I’m a nutrition consultant for various food and beverage companies, but my opinions are my own.
Believe it or not, it’s almost time for kids to head back to school, and that means families need to start thinking about what they’re going to feed their children to best fuel their bodies and brains throughout the school day. In an effort to simplify parents’ lives, tomorrow I’ll be sharing some helpful tips and meal ideas during television and radio interviews around the country. But just in case you don’t see or hear me live, here’s a little preview of what I will be discussing and some of my top tips for a healthy, nutritious, and delicious start to the school year!
- Tip #1: Breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day. Numerous studies have shown that children who eat breakfast have better memory, test grades, school attendance, and moods. Prep breakfast the night before or make life simple with quick options like whole grain cereal with fruit and skim milk, a whole-grain waffle with peanut butter, or low-fat yogurt and a piece of fruit.
- Tip #2: A well-rounded lunch includes a grain, lean meat and/or dairy, vegetable and/or fruit, and some healthy fat. If your child’s school serves lunch, go over the menu with your child and discuss what they should choose to achieve this balanced plate. If you’re packing lunch, mix it up with different offerings so kids don’t get bored. Simple sandwiches like grilled chicken in a whole wheat pita with sliced avocado and some baby carrots will keep your child’s energy up throughout the afternoon. And leftover quinoa salad with baked tofu and a banana won’t leave your son or daughter craving something more.
- Tip #3: Give kids a treat once in a while. An occasional treat at lunch – whether a savory one like popcorn or pretzels or a sweet one like a small cookie or piece of chocolate – will be a great surprise and may even prevent your child from trading his lunch. Keep it to 150 calories and remember it doesn’t need to be a daily occurrence.
- Tip #4: Think out of the bag for snacks! It’s important to have healthy snacks available for children, especially if they have after-school activities and loads of homework to do before dinner. Portion out bags of whole-grain cereal, dried fruit, trail mix, and natural popcorn, and have fresh fruit and low-fat yogurt cups or tubes on hand. Find out more about Smart Snacks in School in this post by fellow RD Ann Dunaway Teh.
- Tip #5: Meal planning makes dinner simpler. Coming up with creative, seasonal, nutritious recipes most days of the week can be challenging. But it becomes less daunting if you plan your meals on the weekend and grocery shop in advance so you have all the ingredients when you need them.
And remember: a healthy diet is about total nutrition with less emphasis on singling out certain ingredients and more emphasis on ensuring that you eat a balanced meal. Avoid dividing food into “good” and “bad” categories and eliminating specific foods and ingredients from your and your children’s diets. Despite what you may hear in the media, this is true for added sugars as well. All sugars, including cane sugar, beet sugar, honey, and high fructose corn syrup, can be part of a balanced diet. Teach your children to eat and enjoy a variety of foods – when eaten in a healthy way, all foods can fit in moderation.
Here’s a clip from one of my back to school interviews!
Are you ready to send your kids back to school?
How do you feed your kids Nutritiouliciously during the school year?