Earn an "A" in Lunch
Back to School Nutrition
With the sound of school bells just around the corner, it's important to refocus your efforts to ensure your child's health is top priority when the busy school year begins. Providing healthful meals and encouraging physical activity are essential for your child's growth and development, and will help your child build healthy habits for the rest of his or her life.
Not sure how to keep your child excited about eating healthy and moving more? Here are some tips to get on the right track.
Start the Day Off Right
Don't skip breakfast. Studies show breakfast eaters tend to have higher school attendance, less tardiness and fewer hunger-induced stomachaches. They also score higher on tests, concentrate better, solve problems more easily and have better muscle coordination. If you are pressed for time, quick options include instant oatmeal topped with nuts or raisins, low-fat yogurt with sliced fruit or whole-grain toast with peanut butter.
Keep Lunchtime Interesting
- Plan lunch together. Encourage kids to pack their lunch with items they enjoy so they are less likely to throw their lunch away or swap with classmates.
- Try new foods. Pack exotic fruits such as kiwi, or allow them to pick fruits and vegetables they want to try at the grocery store.
- Celebrate special days. Plan lunch around special events. For example, pack an all-red lunch for Valentine's Day or include a fortune cookie to celebrate Chinese New Year.
- Offer choices. Vary protein sources — tuna, peanut butter, turkey or beans — and offer different whole-grain items such as whole-grain bread, tortillas or crackers. Rotate whole pieces of fruit (banana, orange or grapes) and cut-up vegetables (celery, carrots or broccoli).
Regular physical activity is vital to strengthen muscle and bones, promote a healthy body weight, support learning, develop social skills and build self-esteem. Kids are encouraged to be active for 60 minutes per day. Involving the family is a great way to spend time together. Hike together as a weekend outing, ride bikes after dinner, play catch after work or take the dog for a brisk walk.
For more information on helping your children grow healthy and strong, consult a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area.
Reviewed July 2014