Thursday, August 3, 2023
With school bells ringing again, now is a great time to get back into more consistent routines to improve nutrition status and optimize energy levels and focus. Here are three nutrition tips to ensure that you and your kids are fueling properly throughout the day.
1.) Make Breakfast a Priority
Breakfast eaters may have better appetite regulation and dietary quality (1) and improved cognitive function (2). If the morning routine is hectic, set the goal to wake up 15 minutes earlier to eat this beneficial meal.
Sample breakfast ideas could include:
- Scrambled eggs with fruit and a slice of whole-grain toast
- Yogurt and fruit smoothie
- Egg muffin (can prepare in advance and freeze for convenience)
2.) Access the School Lunch Menu
See if there are desirable options for that day or pack a balanced lunch
To achieve nutritional balance when packing a lunch, try to include a meal item from every food group- a protein, low-fat dairy item, fruit, vegetable and whole grain
Sample lunch ideas could include:
- Tuna salad in a whole wheat wrap (protein, whole grain), carrot chips (vegetable) with hummus (protein and vegetable), grapes (fruit), and a part-skim mozzarella cheese stick (dairy)
- Shredded rotisserie chicken (protein), yogurt and blueberry parfait (dairy, fruit), whole grain crackers (whole grain) and grape tomatoes (vegetable)
- Burrito bowl: brown rice (whole grain), seasoned pinto beans (protein and vegetable), shredded Mexican cheese (dairy) lettuce, tomato, salsa (vegetables), nectarine (fruit)
Extra school lunch packing tips:
- Purchase a fun kids Bento box to separate your foods and make packing lunches more convenient.
- Meal prep to save time. Batch cook items such as chicken and beans. Washing and slicing fruits and vegetables in advance will save time for quick lunch packing.
- Use mini cookie cutters to cut foods into fun shapes. Kids are more likely to eat fun foods!
- Have kids participate in the food preparation. Cooking frequency among youth may improve dietary quality (3). Younger children can help with washing the fruits and vegetables, packing their snacks in the appropriate containers and lunch bags and older children can practice knife skills.
3.) Have an after-school snack prepared
Adding an after-school snack can manage kids’ hunger and boost overall diet quality. Include some protein and fiber to tide kids’ growing appetites until dinnertime.
- Cheese and whole-grain crackers
- Sliced apples with peanut butter
- Yogurt with strawberries
- Homemade trail mix with nuts, cereal, and dried fruit
The start of the school year is a perfect time to implement healthier habits and establish consistent routines around meals. Making breakfast a priority, packing a balanced school lunch and preparing a nutritious after-school snack are all strategies that can improve your child's dietary quality, energy levels and focus.
Remember, the goal isn't perfection, but rather consistent effort and gradual improvements.
By involving your children in the process, you're not only easing your workload but also instilling important skills and a love for healthy eating that they can carry throughout their lives. Here's to a year of health, success and delicious meals!
By: Ashley Carreon, MS, RDN, LD, a registered dietitian at Norman Regional Journey Clinic. She has specialized in bariatrics since 2016 and came on board with Journey Clinic in 2018. Educating and encouraging people to meet their health goals has truly been one of her greatest accomplishments.
- Pereira et al. Breakfast Frequency and Quality May Affect Glycemia and Appetite in Adults and Children. J. Nutr. 141: 163S–168S, 2011.
- Galioto R and Spitznagel MB. The Effects of Breakfast and Breakfast Composition on Cognition in Adults. Adv Nutr. 2016 May; 7(3): 576S–589S. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4863263/. Published online 2016 May 9. doi: 10.3945/an.115.010231
- Ford et al. 2019. Cooking Freqncy Associated eith Dietary Quality in iCook-4H Youth Participants at Baseline. Nutr. Metab. Insights 2019. Apr 3. DOI: 10.1177/1178638819836790