IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN that the kids are going back to school and the parents are running around doing all the errands, appointments and shopping to have the kids ready for the first day of school. Like most parents, we find our time limited and look for some short cuts to help balance the demands of a hectic schedule. I think now is a great time to revisit some essentials in nutrition to make your kids have a great school year.
When kids eat a diet of well balanced foods, these foods can help to stabilize their moods and energy levels and give them the best opportunity to be healthy and confident adults. Kids develop a preference for the foods that they enjoy the most so the challenge is to make the healthy choices appealing to the kids. The biggest problem is that the TV commercials for junk food and fast food restaurants target our kids.
Tips for nutrition:
1. Focus on the overall diet. Kids should be eating whole minimally processed foods, food that is as close to natural form as possible.
2. Be a role model. Kids love their parents and want to be just like they are, so try and eat a healthy diet yourself.
3. Cook more meals at home. Restaurants use preservatives and tend to use more sugar and unhealthy fats. When you cook at home, you know exactly what is going into your food and can monitor what is going into your dinner. If you cook in big batches, you can also freeze portions to take out for a later date when time is limited. The great thing about cooking at home is that as a family you have time together and can talk about the activities of the day and what is going on throughout the week. Make a rule that during dinner time, there is no distractions from cell phones, TV or computers.
4. Get kids involved with shopping for groceries and a meal plan for the week. As the kids get older, you can use this time to show them how to read labels and watch for the catch words that marketing companies use to attract kids to certain products.
5. Always have healthy snacks available. A great way to have snacks ready for kids is to prepackage fruits and vegetables in portion-appropriate packages so that they can just reach in the refrigerator for a snack. It is so easy for a child to grab a chips or cookies, so try to avoid the junk food by having fruit and veggies cut up and clean for your kids.
6. Limit portion sizes. Don’t insist that your kids clean up all the food on their plate. Avoid the super sized meals at fast food restaurants. The drink sizes are way too big for kids and largely increase the sugar intake for the day.
7. Try to limit sugar in your child’s diet. A child’s body gets all the sugar it needs from that in naturally occurring foods. Added sugar adds empty calories which can lead to hyper activity, mood swings and increase the risk of obesity which can lead to Type 2 Diabetes. Avoid canned fruits and vegetables, canned soups and sodas or energy drinks.
Most importantly, remember that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Kids who have a breakfast high in protein, have a better memory and have higher energy levels and score higher on tests. Make breakfast easy and fast–we are all trying to rush out of the house and get kids to school and get ourselves to work. Boil some eggs ahead of time and have fresh fruit cleaned and ready for your kids in the morning. Enriched cereals, yogurt, milk and cheese are all great breakfast foods that are packed with protein. Toss up the variety in the breakfast foods too. You can make breakfast sandwiches or breakfast tacos that are full of protein and are easy to eat on the go.