The kids are back in school now, and it’s an incredibly busy time of year for most of us. Days and weeks get busier and staying on top of nutrition can be tough; however, healthy eating has been shown to help kids concentrate in the classroom, which is why we wanted to share 5 tips to help kick off school year nutrition right.
Tip 1: Choices & Planning
So, how do we juggle healthy options and busy school days? By offering kids choices and planning ahead.
Make healthy snack choices available. Keep plenty of fruit, vegetables, and healthy beverages (water, milk, pure fruit juice) on hand so kids avoid unhealthy snacks like soda, chips, and cookies. Milk contains 9 essential nutrients and 8g of protein making chocolate milk, yogurt and string cheese options that are both nutritious and delicious.
Involve your kids in shopping for groceries and preparing meals. You can teach them about different foods and how to read food labels. It is also important to be a role model. The childhood impulse to imitate is strong, so try to avoid asking your kids to eat vegetables while you munch on potato chips.
Tip 2: Provide a Balanced Breakfast
Starting the day with a healthy and nutritious breakfast can improve moods and help kids concentrate. These are a few options you can try with your kids that go beyond milk and cereal.
- Yogurt, fresh berries and low-fat granola can be a great option and offers lots of varying combinations to keep it interesting for kids and their ever-changing food interests.
- Egg muffin cups are super convenient for those busy mornings. Make them ahead of time and just reheat them daily. You can also make different variations using different vegetables and top with a little extra melted cheese.
- Wheat toast with cheese and egg is another option that blends protein, fiber and dairy together for a balanced breakfast.
- Smoothies can be a great source of protein for kids who are not big breakfast eaters or very picky. Sometimes you can hide additional veggies in smoothies too.
Tip 3: Make Sure They Eat Lunch
Whether our kids are eating school lunch or bringing a packed lunch, we always want to encourage them to eat a balanced meal. School lunches have come a long way over the years and often include fresh grains, salad bars, and low-fat or non-fat milk to help your kids get a balanced meal. If your kids are bringing lunch from home, one option is to make a variety of items ahead of time for the week and let your kids pick and pack their own lunch, making sure their options make for a balanced plate.
It’s important that kids eat lunch to fuel their bodies and their day. If you find they’re coming home with a full lunchbox or are super hungry after school, have a conversation with them about lunchtime. They may not have enough food to eat or don’t like what’s in their lunch box. Whatever the case, you’ll want to work with your kids to resolve it. Lunch is important for fueling afternoon concentration, as well as after-school activities.
Tip 4: Help Them Stay Hydrated
Water plays a big role in stabilizing body temperature. Hydration has also been associated with energy levels, physical endurance, concentration and focus. Kids aren’t always the best at voluntarily drinking enough fluids and can get dehydrated as a result. As a parent, you can’t watch your kid at every second, so helping them stay hydrated throughout the day takes a little creativity. Try letting your kid pick a water bottle they like and can take to school with them. Maybe make an activity out of decorating their water bottle to personalize too.
If your kid really doesn’t like water, you can try adding some fruit, fun-shaped ice cubes or crazy straws to make plain water more exciting. Milk is another beverage that offers a lot of hydration for kids. Made up of 85% water with electrolytes, including sodium and potassium, it is an extremely hydrating beverage that helps kid’s bodies recover after lots of exercise and efficiently rehydrate.
If your kids are really active, you can try creating a hydration schedule as well. This can help encourage kids to drink a certain amount before, during and after practices, games and meets.
Tip 5: Incorporate Dairy in Their Diet
Milk contains 9 essential nutrients, including 8g of protein, making it nutritious and hydrating.
Regular consumption of dairy products helps build strong, healthy bones and aids kids’ overall growth and development. For example, vitamin A supports healthy eyesight, protein builds and repairs muscle tissue, and carbohydrates supply energy. The benefits don’t stop there, though.
Dairy products have the highest concentration per serving of absorbable calcium. Studies have found that diets high in calcium can help prevent obesity and bone loss, as well as maintain strong teeth.
Incorporating dairy options in kids’ lunches and snacks can have long-term benefits. In addition to providing options, it’s also important to talk about dairy, nutrition and healthy food choices with your kids. Providing options and information helps them to make smart choices like milk over sugary drinks at school, as well as make healthier decisions as they get older.
Have a healthy school year!
This article was provided by our friends at Nevada Dairymen and Dairy Council. Thanks for the helpful information on how to keep our kids well-fed and healthy!