News | Published August 17, 2012 | Written by Joeleen Stocker, MS, RD, LDN

Starting the school year right with healthy eating

The back-to-school sales have already begun, and the first day of school is just around the corner. While you are out shopping for new backpacks, pencils and folders, don't forget to stock your kitchen with healthy breakfast and lunch options for your students.

We have all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Studies suggest that eating breakfast has a significant effect on learning, and those who take time for it in the morning are more likely to have better attendance and test scores, as well as fewer behavior problems. Additionally, research has found that breakfast may also help control weight, reduce the risk for heart disease and lower the chances of hunger-related stomachaches.

Many studies show that breakfast is the most commonly skipped meal. That means some kids may go 12 hours or more without eating. As you can imagine, this will not only leave them feeling hungry, but it will also affect their ability to learn.

Try these simple suggestions to get your family to make eating breakfast part of their daily routine this school year:

  • Get kids involved. Ask your children what healthy breakfast items they prefer, then make sure to have their favorites handy.
  • Wake up earlier. Setting the alarm to ring 10 minutes earlier can provide time to squeeze in a quick breakfast.
  • Start small. If your family does not usually eat anything in the morning, it may take awhile to develop the habit. Starting with a mini meal can make the transition easier. Try a small serving of yogurt topped with low-fat granola or a slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter.
  • Be a role model. Kids mimic parents' behavior. Make it a point to sit down and enjoy breakfast with your kids every day.

Healthy eating should not stop at breakfast. Review the school lunch menu with your kids, and decide in advance which days they prefer to buy the school lunch, and which days they would like to pack. This will allow you to plan ahead and ensure healthy lunches are being consumed.

When packing lunch, make sure to be aware of proper food storage. If your child prefers to "brown bag it," select foods that do not have to be refrigerated.

  • Protein sources: Nuts, seeds or beef jerky
  • Fruits: Whole fruits or individual portions of cut fruit packaged in water
  • Vegetables: Raw veggies such as carrots, celery or broccoli
  • Grains: Whole wheat bread or crackers

For more healthy nutrition tips, visit mountnittany.org or go to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website at eatright.org/kids.

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