10 Healthy Back-to-School Food Tips

By Samantha O’Toole, Registered Dietician –

1.Breakfast. Make sure your child eats a healthy breakfast every day. It has been proven that students concentrate better, solve problems more easily and have fewer behavioral problems when they are sent to school with a full stomach. Kids who eat breakfast are also less likely to be overweight.

2. Plan Lunch Menus Together. Just like schools have a lunch menu, you can create your own at home. Give your child a list of foods including ones they love and ones that you want them to eat. On a dry erase calendar have them write which foods they want on which day. This makes them more aware of different foods and may make it more likely for them to eat their packed lunch knowing that they were involved.

3. Talk Nutrition. Whenever you are preparing or cooking with you child, talk about nutrition. You may not think they are interested, but they love hearing the relation between foods and how it is affecting their body. Examples include preparing a fruit salad while teaching them about vitamin c, what fruits and veggies have a high amount and how it protects us from catching a cold.

4. Upgrade Sandwiches. Sandwiches are an easy lunch to pack, and most kids are pleased with them. A sandwich can be really healthy, or unfortunately, it can be loaded with sodium, fat and refined and processed ingredients. Some healthy spreads and add-ons include: hummus, avocado, tomato, cucumber, sprouts and crushed beans. Always make sure your bread or tortilla is 100% whole grain.  Or you can get crazy and put all sandwich toppings in a romaine leaf to make lettuce wraps.

5. Give Food Fun Names. A study showed that elementary school students were more likely to try vegetables when they had a fun name attached to them such as “x-ray vision carrots.”

6. Get Them Involved. Kids are always more likely to try new foods when they have picked them out themselves. Take them to the grocery store and gather snacks for after school. Emphasize the nutrition of each food and what it will do for them, such as give them energy for soccer practice. Make a homemade granola and have them choose the nuts, oatmeal and the dried fruit.

7. Dippers. Kids love to dip anything! Take advantage of this and always offer veggies with hummus, tahini or cottage cheese. Put yogurt in a bowl and tell them it is a sweet fruit dip.

8. All Shapes and Sizes. For younger kids, cut sandwiches and fruits into shapes like stars and moons. If you are trying a new food, like a whole wheat bread, they may be more likely to try it if it looks exciting.

9. Swap Out Sugar. If your kids drink juice, buy the large bottles and transfer them into a new bottle where you can dilute it with water. They may never notice!

10. After School Snacks. Kids are always hungry after school, and they usually grab whatever they can see when they walk in the door. Always have portable fruit on the counter – apples, oranges, peaches, bananas. Keep trail mix and fresh popcorn in little baggies instead of the typical junk food snacks.