Back to School Nutrition – Tips from a Dietitian
The Houstonian Club‘s registered dietitian shares ideas on fueling your child with nutritious food while making it easy, worry-free, and healthy.
A fun and safe school day starts with adequate nutrition, and it is that time of year when parents are combing the internet for the easiest way to make that happen for their children. Although it might be easier to have your child eat lunch at school, packing a meal puts you entirely in control of what your child is eating and is an opportunity to create lifelong healthy habits. According to the Journal of Nutrition and Education, establishing healthy eating habits in the early years impacts a person’s food choices later in life.
“As a parent, your child’s nutrition lies in your hands. It is vitally important that children are given the proper nutritional tools to succeed in their day at school,” says Denise Hernandez, M.S., R.D., L.D. “Your child may appreciate the cookies and chips you put into their lunch, but it is the fruit, veggies, and protein that are going to give them fuel to learn each day.”
Hernandez shares five easy tips to make eating healthy for school easy and fun.
BREAKFAST. The most important meal of the day, indeed. While 90% of us know this, only 49% consistently eat breakfast. If your child lacks an appetite so early in the morning, be sure to give them a nutrient-packed breakfast. A slice of whole-grain toast with 2 tbsp of almond butter is an excellent example of an easy but satiating breakfast.
COLLABORATE. Preparing your child’s lunch can be frustrating if they do not like your choices. Have them participate in putting their lunches together, even shopping for their healthy choices at the grocery store. Being involved in the process increases the likelihood of them eating their meals and gives them a sense of accomplishment.
PLAN AHEAD. If making your child’s lunch is challenging on some days, help them pick the healthiest option from their school’s lunch menu. If a menu is not sent home with your child, you can usually download a copy from the school district’s website.
[FOOD] SAFETY FIRST. Be sure to use an insulated lunch bag to pack your child’s lunch. If they can refrigerate their lunch at school, remind them to open the bag since insulation works both ways.
AFTER SCHOOL. If your child is involved in after-school activities, don’t forget to pack a snack to hold them over until dinner. Most parents forget this snack, giving a child no choice but to buy snacks from the vending machine.