Back to school health for the whole family.

What are the essentials for back to school?

Taking care of mental and physical health is essential as school routines return. Prioritizing quality time and planning ahead will also help to make it a smoother transition.

As the end of summer is upon us, many of us return to school in the fall. Huge back to school sections suddenly pops up in all the major stores. Parents with school supply lists comb the deals and it seems everyone needs new clothes. What else needs to be prioritized during this time beyond just shopping for the new season? How can we optimize health and prepare for a successful back to school season? These simple guidelines apply to everyone in the family no matter what age and are good things to check on for maintaining healthy routines. 

Get your teeth checked

Making sure you are getting your regular dental cleanings is an important item to check off the list. Summertime schedules are notoriously chaotic as families try to squeeze all the life, they can out of the 12 weeks of summer break. For college aged students who may only be home a few times during the year, dental checkups can frequently get missed. Even if you do not have dental insurance, many dentists offer good rates to get your regular cleaning done. Be sure to schedule before school picture day!

Get your eye exam 

This is another item that frequently gets forgotten. Many of us have bundled vision, dental and health insurance and we may forget about the vision part. Getting an eye exam before starting a new term is very important to optimize eye health. At this visit, you can make sure your prescription is still accurate or you may discover a new need for glasses. For most of us, school involves increasing amounts of screen time which is notoriously difficult on our eyes. Screens and blue light cause a lot of eye strain, especially with prolonged use. Even if the eye doctor states your vision is perfect, you could still inquire about computer glasses with blue-light blocking lenses and a zero prescription. These can be very helpful to protect eye health because a decrease in screen time is unlikely. 

Work on your meal prep game

As schedules become chaotic, healthy eating can very easily suffer. Different family members with different schedules make it hard to cook just one meal for everyone. College students who live alone or in dorms may not be motivated to cook for one every night. Longer days mean grabbing a quick snack on the go. All of these things disrupt healthy eating patterns. So, spend some time each week brainstorming as a family to have good food ready to go. Cooler months mean soups and stews are an easy meal prep – make a big batch, keep some in individual ball jars in the fridge and freeze some for even busier times. Think about snacks that will travel – carrot sticks, apples, string cheese, granola/protein bars. Have quick breakfast options like overnight oats or protein pancakes to start the day off right. Meal prep turns into quality family time and teaches youngsters good eating habits and cooking skills that they can take with them when they go off to college. 

Start up your workout routine

Many of us fall out of a regular exercise regimen during the joyful days of summer. Fall means school sports, PE and maybe a fun college elective. I took Tennis and Self-Defense for Women while I was an undergrad. Ramping back up to a high level of physical activity is important to prevent injury. So, if you know that football, soccer or an elective class is going to start, get back into an appropriate routine beforehand. Go for walks or bike rides as a family, get a gym buddy so you can start lifting weights again, etc. Being prepared may mean avoiding an early-season injury.

Prioritize how to spend time together

Whether you have school-age children, college-age kids or are an adult learner yourself, school takes up a lot of time and energy. It can be very easy for quality time to get lost in the shuffle between different schedules, school, extracurriculars, sports and homework. Robust research shows the many benefits of families sitting down to eat together. According to Anne Fishel, “Regular family dinners are associated with lower rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse,  eating disorders, tobacco use, and early teenage pregnancy, and higher rates of resilience and higher self-esteem.” Prioritize family meals even if it does not work out every night.

These simple tips will get the whole family ready for the new fall routine. Get your eyes and teeth checked, get back into physical activity, spend some time meal planning and prioritize quality time as a family. You just might have the best back-to-school season yet!

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Dr. Jessica Keating
Owner & Physician , Willow Clinic of Natural Medicine
Jessica Lodal Keating graduated with her doctorate in chiropractic medicine from National University of Health Sciences (NUHS) in Lombard, IL in December of 2016. She graduated summa cum laude and salutatorian of her class. She completed a primary care internship at the in-house clinic in the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center in downtown Chicago. There she was able to provide natural approaches to health and wellness to an under-served population. She also led efforts to solicit supplement donations from local doctors in order to provide these supplements to patients free of charge. During her time at NUHS, Dr. Keating also studied traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and became certified to perform acupuncture, moxabustion and fire cupping. She uses the wisdom of eastern medicine to complement her holistic approach to assessing each individual patient and treating the whole person. She participated in various other seminars and trainings over the course of her studies including MPI’s full-spine adjusting seminar and Apex’s Fundamentals of Functional Blood Chemistry. Dr. Keating also completed her Doctorate of Naturopathic medicine in 2018, graduating valedictorian and summa cum laude. Dr. Keating has worked in several natural primary care offices in the greater Chicagoland area. She is also a full-time naturopathic clinician at National University of Health Sciences. There she is able to help shape the next generation of naturopathic doctors. She has a home-call practice where she treats patients in the comfort of their own homes all around Chicagoland. Dr. Keating loves balancing private practice with teaching and clinical supervision. Dr. Jessica Keating received her bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon before deciding to attend NUHS. After her undergrad degree, she grew frustrated with the field of political science and sought a new career path. Her own health had been dramatically improved through diet, yoga and herbal medicine. Because of these experiences, she decided to deepen her understanding of natural medicine by pursuing a higher degree. Dr. Keating remains committed to her own health journey on a personal and professional level. She aims to help others thrive and maintain optimal health by guiding them down the same path and educating her patients by empowering them to take their health into their own hands. Dr. Keating practices holistic, natural primary care. She treats GI conditions, autoimmune disorders, women’s health, sleep issues, heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, depression, back pain as well as working with patients on weight loss and general wellness promotion. She treats pediatric, adult and geriatric patients using diet, lifestyle modification, herbal medicine, physical medicine and acupuncture. In her free time, Dr. Keating loves reading, biking, cooking and playing with her cats. Dr. Keating also enjoys yoga, tennis, rollerblading, going to the movies and travelling with her husband. She has been to 28 different countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America.
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