SOURCE: Sustenex

July 25, 2011 05:00 ET

Sharpen Up Good Health Habits

MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - Jul 25, 2011) - (Family Features) As the kids head back to school this fall, pencils aren't the only things that families can take time to sharpen. While parents work to establish new routines for the school year, they can also help the younger members of the household sharpen up good health habits to last a lifetime.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, students' academic achievement and their health are directly correlated. As you head into this school year, use these tips to teach new healthy habits that can become a way of life for the whole family.

Germ-Free Hands. One of the most significant -- and simple -- health habits to teach is washing hands. Kidshealth.org, a website filled with family-friendly health tips, calls hand washing the first line of defense to keep germs at bay.

To help youngsters learn the habit, enforce rules for the entire family. Insist on washing hands before every meal, after using the bathroom, after handling pets, after cleaning chores, after playing outside, and, of course, after blowing noses, sneezing and coughing. Several brands have created kid-friendly soap dispensers that are both fun and functional to inspire little ones to participate.

Food as Fuel. Mornings may be hectic, but avoid the temptation to take shortcuts on breakfast. Kids need fuel to power through the day. Making breakfast part of the daily routine is also important for weight management. A nutritious morning meal helps fire up the metabolism, and it helps prevent over-eating to compensate for a hungry tummy later in the day.

The experts at kidshealth.org recommend selecting foods that contain whole grains, fiber and protein with little added sugar in order to improve kids' attention span, concentration and memory.

Sound Slumber. Although naptimes gradually diminish as children grow older, adequate sleep is still critically important. Too little sleep translates into irritability and other behavior problems, as well as difficulty paying attention in school. While the specific needs of each child will vary to some degree, school-age children and preteens should get between 10 and 12 hours of sleep each night. Implementing a consistent bedtime, especially on school nights, can help ensure your child's sleep needs are consistently met. Be sure to build in time for children to unwind before bed to help keep that nightly target on track with less stress for all involved.

Balanced Immune System. Believe it or not, 70 percent of your immune system is in your digestive tract. The immune cells in the digestive tract share their space with a community of over 500 species of naturally-occurring bacteria. Keeping these bacteria in balance is what's important to boosting digestive and immune health. Taking a daily probiotic helps boost your immune system by keeping these bacteria in balance.

Probiotics are "friendly" bacteria that help balance the digestive system. Yogurt is a common source of probiotics, but many varieties contain a significant amount of sugar that may be off-putting, especially if you are aiming for a daily dose. However, there are products available, such as Sustenex Probiotic Gummy Bears and Soft Chews, which offer a lower calorie alternative for a daily dose of probiotics while also appealing to picky eaters and lactose intolerant youngsters. To learn more, visit www.sustenex.com.

Treat this back to school season as an opportunity to reinforce healthy habits and set the stage for a successful year in the classroom, on the playground and at home.

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