Start the School Year with a Healthy Diet

North Memorial Better Health Blog Author Logo
August 17, 2018

As fall approaches and children head back to school, get your kitchen ready with nutritious foods to better your child’s school performance, development and overall health.

Start the day off right. Almost half of American families regularly skip breakfast according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Eating a nutritious breakfast consisting of a protein, whole grain and fruit/vegetable can enhance your child’s memory, test scores and attention span. Easy options like whole grain cereal with low-fat milk and fruit, hard boiled eggs with whole grain toast and fruit or a fruit and yogurt smoothie with whole grain toast can help get your family’s day off to a healthy start. When preparing breakfast, choose whole grain breads and cereals made with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving and no more than 10 grams of sugar per serving. You can sweeten cereal naturally by adding fruit.

Plan lunch, together. Kids are more likely to eat meals if they’re part of the planning process. Review school menus together and pack a lunch on the days when your child prefers not to eat what’s being served. Lunch should include a protein, a whole grain, at least one fruit and veggie, and a calcium-rich food or beverage. As an alternative to traditional sandwiches, try wraps, whole-grain cracker sandwiches, or simply wrap a slice of turkey around a cheese stick and a slice of a sweet bell pepper. Small salads with cheese, nuts and beans are also a great alternative. Variety is key to a healthy diet, so mix things up whenever possible.

Healthy, satisfying snacks. After school snacks should be nutritious and satisfy hunger, but should not spoil your child’s appetite for dinner. Try an apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter, a cup of yogurt with whole grain granola or whole grain crackers with a cheese stick or fresh fruit with a yogurt dip. For convenience and planning when your child is snacking at school, check out all the food options his/her school offers. This includes vending machines, school stores and snack carts. You should find healthy choices like fresh fruit, low-fat dairy products, water and 100% fruit juice.

Hydrate throughout the day. Encourage your child to drink plenty of water and send them to school with a water bottle. Add some sliced citrus or berries for added flavor and interest. Skip the sugary energy drinks and sodas. Rich with sugar and calories, a daily soda can increase a child’s risk of obesity by 60 percent.

Strive for these daily goals as a family:

  • Enjoy five servings of vegetables and fruits.
  • Have three servings of low-fat dairy foods.
  • Eat together routinely.
  • Limit screen time to two hours.
  • Inspire your child (and yourself!) to be active for at least one hour.

North Memorial Health offers everything your family needs to stay healthy this school year including primary care, urgent care, specialty clinics, and registered dietitians for nutrition counseling. You and your family don’t have to travel far to get head-to-toe care.

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