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Posted on 09-13-2016
by Dr. Jace Buzek, DC, CCSP, CACCP
Choosing the right backpack is crucial in keeping your child’s spine healthy and reinforcing good posture. Exposing the spine to a heavy backpack can result in chronic back pain, or even structural issues down the road for your child.
Before you choose: Check your child’s school regulations and guidelines that relate to backpacks and backpack safety.
Tips for Purchasing the Right Backpack
- Find a backpack with a waist belt. A waist belt helps distribute the backpack load while reducing stress on the lumbar spine.
- Choose a backpack with multiple compartments. The more areas to place heavy supplies, the more evenly the weight will be distributed.
- Be sure the shoulder straps are padded. Wide, padded shoulder straps will minimize contact points and reduce soft tissue compression.
- Consider a backpack on wheels. Wheels help eliminate stress on your child’s back while still providing the ability to carry a heavy workload to and from school.
How to Pack a Backpack
- Minimize the amount of non-essentials in the backpack. Extra supplies that are rarely used increase the overall weight.
- Place the heaviest items closest to the back. Keep the load central on the body, making it easier to carry.
- Keep the shoulder straps tight. Loose straps will cause the backpack to sag and increase the compressive forces on the lumbar spine, thus causing an exaggerated curvature of the spine.
- Keep the weight of the backpack under 10% of your child’s body weight. Heavy backpacks often cause children to lean forward, which can affect body alignment.
Now what should you pack in your child’s lunch? Lunchtime can be tricky, especially when it comes to getting your child the proper nutrients. Five lunches a week make up a substantial portion of your child’s diet. Here is a list of the three worst items to include in a lunchbox and some healthy alternatives:
Worst item #1: Juice Boxes. Despite essentially being sugar water with little to no actual fruit juice, these convenient drinks are usually a staple for a boxed lunch. The list of ingredients often includes those to avoid such as fructose, glucose, and artificial flavoring.
Healthy alternative: Bottle of Water. Water is just as important for kids as it is for adults. Water helps children in a number of ways including digestion, immunity, and supporting the energy they need to keep up with their friends the entire school day. On top of the health benefits, water is a zero calorie beverage, and it does not contain the sugar that even 100% fruit juices have.
Worst item #2: Lunchmeats. This may be shocking to some, but most lunchmeats are processed with nitrates and nitrites, or food preservatives. Consuming preservatives can increase your risk of cancer and trigger symptoms of respiratory disease such as asthma.
Healthy alternative: Nitrate and preservative free lunchmeat. Look at the labels, or ask at the deli counter. (Be careful of the word “natural,” as such meats can still contain preservatives).
Worst item #3: Packaged Desserts. Packaged desserts are often sent with kids in lunches as a treat. However, along with all the sugar, these snacks often contain trans fats, which are the worst type of fats to eat. The USDA recommends completely avoiding trans fats as part of a healthy diet.
Healthy alternative: A piece of fruit. If an apple or an orange is not going to work for your child, try making your own cookies, or check out our blog for more healthy recipes.
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