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Tips to help your child maintain a healthy diet throughout the school year

August 18, 2014

With so many things to do when getting ready for school, it’s important to remember to place good nutrition at the top of the “to do” list. Planning out your child’s menus will help ensure that they will have nutritious meals and snacks available throughout the day, and will help them to have more energy and mental power to be successful at school.

Here are some tips to help get your family off to a healthy start:

  • Be prepared for the week by creating a weekly menu plan, and get the kids involved so that they can pick their favorite foods.
  • Take the kids shopping with you, letting them help pick out foods that they like, so that you know they will eat what goes into their lunchbox.
  • Have the right tools on hand: lunchbox, thermos, snack sized baggies, sandwich bags, plastic utensils, small plastic containers, and a refillable water bottle. Make sure your child’s lunchbox is well insulated and that it keeps foods at a constant temperature.
  • Pack lunches the night before. Get the kids involved in packing their own lunches by letting them pick out what they want to eat the next day.
  • Put the juice boxes in the freezer. They work as a great freezer pack for keeping cheese sticks and other items cold during the day.

The Importance of Breakfast

Eating breakfast has a positive impact on health and nutrition for everyone. Children who eat breakfast tend to have healthier diets, are less likely to be overweight, have improved test grades, memory and school attendance. Make breakfast a priority with some of these breakfast ideas:
  • Make your own “morning trail mix” with non-sugary cereals, nuts and dried fruit
  • Hard-boiled eggs and fresh fruit
  • Oatmeal topped with nuts, dried cranberries and raisins
  • Fresh cut fruit with a yogurt dip
  • Greek yogurt and a banana
  • Whole grain toast with peanut butter and apple slices
  • Yogurt topped with berries and granola
  • High fiber cereal with nonfat milk and strawberries
  • Bagel with low-fat cream cheese and banana
  • Peanut butter and jelly rolled up in a whole wheat tortilla
  • Breakfast burritos - egg whites, veggies, low-fat cheese, and black beans wrapped in whole wheat flour tortilla
  • Smoothie made with fresh fruit
  • Whole wheat English muffin with lean ham and low-fat cheese
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole grain bread
  • Whole grain raisin bread with almond butter
  • Whole grain waffle topped with yogurt

Time for lunch!

Keep lunch exciting with some of these suggestions:

  • Cut sandwiches into triangles, diamonds or other fun shapes with cookie cutters
  • Leave a note on a napkin letting them know you are thinking of them
  • Change up the bread (rye, pumpernickel, oat) and the type of bread such as: whole grain tortillas, bagels and pitas
  • Offer a variety of low-fat cheese (mozzarella, cheddar, Jack, Swiss)
  • Change up the types of vegetables and fruit offered, and pack dips such as: cottage cheese, hummus or yogurt
  • Let them buy their lunch if they usually pack, or pack their lunch if they usually buy
Lunchbox Ideas
  • Pita Bread with hummus
  • Cheese-filled pasta with tomato sauce
  • Tuna, egg or chicken salad with low-fat mayo
  • Veggie sandwich (hummus, avocado and cheese)
  • Pasta salad (whole wheat pasta, vegetables, cheese, lean meat with a low-fat dressing)
  • Taco salad (ground beef, lettuce, tomato, grated cheese and salsa)
  • Spinach/dark green lettuce with chicken, tuna, salmon, nuts and/or seeds
  • Mexican wraps (grilled chicken, black beans, brown rice and avocado in a whole wheat tortilla)
  • Leftovers from the night before
  • Homemade chili or soup in a thermos with whole wheat crackers
  • Nut butter on a whole wheat tortilla, or flatbread, sprinkled with sliced strawberries or bananas
  • Small tortilla filled with shredded vegetables and reduced-fat ranch dressing
  • Homemade lunch-able (turkey breast, cheese cubes, whole grain crackers, fig newton, juice box)
  • Leftover stir-fry in a whole wheat tortilla, or used as a salad topping
  • Cheese and fruit kabobs with veggies and hummus dip

Snacks are important, too

Snacks are an important part of good nutrition for your child. Small stomachs make it difficult to get all the nutrients needed at mealtime, so snacks serve as a great way to provide increased energy needed for activities and learning. Try selecting whole foods as much as possible when packing snacks for your child.

Here are some great snack ideas to help get you started:

  • Yogurt with fresh fruit
  • Sliced apple with cheese or peanut butter
  • Carrots with hummus or bean dip
  • Hardboiled egg with sliced cucumber
  • Fruit, such as cantaloupe, banana, oranges, grapes, or kiwi
  • Banana dipped in yogurt, rolled in crushed cereal, and frozen
  • Frozen fruit juice bar
  • Wheat cereal with nonfat milk
  • Fat free popcorn sprinkled with seasoning (parmesan cheese or chili powder)
  • Almonds, or other nuts
  • Taco seasonings mixed into low-fat plain yogurt with vegetable sticks
  • Baked tortilla chips with salsa or bean dip
  • Small baked potato topped with salsa and low-fat cheddar cheese
  • Ants on a Log (peanut butter-filled celery slices with raisins on top)
  • Mini-bagels with low-fat cream cheese
  • Pre-sliced vegetables (celery, peppers, broccoli, or cherry tomato)
  • Quesadilla made with a whole wheat tortilla and low-fat cheese, heated in the microwave
  • Whole grain crackers with low-fat cheese
  • Whole grain pita stuffed with ricotta cheese, apples and topped with cinnamon
  • Roll up made with a tortilla, turkey, and low-fat cheese
A healthy diet is important for kids, as their bodies are constantly growing and developing. Healthy eating habits have also shown to improve a child’s attentiveness and learning in the classroom. With a little bit of pre-planning and help from your kids, you can ensure that your child is eating a balanced diet throughout the day!

What are some of your kid’s favorite lunchbox items?