Editors note: This is part five of a five part back to school health and safety series.
Back to school for the kids means back to making breakfast, packing lunches and preparing snacks for many parents. Choosing a healthy, nutritious option may sound daunting but can be done easily, according to Henry County Health Center Dietitian Elise Klopfenstein, if the parent knows what to look for.
For breakfast, she says the most important part is remembering to eat it.
“I know that there’s just this chaos of out the door and that’s just one thing that might slip through the cracks but it really needs to happen. We probably need to think about it not in the morning. It would be best to have a plan for what we’re thinking,” she said.
Klopfenstein said some families set the table the night before for cereal, to remind the family to eat breakfast in the morning, which also acts as a time saving tip because all there is left to do is retrieve the milk form the refrigerator.
“There’s steps that you can take the night before to make sure you’re successful,” she said.
Adding a fruit or vegetable to the meal and combining that with a protein is a sure way to make sure the breakfast is balanced and nutritious, she said. Whole grain toast with peanut butter and a banana would be an idea option, she said, because it is both filling for the body and full of nutrients.
To go with breakfast, she recommends having a glass of milk because the body needs more of it, at eight ounces a serving. One serving of juice is only four ounces, which is easy to over do, she said, because its so small.
For packing lunches, she suggests adding lots of whole grains to the mix, like break, crackers and pop corn. When looking at an ingredient list on the product, Klopfenstein says the first word should be what the product is.
For example, the first ingredient in apple sauce should be apples, not sugar. Another way to ensure healthy eating is to make the options colorful. In particular, she said to make sure dark greens are present, in the form of peppers, black beans or even mixed together in a salsa.
Serving picky eaters is no easy feat, but Klopfenstein suggests sending a variety of options with the student to ensure they have something they like when they open their lunch box. Making sure things are precut and easily accessible for eating, also, is a plus, she said because it ensures the student can eat in the time they are allotted and still walk away with all necessary nutrients.
For those eating school lunches, she recommends looking at the menu the night before and discussing it with students so they are not afraid to try it. They may not know what Chicken a la King is, she said, but after explaining, they may be willing to try it once they see it on their place the next day instead of ignoring it for fear of the unknown.
This will prevent the student from coming home too hungry, and just ready for a snack.
“Be prepared to have the kids have a snack almost as soon as they come home,” she said. Giving the kids water with their snack is ideal, she said, because kids forget to hydrate throughout the day. Fruits, veggies and protein are again the idea snack and can be as simple as a cutie and a string cheese she said.
Once its time for dinner, slicing up fruit or putting prepared veggies, like carrots or celery sticks on the table, while cooking is a good way to deal with eager eaters. Providing a healthy appetizer for the main course can help tide over the family members who are looking for a little more to eat before the main dish is finished cooking.