Back to School, Back to Nutrition
By Sara German, RD, LN
Avera Sacred Heart Hospital
With school starting up, many of us are looking forward to getting back to a routine after a summer full of unstructured “relaxation.” It’s a perfect time to make healthy changes and start new habits. A recent article on eatright.org (the website for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) provides guidelines for packing a safe and healthy school lunch. Here are some more tips for boosting your family’s nutrition this academic year:
- Be a good example. Almost all of us need to eat more fruits and vegetables, so start incorporating more into your own diet. Another category we need to get more of is whole grains. If you don’t eat the whole wheat pasta and brown rice, don’t expect your kids to!
- Get your kids involved. Take them grocery shopping and allow them to pick out fruits and vegetables to try – then ask them to help you prepare these foods at home. Kids are much more open to trying a new healthy recipe if they make it “themselves”!
- Start the day off right. We all need breakfast – it’s hard to concentrate with a grumbling tummy. Breakfast doesn’t need to be elaborate – dry cereal or yogurt parfaits with fresh fruit are great options. Look for cereal with six grams or less of sugar and two grams or more of fiber.
- Re-think lunch. Most cafeterias are making an effort to include healthier lunch options. Talk with your kids about what foods are available and ways they can make healthy choices. Packed lunches aren’t necessarily healthier – it all depends what you put inside the lunch box.
- Prepare healthy snacks ahead of time. Make “snack boxes” by cutting up fruits and veggies and storing them in individually-portioned containers in the fridge. (Or, buy ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables, such as apples or baby carrots.) These make perfect on-the-go snacks, easy to eat at home or traveling to after school activities.
- Make dinner a family affair. While this can be a challenge with today’s hectic schedules, kids who eat with their families have healthier diets overall. It doesn’t have to be a five-course meal. The important thing is to get everyone around the table, eating the same meal together at the same time.
- Have fun! Have dips and sauces available to make fruits and veggies more attractive. Cut foods into interesting shapes. (Research has proven that sandwiches taste better when cut into triangles. Just kidding.) Have theme nights. Come up with silly questions to spark dinner conversation.