8 secrets to keeping your family healthy this winter

The days are short, the nights are long, and baby, it's cold outside. Here's how to tame old man winter to ensure your family stays healthy and happy 'til spring.

By GreatSchools Staff

Fill up those tigers' tanks

The chilly, dark winter mornings make it extra challenging to wake up a few minutes early to whip together a nourishing, hearty breakfast for the kiddos. But a sugary bowl of cereal isn't the kind of high-octane fuel they require to make it through a demanding school day. The good news? A protein-and-vitamin-packed breakie can be pulled off with little effort. Opt for simple, nutrition-loaded fare like eggs (keep a couple hard-boiled eggs in the 'fridge for days you're running late), milk, cottage cheese, whole grains, fruit, and yogurt. Want more ideas? Check out these quick-and-easy breakfast favorites.

Oh yes, wash your hands!

In case you sustain any lingering doubts, the science is in: hand washing helps ward off illness. Danish research found that kids taught proper hand washing techniques and required to wash three times a day missed 26 percent fewer school days and had 22 percent fewer illnesses than kids who weren't trained or required to wash. Find out whether anti-bacterial products are better than soaps and other secrets to a bill of clean winter health.

Take your anti-stress meds

Exercise is just what the doctor ordered when it comes to shaking off  stress, which for children can compromise a healthy, growing brain. So take advantage of the nippy weather by going skating, or taking a brisk, pre-dinner walk. Not only will your childrens' endorphins be doing the happy dance, their I.Q.'s will be ramped up a few notches.

Beware eating no-no's

It's time to do a little math homework to keep your kids in good health this season: Here are foods and drinks you should add and ones you should subtract this winter, including one all-time kid favorite that's actually lowering their immune systems, and making them more susceptible to illness during flu and cold season.

Lunches for learning

Time for some lunchbox truth-telling: last semester, were there more days than not when your child returned home with half his food untouched? If so, time to re-do lunch. After all, if your young learner isn't eating his PB&Js, he's going to be hard-pressed to learn his ABCs. Start your lunchbox revolution with these 7 secrets for school lunch success and find your inspiration with these yummy and (shhh!) oh-so-good-for-'em sandwich alternatives.

Avoiding colds? Don't avoid the cold.

Your parental instincts may be telling you that to keep kids healthy, you should keep them safely out of the cold. But that can mean long hours staring, inert, at a screen, which has multiple negative health implications for your child, including Nature Deficit Disorder. As long as you keep them well-bundled (well, not this well-bundled), don't hesitate to take a foray into the great outdoors — or even a quick jaunt to your local park. According to the National Wildlife Federation, spending time in nature offers a wealth of health benefits for kids, including helping to prevent sleep deprivation, as children need to be outside in natural daylight to regulate their internal "sleep clocks." 

Celebrate the family dinner!

If you haven't gotten around to instituting a regular sit-down family dinner, winter is the perfect time to start a tradition of familial, cozy meals. Not convinced? Here is a great explanation of why the family meal will up your child's happiness and healthiness quota, not to mention her GPA. Along with serving a nutritious meal, learn how you can serve up brain-enhancing conversation and make the entire dinnertime experience — from set-up to clean-up — easier for you and the kids.  

 

Want more A's? Get more Zzzz's.

If your New Year's resolution to make sure the kids get a good night sleep have fallen by the wayside, time to do a sleep check at your house. There's plenty of reason to ensure your children are getting the rest they need. Researchers have found a link between sleep and cognitive abilities. One researcher found that sixth graders who lost just an hour of sleep performed at a fourth-grade level. Other studies show a link between getting enough sleep and higher grades.