News on Sunday

Gearing up for New Academic Year

Gearing up for New Academic Year

A healthy mind in a healthy body is essential for all, especially for students who have resumed school this January. For instance, a balanced diet, some exercise and restful sleep, quality family time, and many other factors are key to living a wholesome and non-stressful school year. Psychologist Karunah Rajiah and dietician Teenusha Soobrah provide their advice to students and parents. 

Teenusha Soobrah

Teenusha Soobrah : “Parents and students should limit intake of takeaway foods after school hours”

During the last two months of school holidays, students have had the freedom to stay up till late at night and eat whatever they like without paying attention to nutrition and health values. However, as they are resuming school and their studies, there is the need to go back to a balanced diet and lifestyle. “With school holidays, students tend to have irregular sleeping and eating habits that eventually can impact on their appetite regulating hormones in the long term,” explains the Director and Founder of Nutriwise and registered dietician, Teenusha Soobrah.

She utters that it is essential to develop a healthy sleeping routine, while still trying to include some physical activity as well. “Moreover, it demands a better planning and organisation skills - parents and students need to limit intake of takeaway foods after school hours or before/after tuitions. It is recommended to always provide some nourishing snacks such as vegetable sticks and dips, cheese and crackers, fruits in their lunchboxes.”

What to eat at school?

What are some advisable ways to eat at school considering the summer heat? “There are many food safety issues due to the summer heat and utmost care need to be taken, as children tend to have a much weaker immune system. 
Consider air tight containers. Glass containers are best or alternatively include BPA free food containers to prevent the plastic from leaking into the food. 

Homemade burgers or homemade nuggets are a popular alternative to commercial ones, paired with some salad. While whole wheat bread is best as a start to healthy eating, emphasis should be given to the sandwich filling first. Otherwise great alternatives also include brown rice salad, or whole wheat pasta salad. 

Fruits or mixed nuts, seeds and dried unsweetened fruits are best school snacks to stand the heat. They are delicious and packed with nourishing nutrients such as magnesium and fibre. Homemade bar cereals or commercial cereals with less than 10g sugar are also good options,” advises the dietician. 

Teenusha Soobrah recommends omega-3 fatty acids. “Key nutrients for students include omega-3 fatty acids essential for concentration. These are mainly available in nuts and seeds including unsalted peanuts, fatty fish such as salmon and tuna. Calcium is highly recommended. There should be an intake of 3 servings daily. This will help to build and maintain healthy bones and provide iron, which is another essential nutrient, especially for girls of menstruating age. It there is not enough intake of calcium and iron, this can lead to fatigue and tiredness. Dark green vegetables such as spinach, asparagus and broccoli provide folate, also known as folic acid, which is crucial for brain functioning. You should also include an array of beans, fruits, unprocessed grains such as oats, brown rice, as they are full of B-complex vitamins and potassium that helps to nourish brain cells.”

What about drinks? The dietician underlines that there is no such thing as overdrinking water. “All individuals have different water needs depending on their level of physical activity.” On the other hand, adds Teenusha Soobrah, “soft drinks, juice including cordial or fresh juice should be limited to avoid tooth decay. Homemade flavoured water with fruit slices could be an alternative drink to make water more appealing for some.”


karuna RaijahKaruna Rajiah : “Set a routine for yourself and stick to it”

According to the psychologist, the best thing to do on the first day of school is to make the most of the new school year. “School lasts for a certain period. It is not forever that you are going to be seated in that classroom of that school with the same people. The best thing to do on the first day is to make the most of the new school year. So, rest assured that it’s an opportunity for all students to learn new things and acquire new skills.”

“Don’t get involved with strangers outside the school premises”

The beginning of the new academic year will also see the transition of students of primary level to secondary level. Many often feel detached from their comfort zone, and stressed as they are stepping foot into a new world. “There will be mixed feelings for some. Very few may be scared of the new school, its environment and the demands of the new teachers and education level. Some may be even neutral about it. But most children must really be excited to join the bigger school. You have got another opportunity to learn new things. You will have more teachers, more subjects, more friends, and of course more knowledge,” says the psychologist. 
In all schools, cases of bullying and harassment are not uncommon. For the psychologist, parents and teachers can intervene if they are aware of the situation. “But for them to be aware, you (the student) need to tell them honestly about your situation. They cannot guess or imagine things. Here are some tips to avoid getting involved in such situations: 

  • If someone tries to walk on your toes, inform the school superintendent immediately,  
  • if you see other students engaging in illegal and unauthorized activities, don’t mingle with them. 
  • always talk to your parents about what happened at school and on the way to and from school, 
  • always inform your teachers and school superintendent about unusual stuffs that happen to you on the road, most importantly be aware of your feelings. You will meet new people throughout your lifetime and your emotions will keep on changing. These things are only normal at this stage.”

Safety of children 

Karuna Rajiah highlights that it is imperative for parents and teachers to lay a lot of emphasis on safety for children everywhere they go. “The world has evolved so rapidly that even in the blink of an eye, people have changed even more.  Thus, parents and teachers must work hand in hand to teach children, whatever their age, about how they can keep themselves safe. Safety starts at home and the surroundings for the children, until they move to another environment.” 

She lists the following tips for parents:

  • Make time to talk to children
  • Always ask children about what they do outside
  • Constantly talk about the people you meet, how you spend your day, and narrate them to the children.  In turn, you encourage them to talk about their day.
  • Train your child to tell you each and every detail of their day:  The person/s they met, the things they did, what they ate, drank, heard, learned, what they did not know yesterday but learned today, and so on.
  • Every morning should be like a prayer: Do not talk to strangers; Do not take anything from anyone; Do not allow anybody to touch you anywhere, unless you are injured and need help. Always seek help from somebody you know.
  • Do not indulge in activities which seem dangerous, suspicious and which feels just not right.  Never allow yourself to be tempted by any activity which you are scared of.
  • Always teach children about identifying what is right and wrong.  Even in preschools, children are taught to distinguish between right and wrong. However, as the child grows, the concept of right and wrong is expanded.