for meals and snacks is a great place to start and a doable range that is easier to hit than protein-loading at one meal. Protein supports muscle growth, brain function and mood, a healthy immune system, and much more.
Nutritious protein choices include the following: Lifeway kefir—which offers you 8-10 grams per cup(!) along with calcium and vitamin D, high-quality yogurt, beans, peas, lentils, wild-caught fish, raw almonds, pistachios, quinoa and other ancient grains (such as millet and amaranth), and seeds such as chia, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds. Try a variety of these to see which ones you love the most and include those throughout meals and snacks. Our Chocolate Quinoa Breakfast Bowl is a tasty, fun, and protein-rich recipe that we love as a healthy breakfast, but you can even enjoy it as a snack or nighttime dessert!
See more of our delicious recipes here on our blog at Lifeway, and be sure to tag us on Instagram if you make one so we can share it! We wish all of you a healthy, happy back-to-school season. Remember to #loveyourguts each step of the way!