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Get Your Child in for a Check-Up and on the Road to Healthier Eating

This summer, your son or daughter may be required to have a physical exam before school starts. It might be needed for entry into a certain school or grade, or it might be for an activity like sports.

“There are times when a school requires children to have a check-up before school starts. But, parents should keep in mind that their child should have a physical exam every year, even when there is no school requirement,” recommends local pediatrician Bhaskari Peela, MD, who practices with Washington Township Medical Foundation.

Regular check-ups offer many benefits, like screenings to identify potential problems before they become more serious. Seeing a doctor at least once a year also gives children another caring, knowledgeable adult, besides their parents, with whom they can share their thoughts and concerns. This is especially important as your son or daughter reaches middle and high school.

“Kids are busy and involved in many things, and they are not always comfortable talking it over with their mom or dad,” Dr. Peela explained. “Children can be faced with good and bad choices, and a doctor can offer guidance.”

When your daughter or son has regular check-ups, it gives the doctor an opportunity to assess many aspects of their life. The doctor can make recommendations about lifestyle and behavioral issues that may affect the child’s health, such as TV and monitor time or good nutrition. Sometimes, young people are more willing to comply with advice that comes from their doctor rather than mom or dad.

Limit Screen Time

“Besides hours spent on computers for school and studying, kids today tend to spend a lot of their free time in front of a TV or monitor, playing video games and using mobile phones or exploring the internet,” commented Dr. Peela. “Parents should try to limit their child’s time in front of a screen for this purpose to no more than two hours a day. This can be broken up into shorter increments.”

To help parents monitor their child’s screen time, she recommended computers and other devices be kept in a communal area of the house and not in a child’s bedroom.

“Too much screen time beginning at a very young age can affect a child’s ability to pay attention,” Dr. Peela explained. “But I have noticed that, when parents limit screen time for kids even as young as 4 to 6, it makes a difference in their ability to concentrate.”

It’s also important to make sure your child’s mobile phone and other devices that have access to the internet are protected.

“It’s amazing what kids are exposed to online these days,” she stated. “When it comes to photos, most youngsters don’t understand that images sent on the internet go everywhere and can be seen by anyone.”

Eating Healthy Makes a Difference

Getting ready for back-to-school is also a good opportunity to assess your child’s eating habits and get them on the road to a healthier lifestyle that supports better performance in the classroom. One of the most important things kids can do is to eat breakfast.

“Children can get into the habit of skipping breakfast, especially once they are in high school and parents have less influence over their meals. Kids should start the day eating something healthy, even if it’s just a small piece of whole wheat toast or an egg,” stated Dr. Peela. “Besides providing fuel to begin the day, eating breakfast helps maintain a healthy body weight.”

One thing parents can do to encourage children to eat healthier is to involve them in meal planning. Ask your child what they would like to eat for breakfast or dinner and then work together to come up with a nutritious, appealing menu. Encourage them to explore and experiment with different foods and tastes.

In general, the best way to help your child eat a healthier diet is to make small changes over a longer period of time. And, remember that you, as a parent, are a role model for your child’s eating habits.

Guidelines that may help your child eat healthier also include:

  • Make the food on the plate colorful—with greens, purples and reds.
  • Encourage less white food and more brown—such as whole grain rice and whole wheat bread.
  • Give middle and high schoolers the extra calcium and protein they need—like beans, chicken, turkey and egg whites.

Other examples of healthy foods that are quick, easy and appealing to kids are low fat string cheese, tofu, quinoa, Greek yogurt and lentils.

Learn More

To get more information about healthy eating for kids, go to the Web site of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at To find out more about the Washington Township Medical Foundation, visit