BACK-TO-SCHOOL BREAKFASTS AND LUNCHES
Most parents go back to school shopping this time of year for school supplies and new clothes. August is also a great time to re-evaluate your grocery shopping list and pantry to make sure you are providing healthy breakfasts and lunches for your children this coming school year. One of the best things you can do for your children's health and academic performance is to make sure that they are eating healthy foods. "Children's bodies don't grow on pop tarts and donuts; they grow on real food," says Elizabeth Somer, author of Eat Your Way to Happiness.
By planning ahead for each meal, you help ensure that your child is putting healthy foods into his body. Many times poor food choices are made by parents and kids when you and your kids are in a hurry and eat on the go. Plan a time each week to write out your menu for the week for all of your meals and then shop for any items that you need. One benefit to meal planning is that with some planning you can incorporate dinner leftovers into your children's lunchbox the next day. For example, if you serve chicken for dinner, make some extra and then you can send your kids to school the next day with a chicken salad sandwich or a tortilla with chicken and black beans.
Somer recommends that you follow the 1-2-3 rule for each meal. "One is that each meal should have some kind of protein to keep their blood sugar levels even and keep them from getting fatigued." The second ingredient is a quality carbohydrate to give your child's brain fuel. Somer says that the third item of the meal should be one or more of the nine servings of fruits and/or veggies that we need each day.
Start the Day with a Healthy Breakfast
Because studies have shown that children who eat breakfast do better in school, score better on tests and have higher IQ's, it is important to make sure that your child eats breakfast every morning. Since mornings are often rushed, try to set out breakfast foods the night before. "It doesn't have to take more than 5 minutes for healthy breakfast for your kids," says Somer. Some of her suggestions for a quick healthy breakfast are:
· Whole grain cereal, low fat milk and piece of fruit or Calcium-Fortified Orange Juice
· Whole wheat frozen waffle with peanut butter on top, blueberries on the side
· Fruit smoothie (berries, bananas or canned peaches) made with milk or yogurt, piece of whole grain toast
Yvonne Greer, fitness consultant and mom of two, asks her children the night before for breakfast suggestions and tries to accommodate their requests when time allows. Her kids often request scrambled eggs with onions, cheese and red peppers. Strawberry banana smoothies with healthy breakfast cookies are another favorite in her house.
Since some mornings are crazier than others, be sure to have a "last minute" breakfast around for days when your family oversleeps. You can put oatmeal in a thermos, pour in hot milk and sprinkle dried cherries on top for your child to eat in the car on the way to school. A tube of yogurt, bag of Cheerios and a banana can also work for on- the-go breakfasts.
Packing a Nutritious Lunch
Eating a healthy lunch during the school day helps your child focus during the afternoon and keep a stable blood sugar level throughout the day. One of the best ways to make sure that your child has a healthy mid-day meal is to send a homemade meal with your child for lunch.
A great way to provide a kid friendly lunch is to mix up the classic kid peanut butter sandwich. You can put apples, bananas or dried cherries on whole grain bread with the peanut butter. Somer's son used to love "Peanut Butter Candy Sandwiches" which is a peanut butter sandwich with honey and wheat germ.
Tortillas are another easy way to add variety and calcium to your child's lunch. Somer recommends rolling up chicken, black beans, refried beans or cheese in a tortilla. During the winter, you can provide a hot lunch by sending soup with vegetables in a thermos in the lunchbox. You can also put a salad with leftover chicken in plastic container and then send a separate container with low fat dressing. A bottle of water, carton of milk, or 100% juice are good ways to round out the meal.
To save time during the week, Jacqueline Edelberg has her two kids help make lunches for the week on Sunday night. They label the lunches and put them in the refrigerator. To keep sandwiches from getting soggy, they put any fillings such as cream cheese or apple butter into plastic bags. At lunchtime, her kids put the fillings onto their sandwiches themselves. "Knowing that healthy lunch is all packed and ready to go also gives us a ton more time to spend doing the things we need to do, like homework, and the things we really love to do, like play the guitar and play with our new dog," says Edelberg.