Ask the Dietician: Good back-to-school habits offered

| September 26, 2014 | 2 Comments


Chelsea Toledo
Tripler Army Medical Center
HONOLULU — A nutritious well-balanced diet can improve a child’s health, academics and behavior.

Currently, 1 in 3 children are considered overweight or obese in the U.S. This designation increases risk of several chronic diseases, which are affecting people at much younger ages.

The “Journal of School Health” published a study that found children who ate a nutritious well-balanced diet were at 28 percent risk for being overweight/obese compared to 45 percent of kids who ate unhealthy diets.

Not only is a child’s physical health improved with a nutritious diet, but also their mental health, academics and behavior. Children need a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy and whole grains to have energy and focus to help absorb knowledge.

Nutritious eating plays a very important role in your child’s health and success; however, it can be a struggle to actually get your child to eat the foods that are best for them.

Start the day with a healthy beginning by having fruits and muffins for breakfast, the most important part of the day. (File photo)

Start the day with a healthy beginning by having fruits and muffins for breakfast, the most important part of the day. (File photo)

Quick tips for success
Here are a few tips to increase your child’s interest in healthy meals and snacks:
•Include them in the decision-making, like having them pick the fruits and vegetables or choosing a new recipe;
•Prepare lunches/snacks together;
•Add color with vegetables and fruits, and add shapes (using cookie cutters for fruits and sandwiches); and
•Avoid prepackaged foods to help decrease sodium, preservatives, fat and calorie intake, by preparing ahead (cut fruits and vegetables for whole week, proportion servings, etc.).

Build a breakfast habit
Breakfast is a very important part of the day and should not be skipped, especially for students. Eating breakfast has been associated with better memory, higher test scores, better attention span and healthier body weights.

Breakfast can be a hard meal to get into the day; however, preparing the night before can help (hard-boiled eggs, cut fruits, homemade muffins).
Protein is an important component of breakfast to help keep children satisfied and focused until lunch time. Some examples are whole wheat toast with an egg and bacon, Greek yogurt with granola and fruits, or light cream cheese and a bagel.

Eat a lunch that is well balanced with a limit on snacks. (File photo)

Eat a lunch that is well balanced with a limit on snacks. (File photo)

Try home lunches
Home lunches provide a healthier option for your child. A well-balanced nutritious lunch should have a starch, fruit, vegetable, protein and snack.

Add variety and fun to lunches by getting creative. Sandwiches can be made with whole wheat mini bagels, veggie wraps, whole wheat bread or whole wheat pita pockets (spread with hummus, avocado, light cream cheese or veggie/light mayo), and finally, fill it with vegetables, cheeses and sliced meats.

Sides can be fruits, vegetables, homemade granola bars, string cheese or yogurt. Snack should only be one.

Water is a preferred drink option.

Water is a preferred drink option.

Liquid options
Finally, the best drink options are water or milk. Fruit juices have added sugar that your child doesn’t need.

Try not to overpack to avoid food waste and use smaller portions or just one side and a snack.

When children arrive home after school, they may be hungry, so a snack before dinner time is good. But stick to a fruit, vegetable or whole grain with a protein that’s not a high fat or sugar treat.

Some easy and healthy ideas are yogurt parfaits (yogurt, granola and fruit), kabobs (with low fat cheese, meats or fruits), apples and peanut butter, vegetables and low-fat ranch, or quick pizzas with tomato sauce and cheese on a whole wheat  muffin.
(Editor’s note: Toledo is a dietetic intern at TAMC.)

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Category: Community, Health

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