Jul 7, 2016, 9:20:08 AM CDT Aug 11, 2022, 12:52:43 PM CDT

Back-to-school nutrition tips

Encourage kids to eat healthy with these fresh ideas

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back pack with school supplies next to a nutritional lunch back pack with school supplies next to a nutritional lunch

A new school year is a perfect time to get you and your kids back into a healthy routine. Kara Gann, Clinical Dietitian at Children's Health℠, shares simple nutrition tips to make sure students are fueling properly for the school day.

Make breakfast a priority

Eating a healthy breakfast is the best way to start the day for children and adults. To encourage your kids to eat a good breakfast before school, sit down and eat with them. Eating breakfast together models that breakfast is important for everyone.

If a rushed morning routine keeps you from sitting down for a healthy breakfast, set aside 10 to 15 extra minutes to eat. Wake up just a little bit earlier if needed.

A balanced, healthy breakfast doesn't have to be an elaborate hot meal. A bowl of whole-grain cereal (skip the sugary ones, aim for less than 10 grams of sugar per serving) with low-fat milk and a piece of fruit is a quick and nutritious breakfast.

Ask your kids how they eat at school

While many schools offer a variety of healthy, nutritious lunch options, many kids eating school lunches aren't eating enough. Whether it's the short amount of time they are given to eat or their food preferences, many children are tossing half of their school lunches away, if not more.

Eating satisfying and nutritious lunches is important to keep your child at their best in school. Not getting enough calories early in the day can cause kids to feel sluggish and easily distracted. This leads to feeling overly hungry after school and into the evening.

If you notice your children seem excessively hungry after school, ask them how they're eating at school. Pack a healthy lunch if your child doesn't care for the school's food choices. It's a great way to ensure they get to eat enough of the healthy foods they like.

Have a nutritious after school snack ready

No matter how well a child eats at breakfast and lunch, they will most likely be hungry after school and need something to tie them over until dinner. If you are looking for a kid-friendly after-school snack, try to find the right-sized, healthy snack to help your child come to dinner hungry but not starving. Hungry children are more likely to try new foods, but if they are overly hungry, they are more inclined to eat very quickly and possibly overeat.

Offer a healthy snack:

  • An apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter
  • A cup of yogurt
  • A healthy granola bar
  • Cheese and whole-grain crackers

These types of snacks should be enough to satisfy your child’s hunger without spoiling their appetite for dinner.

Finally, consider sending a snack to school with your child that they can eat on the bus or on the drive home. Having healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables available, instead of less nutritious foods like chips and cookies, keeps kids from eating too many empty calories.

Think of snack times as additional opportunities during the day for kids to eat more of the foods they might not be getting enough of in their three meals. Make the most of snacks by offering foods that have the nutrients they need.

Download a free recipe e-book

Looking for easy meal ideas to keep your family healthy? Download 10 Easy and Healthy Weeknight Suppers to receive dietitian-recommended recipes your kids will love.

Learn more

Children's Health is here to help as your child prepares for a new year at school. See more tips and advice for making this school year a healthy and happy one.

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diet, eating habits, food and drink, nutrition, physician advice, school meals

Childrens Health