As we prepare for the start of the school year, many parents should consider the benefits of meals. The right foods will not only give children energy but it will also help with performance and concentration. Here are a few tips for back to school nutrition:
1. Several studies have indicated that skipping breakfast can have negative effects on a child’s academic performance. In addition, regular breakfast eating can lead to overall healthy diet patterns and a healthy weight. Some quick and healthy breakfast ideas include: cup of low-fat yogurt with some whole grain cereal (choose one that contains 5 grams or more of fiber and avoid cereals with excess sugars) and top with fruit; fill a whole wheat pita pocket with peanut butter, jelly and a sliced banana and include a glass of low-fat milk; add apple and cheese slices to a whole-grain English muffin and add a cup of fruit juice.
2. A child’s lunch should include nutrient dense foods that will provide them with essential vitamins and minerals. Pre-packaged foods can be convenient, and some can offer healthy nutrients, but be wary of processed and pre-packaged foods that contain too much salt, sugar and fat. Avoid adding chips, cookies, and baked goods in your child’s lunch box too often. Better choices include fresh fruits, veggie slices and hummus or yogurt. If your child usually buys his or her lunch in the cafeteria, become familiar with your child’s school food offerings and encourage a nutrient-dense meal that includes a fruit or vegetable (or both!).
3. Many kids and teens are involved in after school activities such as sports, music lessons or other programs. To provide your child with adequate energy for these afternoon programs, and to avoid him or her feeling too famished before dinner comes around, make sure your child has a healthy afternoon snack. Nutritious and portable after school snacks include whole grain crackers and peanut butter or trail mixes containing dried fruit, seeds and nuts.
4. Don’t forget the importance of calcium-rich foods. Childhood and adolescence is a critical time for bone growth and development. Most kids and teens fail short of meeting the recommended amount of calcium. Include low-fat dairy products or dairy alternatives in most of your child’s meals and snacks.See our previous Facebook note about foods high in calcium (Nutrition Tip: Bone Health)!
5. Healthy eating and nutrition habits start early in life. The start of the school year is an opportunity to teach your child or teen ways to eat healthy. Prepare healthy dinners for your family and discuss the benefits of the healthy foods you’ve prepared during family meal times. Allow your child or teen to help prepare their school lunches or family meals. Not only will it give them the opportunity to learn some basic meal preparation skills, they may be more likely to eat them.