Breakfast: Breakfast can be a tough time for parents to get their children to eat anything. Studies support the benefits of breakfast including a healthy weight, decreased tardiness to school, higher attendance and test scores.
- Let your children control what they want for breakfast by offering a “breakfast bar” with healthy options to pick from such as peanut butter, dry cereals, milk, fruit chopped nuts and much more. See more ideas here.
- Start the day out right with lean protein such as Canadian bacon, eggs, low fat cheese and/or milk, peanut butter on toast or try a breakfast quesadilla or burrito to keep them full and focused!
- Add in whole grains for energy and fiber such as oatmeal, whole wheat waffles or pancakes, rolls or muffins to boost your child’s brain!
- Enjoy fruit and/or vegetables by having fresh, frozen or canned fruit in a parfait or by itself! Vegetables can be added into an omelet or breakfast quesadilla or consumed separately as a beverage of vegetable juice!
- No time in the morning? No problem, prepare the night before by setting up for it! Or have an on-the-go breakfast prepared such as trail mix, a banana and milk or options available at school! Here are some more kid friendly breakfast options.
Lunch at School
- Look over the school’s monthly lunch menu and educate your child on balanced choices.
- Encourage your child to read labels watching for high amounts of fat, sugar and salt and model their meals after MyPlate with at least 1 fruit or vegetable.
- Packing your child’s lunch is a great option too! To get more fruits and vegetables, load up a sandwich with vegetables!
- Two articles from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics here and here recommend a variety in a child’s diet and if they prefer to brown bag, come up with a system for you and your child to prepare healthy lunches. One suggestion involves preparing ahead of time for the week by sitting down with your child and discussing preferences from each food group with alternatives that you both can agree on. Encourage them to pack their own lunches.
After School Snack: Snacking can lead to weight gain if left unmonitored, but older kids require 1-2 snacks per day (depending on a growth spurt) and younger kids need at least 2 snacks a day.
- The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends keeping snacking consistent and planned based on meal times to prevent appetite and weight changes.
- Fruit and vegetables are not only full of nutrients but a great lower calorie option for snacks. Some healthy snack ideas can be found here.
- Today’s Dietitian has a great article on after school snacking and suggests hitting at least two food groups at every snack. Try a fruit and a yogurt or whole grain crackers and cheese!
- Set a positive tone and habits at this meal by being a role model of healthy food habits for your children as they learn to mimic these habits when they get older. Don’t pressure or force them to eat a food.
- Invest time into family meals. Studies have shown children who have dinner with their family are less likely to become obese or get into alcohol, cigarettes or drugs. Have your children help prepare meals by chopping vegetables or simply setting the table. Keep recipes simple and cook in bulk for delicious leftovers!
- Turn off the television! Focus on family time, enjoying your food and talking instead of distracted eating by the television (which can lead to more calories consumed than intended!).
Dinner at Restaurants or Fast Food
- Be aware of portions. Fast food in particular can be loaded with calories when portion sizes are “mega”, “supersize” or “extra large”. Restaurants can serve large portions as well, so request a “to go” bag and save half for another delicious meal! Or share a meal with someone!
- Beverages are easy targets for hidden calories, skip the soda and choose nutrient rich milk, juice or water with lemon! The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends this smart tip: create your own “special soda” by mixing half juice and half sparkling water.
- Appetizers may seem like a great idea, but for a small child each bite can be filling and full of extra calories. By the time your child’s meal arrives, he/she may be too full for a nutrient rich meal they would eat less of.