Dietitians Dish: New school year, new nutritional habits
By Katherine Klingle
By now, summer's relaxed mode is long gone and everyone is settling into their new school year routines. Structure is falling into place and extracurricular activities have kicked in. It's a great time to give your children's eating habits at home some structure, too.
Everyone knows that childhood obesity is a national problem. About one in three children and teens in the U.S. are overweight or obese, according to the American Heart Association.
But Americans are not just choosing too many calories; we're choosing low-quality foods that don't meet our nutritional needs.
If you want your children to excel in school, they need the best fuel to do it.
I know you've heard it many times before, but the simple truth is, you need to start at breakfast. Children have better concentration to complete school tasks if they are fueled from the start. Include fruit, whole grain, lean protein or dairy for a great start. Examples of quick breakfast ideas that are high in nutrition and moderate in calories are oatmeal with fruit and nuts, peanut butter on whole-grain toast with a banana, fat-free yogurt mixed with berries, cereal and skim milk with fruit, or low-fat cheese and ham rolled up in a small, whole-grain wrap with apple slices.
After-school snacks are important to stave off hunger before supper and refuel for homework or after- school activities. Whole fruits and vegetables are naturally low in calories and packed with nutrition in their simplest forms (no sugar added, for example). Placing a bowl of colorful, varied fruit on the table readily accessible for your children is a great after-school habit for you to get into. Add lean protein, such as fat-free milk or low-fat cheese or yogurt to help satisfy them until supper.
Fluids are important also, especially during these hot, back-to-school months. However, sugar-laden sodas, excessive fruit juice intake or high-fat dairy beverages are not high-quality choices. Water and fat-free or very low-fat milk in the amounts recommended for your child's age are great first choices.
Sometimes, we know these things, we just run out of ideas of how to implement them. There are great websites to give you a fresh start with this new school year and your children's eating habits. The following are just a sampling of places to go for help:
www.eatright.org search "power breakfast" and "healthy snacks for kids"
www.heart.org search "kids snacks" and "breakfast" for recipes and ideas
www.nhlbi.nih.gov search "We Can!" program
As the parent, you have great control over what comes home from the grocery store. You owe it to your children to provide healthy food choices, so they can do their very best at school.
Katherine Klingle is a registered and licensed dietitian. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.