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LIVE HEALTHY HARTSVILLE: Make good nutrition part of your school year

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Summer always seems to fly by once it arrives and even though the days are still so hot, school has already begun for some and for others it will start shortly.

Making sure you start your student off right for the school year should begin with nutrition.

We have all heard that breakfast is an important meal.

Numerous studies have shown that breakfast eaters have higher school attendance, less tardiness and fewer hunger-induced stomach aches in the morning. Children who eat breakfast tend to test better, concentrate better and are better at problem-solving and muscle coordination.

Simple, but healthy breakfast ideas include cheese toast made with whole grain toast, iron-fortified cereal with skim or low-fat milk and fruit, peanut butter on whole grain toast or waffles or lean ham on a toasted whole wheat English muffin.

Don’t have a breakfast eater?

No worries.

Your body doesn’t know breakfast food from lunch or supper foods.

If your student is more interested in last night’s spaghetti, let them eat it! The important thing here is to make sure you help them get their day started with some nourishment.

By mid-day we all need a boost of energy to get through the remainder of the day and your student is no different.

If your child eats lunch provided by the school, familiarize yourself with the menu and keep a copy so that you can discuss what food items they might choose. Encourage your children to choose fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains. Low-fat milk is a great option too.

If you pack a lunch, be sure you include a cold pack if you have perishable food items or freeze a beverage the night before. It will keep the food items cold and be ready to drink at lunch time.

Food safety is important for keeping your child healthy as well.

Some healthy lunch ideas include sandwiches made with peanut butter, cheese or lean meats.

Choose other bread options such as tortilla, pitas, and sandwich thins or bagels as alternatives.

Veggie sticks with low-fat dip or dressing, yogurt, fresh or canned fruit cups and pasta salad are also good choices.Canned fruit cups should be packed in juice not syrup.

Other “treats” for the lunch box include string-cheese, low-fat pudding, flavored gelatin or oatmeal raisin cookies.

After-school snacks are another important consideration especially if your child participates in sports or other after-school events.

After-school snacks should include both protein and carbohydrates.

Some good ideas for afternoon snacks include peanut butter and sliced apples or bananas on whole wheat bread, low-fat yogurt with fruit, half a whole wheat English muffin topped with pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese; heated in the microwave, veggies with low-fat dip or hummus, snack cheeses or a low-fat pudding cup.

Classroom events pop up throughout the year as well.

Look for ways to make the options healthier.

Check in advance with your child’s teacher to make sure there are no children with food allergies so you will know what foods to avoid.

There are many classrooms that ask for nut-free options regardless of allergies just to be on the safe side.

Bringing healthier classroom treats like fruit kebobs, fruit snacks made with 100% fruit juice, mini peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made with cookie cutters or celery stalks filled with peanut butter and topped with raisins is an excellent way to ensure your student isn’t just filling up on junk.

Also keep in mind that treats don’t always have to be food related. Kids always like stickers, pencils and other colorful school items as well.

Planning now for a healthy school year will set your student up for success. Eating well provides a great foundation for both academic and athletic achievement.

Allowing your student to be involved in helping to plan their meals gives them more ownership of the process and can be a great way to get them more engaged in healthy eating.

Until next time…Live Healthy!

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