As you’re preparing for the back-to-school rush, there may be one thing you forgot about on your lists. Surely you have school supplies, haircuts, shoes, and medical records all on your list; but what about the health aspect of your child’s school year?
Some mothers are very much on top of their kids’ activities in the summer months, and even make sure they are eating healthfully, but not so much when it’s back to school, and the kids are out of sight for many hours at a time.
Back to school shopping (diet version) guide:
- containers for salads
- small dressing cups
- a fridge bag that keeps food cold
- a water bottle that holds at least four cups
- sandwich bags for cut-up vegetables
- a nice notebook to track food intake
- a digital food scale and bathroom scale, if you don’t have one
- a rewards chart to hang up
- exciting snacks and drinks (see ideas in the article)
It starts with breakfast.
I know mornings are rushed, but try to encourage your child to eat breakfast. Even a quick bowl of a non-sugary cereal with low-fat milk and a fruit is great. I also like the Grab1 bars, since they’re easy to eat while running to catch the school bus, are delicious, and have a lot of protein.
Quick Fruits: Think apple or banana versus cutting up pineapple or washing grapes.
Healthful Snacks to Take to School:
Please note that some snacks are not necessarily healthful but are not unhealthful either and are low-calorie, so they are a better alternative.
Pretzels, Popcorn, PopCorners, Mauzone Mania Fiber Biscotti, Veggie Straws, quinoa crisps, Grab1 bar, Kind bar, NuGo bar, string cheese, no-sugar-added fruit leathers
It’s Not Water (But It’s Not Soda Either) Ideas for Drinks:
Crystal Light pure (sweetened with truvia), seltzer with no sodium, SOBE life water (sweetened with truvia), Vitamin Water Zero (sweetened with truvia)
I usually make a deal with my young clients: three days a week home lunch, two days a week school lunch. This “deal” used to take a lot of convincing, but more and more kids don’t even want school lunch and prefer to bring home lunch, so that may work in your benefit.
Teach them the one-plate rule, which means one plate filled halfway with vegetables and half with the best possible choice available. Teach your child how to decide that. For example, chicken versus a hot dog, or fish versus oily eggplant Parmesan. If they don’t know or there are no healthful choices, they can still stick to the one-plate rule.
Note to Schools:
The more healthful your students eat, the better students you will have. Please consider using fresh fruit versus canned, and fresh vegetables versus canned. Please add whole-wheat bread as an option, and always have water available versus just juice. Your students would also appreciate undressed salads so they can choose whether to add the dressing in.
To-Go Lunch Ideas for Your Child’s Backpack:
I like when my clients have balanced meals, so every meal has a starch, a protein, and a fruit or a vegetable. Start with either whole-wheat bread, a whole-wheat wrap, or a whole-wheat pita (if your child doesn’t want to wash, then whole-wheat Melba toast also works). Do a side of vegetables like a salad or just some cut-up vegetables. Not everyone likes or wants to take a whole salad, so baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and celery sticks work well, too. For dressings, you can buy the small to-go dressing cups and make your own. There are so many great low-calorie recipes available (you can email me for some). Now we just need a protein. Some kid-friendly ideas:
- Peanut butter (if the school allows it). 1 tablespoon is a good serving
- Low-fat cottage cheese. Depending on the child, ½ cup to ¾ cup is a serving.
- Cheese. Make sure it’s low-fat (under 6 grams of fat per ounce)
- Tuna. One can in water with up to 2 tablespoons light mayo is a good serving.
- Turkey breast. About 6 slices is a serving. Make sure it’s not turkey roll, since that has fat versus turkey breast, which does not. If you’re concerned about the sodium and chemicals in packaged turkey, get fresh-sliced from the deli.
- A yogurt. Ideally, a Greek yogurt, since it is the highest in protein.
- Low-fat cream cheese. This is not the best one, as it does not have a lot of protein, but I reserve it for my picky clients who won’t go for the other choices.
Nosh from School:
Whether it’s the candy from the rebbe or the snack swapped with a friend, kids are faced with many temptations. A great idea my client came up with is that she offers her child a monetary swap. He brings home the candy, she gives him money instead. I love this idea, because the child will most likely not feel deprived and learn to give up nosh.
Summer comes with built-in movement, as kids run around, play sports, and swim. Back home, however, with earlier nights, school work, and less safety outside, activities are limited. Some ideas for indoor exercise:
- Running up and down the stairs
(Make it fun, time them, or do a family race of who does it faster)
- Hula hoop. Lots of fun and burns calories.
- The dance machine available with kosher music. Kids love this one!
Other Helpful Tips:
Give your child incentive and involvement; they need it!
I tell moms of kids I work with to give a prize for every 3-5 pounds lost. Even though this sounds overly generous, kids need it. Let’s be honest, adults need it, too, but we have a bit of a longer attention span and a better concept of waiting for gratification.
Do not do everything for your child. Yes, he is capable of filling out his own food log and she is capable of cutting up her own salad. The more you give the kid ownership, the more he’ll be dedicated to making it work.
Teach by example, keep it positive, and involve the family!
Teach by Example:
Your child is watching you. As with anything else, we are role models to our children and need to show by example. Show how you resist temptations, how you make good choices, how you relate to food in a healthful way, etc.
Keep It Positive:
Don’t use the D word. Call it a lifestyle or healthful eating, but don’t say “diet.” Make it about an exciting journey to a healthier them versus a tedious chore or an annoyance.
Involve the Family:
If everyone is doing it versus singling out a child, it becomes a family affair and a cohesive effort versus something punitive for just one child. A mother recently told me that all seven of her kids and husband changed their eating just for her one overweight child. I was so impressed. Obviously, that’s not always possible to do fully, but even some modifications as a family are helpful. Exercising together is also a nice idea.
It is never too early to start teaching your kids about healthful eating and the importance of movement. Make it a great healthy school year and a good eating year!
Alice Harrosh, is a nutrition counselor and manager at Nutrition by Tanya, with 10 locations plus a brand-new one in Queens. Alice knows that making healthy choices is not always easy, as she has been through the struggle herself. As an optimistic person, Alice’s favorite quote is: “It’s never too late to start eating better. If you have a bad morning, make it a better afternoon.” For more information on Nutrition by Tanya or the TAP (Tanya-approved products) food line, please visit www.nutritionbytanya.com or call 844-Tanya-Diet (844-826-9234). For daily tips and inspiration, you may follow @nutritionbytanya on Instagram.
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