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10 Tips for a Healthy Back to School Season

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Can you believe it’s that time of year? It’s back to school season, and many of you are starting new routines with your families. Is “eat less salt” on your back-to-school list? It should be!

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diverse group of school kids

Science strongly supports the link between less sodium intake and healthier lives – even in children and teens. In fact, kids who eat high sodium diets are about 35% more likely to have elevated blood pressure than kids who eat lower sodium diets. In addition to heart health, sodium impacts bone, brain, stomach, and kidney health. Making sure your kids get less sodium today can protect your child’s health tomorrow.

Here are 10 tips for a healthy back-to-school season:

  1. Model healthy eating. Use the American Heart Association’s diet and lifestyle recommendations for adults and the dietary recommendations for healthy children as guides.
  2. Packing school lunch? Invite your kids to prepare healthy meals with you. It will get them excited about the food they are eating, and you will have more fun preparing it! Try some of our kid-friendly recipes.
  3. Shopping for school (or afterschool) snacks? Ask your grocery manager to offer your family’s favorite foods in versions with less sodium. You would be amazed at the lower sodium options offered by food companies! Take a look at the list of Heart-Check certified foods.
  4. Before you head to a restaurant on a busy school night, go online. Many restaurants now offer nutrition information online to find the healthier choices. This will make ordering a breeze!
  5. Consider your school’s lunch menu. Many school districts are improving the school lunch by increasing whole grains, fruits and veggies, and decreasing sodium. And, in a recent national study of elementary school principals and foodservice managers, the majority of respondents (70%) thought that “students generally seem to like the new school lunch.”
  6. Volunteer with your school’s parent organization. Many parent organizations get involved in supporting changes that will lead to healthier meals at school. You can even get involved in our Step Up to the Plate for School Meals program.
  7. Take the pledge to reduce the sodium you eat. Your healthy habits will likely influence your kids, too. After you take the pledge, learn more about ways you can reduce your own sodium intake.
  8. Compare nutrition labels. You will be amazed at the difference in sodium content between similar products. And learn how to read nutrition labels.
  9. Watch for the salty six for kids. When you shop at the grocery store, make sure to compare nutrition labels especially for these foods. These foods add the most sodium to kids’ diets: pizza, breads and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, savory snacks, sandwiches, and cheese.
  10. Keep offering lower sodium food options. Lowering the sodium content in foods can gradually lead to a lower preference for salty taste over time.

Let us know in the comments how you're making back-to-school season healthy for your family!