Healthy, Active Children and Academic Achievement

Youth playing volleyball outside

We all want our youth to enjoy learning, achieve good grades and have academic success. Nutrition, physical activity and mental well-being are all linked to academic achievement, so making sure your children are healthy and active will fuel them to reach their academic goals.

A healthy lifestyle can help improve a child’s:

  • Attention span
  • Thinking ability
  • Memory

Listed below are some tips for making healthy eating, physical activity and mental well-being part of your child’s daily life. For more nutrition, physical activity and mental health help, set up a
live chat with Military OneSource or call 800-342-9647 to arrange a specialty consultation for health and wellness coaching. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

Nutrition

According to studies from the Journal of School Health, hungry children tend to have shorter attention spans and have difficulty with problem-solving, math skills and memory recall. Children need a nutritious breakfast of whole grains, fiber and protein. They also need snacks throughout the day that are high in protein and low in sugar to boost their ability to listen, process and remember what they are learning.

Visit these websites to get tips about healthy food choices:

Physical activity

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Physical activity can include school recess periods, hiking, dancing, playing sports or walking to and from school.

Check out the following resources for ideas about how to keep your children physically active:

  • Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities are available on your local installation.
  • Installation youth centers offer a safe environment for youth to explore interests, build skills and experience success. Most youth centers have informal and formal sports programs as well as instructional classes.
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of America MISSION: Youth Outreach provides military youth no-cost membership in clubs that offer a wide variety of recreational and educational programs. Perfect for families living off base and not near a youth center.
  • 4-H Military Partnerships provide military youth the opportunity to join 4-H clubs in their communities and participate in summer camps around the country. Visit the 4-H Military Partnerships website to learn more.

Boost your child’s social and academic success by making healthy eating and physical activity part of your family’s daily life.

Mental health

Your youth’s mental health is also essential to maintaining energy and engagement in their physical and academic activities. Help your child remain rested and mentally healthy by keeping an eye on these factors:

Connecting to comprehensive information on nutrition, physical activity and mental health will help enable you and your family to be mission ready. Military OneSource is your 24/7 connection to information, parenting tips and support – your one source for your best MilLife.

De-Stress and Relax With Chill Drills by Military OneSource

service member using app

Sometimes the best way to move forward is to pause for a moment to refresh and recharge. Chill Drills by Military OneSource allows you to do that by lowering your stress level wherever you are, whenever you need.

Chill Drills is a collection of simple audio mindfulness exercises to relax the body and mind. The Department of Defense developed these relaxation exercises for the military community and are free to service members and their families via the mobile app or the Military OneSource website.

Download the Chill Drills by Military OneSource app:

Google Play Store Apple App Store

 

About Chill Drills by Military OneSource

Chill Drills by Military OneSource is presented by Heidi J. Bauer, MSW, LCSW, a therapist who works with service members and their families. She developed these guided drills to help create calm by slowing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure and reducing the level of stress hormone in the body.

While each drill was designed to help calm your mind and relax your body, some target common challenges, including back pain, negative thoughts and sleeplessness. Practice your favorite drills regularly to lower your baseline stress level and be better prepared to deal with pressure in the future. The six Chill Drills segments are:

Where to find Chill Drills by Military OneSource

Chill Drills by Military OneSource is available on Google Play and the App Store. Install the app on your mobile device where one touch can take you to expert stress-relieving techniques, anytime, no internet access needed. You can also listen to Chill Drills on the Military OneSource website, or order a playaway portable media player through the website.

The Chill Drills app is available through Military OneSource, a Department of Defense-funded program that connects the military community to the resources they need to be well, mission-ready and thrive in MilLife, from relocation planning and tax services to confidential, non-medical counseling and spouse employment. Service members and the families of active duty, National Guard and reserve (regardless of activation status), Coast Guard members when activated for the Navy, DOD expeditionary civilians, and survivors are eligible for Military OneSource services, which are available worldwide 24 hours a day, seven days a week, free to the user.

Download the Chill Drills by Military OneSource app:

Google Play Store Apple App Store

Fitness, Nutrition and Active Living – The Essentials

Optimal health begins with nutrition, fitness and active living. From guidelines on developing healthy eating habits and ideas on how to stay fit to strategies for giving your child a happy, healthy start, Military OneSource provides practical and fresh content as well as initiatives and programs that will motivate you to maintain healthy living and manage your health in creative ways. Now, more than ever, it is important to incorporate healthy daily practices into your complex schedules to help promote physical, mental and emotional wellness for all.

