As kids prepare to go back-to-school, now is the perfect time to also focus on better nutrition. As school resumes and families settle into more steady routines, many parents and children find it easier to 'eat right.' Additionally, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and its Foundation celebrate Kids Eat Right Month™ each August. Kids Eat Right Month focuses on the importance of healthful eating and active lifestyles for all children and families.
Adequate nutrition is essential for good health, disease prevention and adequate growth and development. It is also important to learn good eating habits when young for a healthier life. Whether your child is in elementary, middle or high school, here are a few tips to incorporate better nutrition as they go back-to-school:
- Break for Breakfast - Eating breakfast helps to ensure that children get the nutrients that their growing bodies need. In addition, eating breakfast is linked to a reduced risk for obesity and better performance in school.
- Have a Healthy Lunch - Most schools participate in the government programs which ensure your child is being provided a nutrient dense meal. If you pack a lunch from home, remember the food groups and a lunch is only balanced if eaten. Try to find at least one food from each food group your child enjoys.
- Snack Smart - Snacking can be important for many children to get the calories and protein they need to grow, but too many calories may lead to weight gain and obesity. When children reach for a snack, offer fruits and veggies with Our Family cheese or Our Family brand peanut butter. Another tip is to set snack times and prevent grazing. If children eat too much at snack time, especially if unhealthy foods, they will not be hungry for dinner.
- Limit Screen Time to Get Moving - Aside from being a great way to spend time together, regular physical activity is vital to strengthen muscle and bones, promote a healthy body weight, support learning, develop social skills and build self-esteem. Children are encouraged to be active for 60 minutes per day.
- Gather Around the Table for Dinner - Research shows that the diets of children who eat frequent family meals include higher amounts of important nutrients, more servings of fruits and vegetables and lower amounts of fat. In addition, family mealtime may contribute to healthier weights and improved performance in school.
- Sweet Dreams - In addition to good nutrition and regular physical activity, restful sleep is important for children and their learning. Be sure to insist on consistent bedtimes that will give your child at least nine hours of sleep. A healthful bed time snack, such as Our Family graham crackers and a glass of Our Family milk, may be important for some children if they wake up in the middle of the night hungry or cannot fall asleep at night.
- What about cookies and treats? Cookies and treats are 'sometimes foods' and can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. Remember to limit treats to just one and be sure to include nutrient dense foods part of the main meal.
Back-to-school presents the perfect learning opportunity to focus on healthier meals and snacks to energize our children allowing them to grow and reach their full potential. Take time this August to celebrate Kids Eat Right Month and teach your children about good nutrition to establish healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
"This medical and/or nutritional information is not intended to be a substitute for individual advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition."
Stephanie is an award-winning registered dietitian who believes in empowering every individual to make nutritious food choices to support a healthy lifestyle. She believes in the power of food as medicine and loves sharing about nutrition with others.