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The ABCs of Healthy Back-to-School Meals & Snacks

Toni Ann DiSantis

Kids are heading back to school, and if you’re busy buying notebooks, pencils and papers, don’t forget to restock you pantry and fridge with foods and beverages that provide brain-boosting nutrients to help your kids perform their best in and out of school. Here are some “nutritional rules” from dietitian parents to help pack healthier lunches & afterschool snacks for the kids.

Brain-Boosting Breakfasts

Kids who eat a healthy breakfast perform better in school and are less likely to be overweight.

  • Whole-grain cereal with fresh fruit and low-fat milk
  • Yogurt with fresh fruit and low-fat granola
  • Eggs, whole-wheat toast and fresh fruit
  • Grilled cheese (made with low-fat cheese and whole-grain bread) and 100 percent juice
  • Peanut butter (or any type of nut butter) and banana or fresh strawberry sandwich on whole-grain bread, with low-fat milk

Lunchbox Lesson Plan

A recent study from Baylor University College of Medicine reported that packed lunches were less nutritious than school lunches. The research found home-prepared lunches were higher in sodium and had less produce, dairy and whole-grain servings.

When packing school lunches, start with a protein, add a whole grain, then a fruit or vegetable serving. A dairy serving – milk, cheese or yogurt – is also important to support bone growth and development.

Some lunch box ideas:

  • Nut butter on whole-grain tortilla with fresh fruit slices and container of low-fat milk;
  • Hummus and veggie wrap made with whole-grain tortilla, hummus and veggies. Served with a container of yogurt or milk;
  • Lunch kit with 3 to 4 whole-wheat crackers, 2 to 3 slices turkey or chicken breast; and low-fat cheese or mini cheese squares or wedges;
  • Whole-wheat pasta salad (with veggies, chicken or tuna) and low-fat milk or yogurt;
  • Whole-wheat wrap filled with chicken or turkey, avocado and lettuce. Serve with cherry tomato and mozzarella cheese pieces on a skewer; and
  • Tuna or chicken salad in half of a whole-wheat pita pocket with leaf lettuce, a piece of fruit or fresh fruit cup and low-fat milk.

Smart After School Snacks

Snacks should come from food groups that children need more of, such as fruit, dairy, whole grains and especially veggies. Hummus is great because the plant-based protein and fiber help keep kids satisfied. Skip the milk and cookies, and opt for these healthier between-meal munchies:

  • Fresh fruit kebob with tube of low-fat yogurt
  • Apple slices with peanut butter and low-fat granola
  • Fresh cut veggies and whole-wheat pita chips with individual container of flavored hummus
  • Bowl of vegetable-based soup with whole-grain crackers
  • Trail mix with low-fat milk
  • Low-fat cheese with whole-grain crackers
  • Two whole-grain fig bars with low-fat milk or yogurt

To read the full article from US News & World Report, click HERE.