Practice good nutrition

Healthy eating requires developing new diet habits like limiting sugar, snacking on fruits and vegetables and choosing whole grains. Get your child’s day off to a good start with a breakfast high in protein and whole grains and keep healthy snacks available throughout the day. Aim for five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Your local farmers market and military commissary are two great places to buy fresh produce at reasonable prices.

My MilLife Guide is a great way to keep your family’s health goals on target. When you sign up for My MilLife Guide as a service member or a military spouse, expert content pertaining to your goals will be delivered right to your mobile device.

You can also sign up for Military OneSource health and wellness coaching sessions. This service is free for service members and their immediate family. Consultants can help you with weight management, fitness, nutrition, stress management and more. Sign up today. Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647. OCONUS? Click here for international dialing options or schedule a live chat.

Turn to Military OneSource for other helpful strategies on eating right.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Help your child create a balanced, healthy day from start to finish

It’s important to teach children as early as possible actions and choices that promote health and happiness. Start by encouraging good nutrition and feeding them a hearty breakfast every morning, ensure healthy snacks are available throughout the day — at home and school — and be sure to take breaks to keep the body moving, whether it’s a family walk around the block or a quick game to get the blood pumping. Encourage physical activity at the end of the day as much as possible to lessen additional screen time. Promote good sleep habits and teach them how to communicate and express their feelings.

Here are some family activities to stay active and stay connected:

  • Engage in a backyard relay
  • Play a game of Duck, Duck, Goose
  • Act out your favorite story book character
  • Plan a backyard picnic or camping night
  • Read bedtime stories together
  • Draw your favorite movie character
  • Host a family game night
  • Have a family movie night with healthy movie-themed snacks
  • Eat dinner under the stars
  • Have a family bake-a-thon and host it virtually if all of your loved ones aren’t together

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Improve family fitness

Make fitness and active living an important part of your family life. Swap some of your daily screen time for a stroll around the neighborhood with your children, a short bike ride, a game of kickball, a Frisbee toss in the backyard or hop scotch. Start the day with morning stretches or beginner yoga and sprinkle in movement breaks throughout the day. Get creative and have fun! Plant or weed a garden, wash the car, walk the dog, play freeze tag, rake leaves or pick up sticks. Your installation’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation is a great resource to get the entire family moving – with fitness classes, sports teams, golf courses, outdoor recreation programs and more.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Access nutrition and fitness resources

Don’t be afraid to tap into the support you need to meet your nutrition and fitness goals. Military OneSource provides health and wellness coaching sessions to help you eat better, get in shape, manage stress and tackle transitions. We highlight a wide range of nutrition and fitness resources, tools and programs that will motivate you on the path to healthy living.

A new text-based service from the Military Health System and Military OneSource can help you get back on track. My MilLife Guide is like having a portable health and wellness coach who will regularly send you texts, or “GuideTips,” to support you as you take care of yourself and your family. These texts will lead you to proven resources developed for the military community.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Healthy habits for remote learning and work

At the forefront of parental concern is how to focus on good nutrition and activity habits in a world of remote learning and remote socializing. As parents, it’s important to focus on the key principles of setting your child up for mental, physical and emotional well-being. Model the behavior you’d like to see in your child and set a daily schedule that’s healthy and balanced for all.

  • Start your day off with a healthy, balanced breakfast.
  • Stay active during the day. Encourage your children to get their bodies moving in the morning with stretching or yoga and intersperse active breaks throughout the day. Run around outside on short school breaks. Stuck inside? Toss beanbags into laundry baskets, build a fort with blankets and pillows, grab a hula hoop, play Duck, Duck, Goose or schedule a 10-minute virtual dance party with your child’s friends after classes end and before homework begins.
  • Model healthy screen use. While increased screen time is inevitable in a world of virtual learning and social distancing, there are several ways parents can model healthy screen use and reclaim control of screen time.
    • Practice the 20-20-20 rule: For every 20 minutes in front of your screen, look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds before returning to your screen.
    • Blink! Studies show that eye strain increases because we don’t blink as often while we’re concentrating on our screens. Remind your child to blink often.
    • Keep your screen at arm’s length. Keeping your screen approximately 25 inches away from your eyes reduces eye strain from blue light exposure.
    • Be sure to put all of your devices to bed two hours before sleep as blue light has been shown to disrupt sleep patterns.
    • Enjoy a media-free meal each day for all family members.
    • Try instituting a device-free day each month for all family members.
  • Engage in non-screen family activities. Play board games or work on a family puzzle instead of watching TV. Take a bike ride or family walk. Have a picnic in the yard.

