With back to school in swing and more demands on your time, it’s easy to let food and nutrition fall from the priority list. This year, look at the routine that back to school brings an opportunity to add structure and planning to your family’s food choices. Here are 4 tips to better family nutrition throughout the day.
Eating breakfast is associated with better nutritional quality. And children who eat breakfast regularly are less likely to have weight problems and more likely to have good academic performance and behavior in school.[i] Many people who skip breakfast cite time as their hurdle to a healthful breakfast, but with a little planning, you or your kids can prepare and eat breakfast in just a few minutes. Aim to consume foods from at least three food groups at breakfast such as toast, peanut butter and milk.
It’s really pretty simple to combine both nutrition and fun. When packing lunches, include a protein-rich food like tuna, turkey, black beans or cottage cheese as well as both fruits and vegetables. But be a little creative. Rotate lunch items, so it never gets boring, and periodically add something surprising.
Hungry kids are likely to grab the first easy thing they see, so make sure that’s something nutritious. If your household is like many in America, this is a good opportunity to focus on the foods we should be eating more of. Some good choices are cut vegetables with reduced-fat dip or hummus, reduced-fat cheese and cut fruit, yogurt and granola, dried fruit and nuts.
Along with back to school comes back to sports, scouts and a host of other activities. Don’t let hectic schedules rob your family of the enormous benefits of family dinners. Teens who regularly eat family meals have better nutrition, eat more fruits and vegetables, enjoy better connectedness at home, exhibit better mental health and are less likely to use drugs.[ii] Eating together is a terrific way to bond, discuss the problems and triumphs of the day, model good eating behaviors and share family values.
There’s no doubt that back to school time is hectic and stressful. With a little planning and some family commitment, you can turn the structure of the school day into your framework for healthful eating.
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND has worked as both a nutrition counselor and a diabetes educator in the hospital and research settings, and now in private practice in Newport News, VA. Jill is the author of Diabetes Weight Loss – Week by Week and two upcoming books, The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition and 21 Things You Need to Know about Diabetes and Your Heart. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Association of Diabetes Educators and the American Diabetes Association. Jill is a paid contributor to Sucralose.org. Follow Jill on Twitter @NutritionJill and find more at www.JillWeisenberger.com.