Back-to-school bites: How to make sure kids eat healthy during the school year

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As children get in the groove of being back in school, it’s a good time to get them in the habit of eating well in school and at home. Nutrition expert Sally Squires, of Lean Plate Club, has some tips.

As children get in the groove of being back in school, it’s a good time to get them in the habit of eating well in school and at home. A nutrition expert has the following tips.

Sally Squires, who writes the Lean Plate Club™ blog, said that a simple way to get kids to eat breakfast is for parents to eat breakfast.

She said that sitting down in the morning and enjoying breakfast with your children is a good way to model behavior.

If that’s not how your family does mornings, then have some grab-and-go foods available, such as a cup of grapes, bananas, cereal bars and even trail mix.

Also, most public schools offer breakfast options to students of all economic levels. “Remind them that there’s likely going to be breakfast at school,” Squires said.

While they are at school, it is important for them to eat that nutritious lunch you packed for them. Squires said that to do this, you have to find a balance between what you know will be good for them to eat and what they will actually eat.

Squires said talking to your kids and giving them a choice will help do that. But instead of asking if they want fruit, ask them to choose if they want apple slices or grapes. “You don’t have to cede control completely,” Squires said.

If you go the prepackaged lunch route, Squires said to look for products that have protein, complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables.

“Read the label. See what calories and ingredients they have,” she said. Or, you can even make your own by filling a Bento box with healthy foods your child likes.

When they get home, parents can prepare after-school snacks to give kids energy to do their homework or participate in after-school activities. Squires said that snacks between 100 to 200 calories, such as hummus, bean dip, crackers, carrots, smoothies, squares of cheese and the like will help tide them over until dinner time.

And for dinner, Squires said that cooking a few meals on the weekend and freezing or refrigerating them will make it easy for the whole family to eat together. She said that children who eat with their parents do better in school and are least likely to engage in risky behaviors.

Lastly, find ways to incorporate vegetables in your children’s diet, such as chips made from beans or cauliflower, and don’t pack too much food in their lunchboxes that may just go uneaten. “Little kids only really need small portions,” Squires said.

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