Whatever your schedules and challenges, Military OneSource is here to support you and your family as you improve your overall health through nutrition, physical fitness and emotional well-being.

Practicing Good Nutrition Boosts Personal Performance

Woman shopping at food market

Good healthy and peak physical fitness are key to our military community’s force readiness. One of the best ways to build strength and stamina is to eat nutritious foods that will provide your body the energy and nutrients it needs in order for you to perform at your best. Here are some tips on how to build a better diet and improve your overall well-being:

Develop and maintain healthy habits

Eating healthy usually requires developing new dietary habits, but that doesn’t have to happen overnight. Small changes over time can make a big difference. You might begin with some of these suggestions:

  • Limit your sugar. Water is essential to keep the body hydrated. Replace soda, sugary sports drinks and large quantities of juice with water.
  • Lower your sodium.  High sodium consumption can raise blood pressure, which can contribute to stroke and heart disease. Start reading labels to raise your awareness of hidden sodium. Buy reduced sodium items whenever possible.
  • Eat lean protein. Reducing fatty red meat and increasing lean proteins such as chicken, seafood, beans, eggs, nuts and seeds can aid in building muscle, losing weight and maintaining a healthy heart.
  • Choose whole grains. Whole grains are packed with protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Whenever possible, eat whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat over refined grains like white bread, pasta and anything made with bleached flour.
  • Snack on fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, and their high fiber content can help you maintain a healthy gut. Replace high fat, high sodium snacks such as chips or roasted peanuts with sliced carrots or an apple.

Explore the farmers market

Not all foods are equal when it comes to nutrients. The fresher your produce is, the more nutrition it offers. Your local farmers market is a great place to shop for fresh produce at a reasonable price. Whether it’s just a roadside stand or a gathering place for local producers, these farmers markets will help you build a better diet. Find local farmers markets in the United States by searching the National Farmers Market Directory. Some of the beneftis of buying local include:

  • The food is as fresh as you’ll find anywhere. Most produce is brought to market within hours of being picked.
  • Eating food grown close to home and recently harvested has many health benefits, including increased nutrients.
  • Local farmers grow seasonal foods, which tend to be less expensive and allow you to cook seasonal dishes.
  • Farmers — your food experts — can teach you how to use the produce, grow your own food or share some great recipes.

Check out the commissary

Another great resource for eating healthy on a budget is the military commissary, which sells groceries and household goods at an average of 30% less than other markets and stores. Before your grocery run, visit the commissary website, a great network of information where you can:

  • Snag simple, healthy recipes for your meal planning or last-minute meal. Narrow your recipe search by selecting Dietitian Approved under the Browse Recipes section.
  • Review the Savings Aisle to see what’s on sale for the week and preview the promotional prices before making your shopping list.
  • Make your shopping list or order online with curbside pickup by using the My Shopping List tool.

Share your healthy lifestyle with your children

Share your nutrition goals with your children and help your family establish healthy habits that include:

  • Enjoy five or more servings of fruit and vegetables. The Mayo Clinic recommends the 1-2-3 approach — one serving of fruits or vegetables at breakfast, two servings at lunch and three servings as part of dinner or snacks throughout the day. Center your meals and snacks at home around fruits and vegetables, and teach children how to make healthy foods.
  • Serve whole grain breads and cereals that are high in fiber. Make healthier, less processed alternatives available at all meals and for snack time.
  • Encourage your children to eliminate sweetened beverages. Sweetened beverages, such as soda and sports drinks, add extra sugar and calories to the diet. Encourage children to reduce juice consumption as well. Drinking water or low-fat milk instead is a healthy choice for the entire family.

As a service member — or part of the military family — you need the right fuel to stay energized. Eating well allows you to perform your job to the best of your ability. These suggestions can get you started on a path to good nutrition and good health.

For more healthy information, check out the Military OneSource Health and Wellness Coaching program, a free resource for eligible service members and family members. My MilLife Guide is also a great way to keep your family’s health goals on target. When you sign up for My MilLife Guide as a service member or a military spouse, expert content pertaining to your goals will be delivered right to your mobile device.

The Pillars of Wellness

Service Members Walk onto Plane

Understanding the five areas of resilience can help you achieve resiliency and successfully meet the challenges that many military members experience.

Your Road Map to Resiliency

National Guard members may weather a number of unique challenges related to their military service, including difficult duty assignments, long separations from loved ones, combat stress, physical injuries, and others. Many service members also contend with issues at home that may affect their families, jobs, and local communities.

By identifying fitness areas and learning valuable skills to improve and maintain them, service members are better able to cope with stress, navigate life changes with greater ease, and be proactive in preserving overall resiliency. These fitness areas are known as the “Pillars of Wellness.”

Click on the links below each definition for more information, and learn about skills you can develop to assist you on your path to overall fitness.

Emotional Wellness

Emotional wellness includes being self-accepting, self-aware and able to handle your emotions constructively. Some signs of emotional wellness include:

  • The ability to identify and express your feelings where needed
  • Managing your emotions in a way that maintains your flexibility and poise during challenges, conflicts, and other potentially destabilizing situations

Learn more about emotional wellness »

Physical Wellness

Physical wellness may be achieved through proper nutrition, physical activity, and flexibility, and not just for your Physical Fitness Test. A physically well individual will:

  • Maintain a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Possess good eating habits
  • Engage in regular physical activity
  • Recognize the signs of injury and illness

Learn more about physical wellness »

Spiritual Wellness

Whether or not you connect with a religion, spiritual wellness means finding meaning and purpose in your life, which are necessary to foster hope. A spiritually healthy individual will:

  • Cultivate an awareness of unity with something greater than themselves, whether that something is a cause, a positive emotion, God or humanity as a whole
  • Contemplate questions like, “Who am I? Why am I here?”
  • Feel comforted and hopeful, not isolated

Learn more about spiritual wellness »

Social Wellness

Social wellness is all about maintaining harmonious relationships with your friends and loved ones, interacting positively with your social environment and cultivating connections to help you feel supported. Individuals who achieve social wellness are able to:

  • Communicate easily with others
  • Function well in their duty assignment, place of employment and community
  • Engage in positive relationships

Learn more about social wellness »

Family Wellness

Your family unit is just as important as your military unit. Cultivating family wellness involves supporting your children, having support strategies for spouses, partners or parents, and maintaining the health and unity of your family. A healthy family will:

  • Seek support in the absence of a service member
  • Create a loving, accepting and stable environment for their children
  • Approach challenges as a unified group

Learn more about family wellness »

Tools For Supporting the Health and Wellness of Those You Lead

American Flag

As a leader, you can direct your service members to a Military OneSource health and wellness coach to improve their health and well-being. The coaches provide them with information, support, encouragement and accountability so that they can attain their goals and achieve their maximum potential. Your service members can connect online at MilitaryOneSource.mil or by phone at 800-342-9647.

Furthermore, leading from the front means being an example to your service members and demonstrating the values you want to see reflected in them. Invest in your own wellness and see the benefits spread throughout your unit. Encourage them to engage in regular physical activity to promote these health benefits:

  • Weight loss
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced stress

You can also use the Great American Smokeout on Nov. 20 as an opportunity to move your service members toward a healthier lifestyle by encouraging them to make a plan to quit smoking.

Remind those you lead that normal examples of exercise are not the only ways to live actively. Other ways to integrate physical activity into their routine include the following:

  • Riding a bicycle instead of driving
  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Doing yard work
  • Playing with your children or pet at the park

Morale, Welfare and Recreation also offers unit fitness classes and programs at many installation fitness facilities. Check with yours to schedule a unit PT session and get all of your service members moving.

Learn more about the benefits of an active lifestyle and find ideas on how to increase the physical activity of those you lead by visiting MyPlate.gov.