10 Important Back to School Nutrition Tips

school busesSummer is ending, at least from a school-vacation perspective. A new school-year is a perfect time to create new habits. Whether it’s added house chores, more time spent on homework, or improved nutrition, the start of a school year is an opportunity not to be squandered.

Here are some tips for parents and students, some of which we collected from the Fooducate community.

1. Start the day with a good breakfast. Hint: sugary cereal is NOT a good breakfast.

2. If your kids do eat cereal, choose cereal with 3 or more grams of fiber per serving, and no more than 6 grams of sugar (1.5 tsp). If it’s not sweet enough, let kids add a dash of honey or maple syrup.

3. If your kids bring lunch to school every day, work together with them on planning meals in advance in order to avoid the stress each morning. Not everyday has to be perfect, but each lunch should include a good balance of proteins, carbs, and fats.

4. Involve your children in food decisions for the home as well. We’ve had moms write to us about letting their children use the Fooducate app to scan snacks at the supermarket. The children were allowed to choose whichever snack they liked, as long is got a “B” or higher on Fooducate.

5. Reduce sugar intake. This is a long term effort that should build gradually. Kids love sweet, and many foods are overloaded with sugars. Start with beverages – reduce sweetened beverage intake. Limit juice to just one cup a day, or mix it with water to decrease the sweetness. Instead of presweetened chocolate milk, buy a powder mix to control how much is added to milk.

6. Limit the portion sizes of snacks. Two cookies and that’s it. Not 3 or 4 and then negotiate for even more…

7. Always have fresh fruit and produce washed and available for immediate consumption on the kitchen counter. Cherry tomatoes, apples, bananas, grapes, etc…

8. Try to remove artificial colors from your kitchen. Red #40, Yellow #5 and their friends are often found in kids foods in the US. Identical products in Europe use natural coloring because about 10% of children may have some hyperactive reaction to these synthetic dyes.

9. Food discussions with your kids should not be about weight loss, but rather healthy eating and good sources of energy for growing bodies and minds.

10. Set a good example. Parents will have a harder time demanding things from kids, when they themselves continue to eat un-healthfully.

Any more suggestions?

(Thanks to Fooducate community members Stephanie, Olivia, Andrea, and Aaron for your helpful suggestions!)

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  • Malerie Glasser

    Great article! I’m going into high school and use this app everyday, it’s completely changed the way I look at food (in a good way) :)

  • AA0

    I wouldn’t recommend pre-washing grapes and letting them sit. They are known to easily grow harmful bacteria when wet.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      True. The assumption was pre-washing in the early afternoon for consumption in the following hours before dinnertime…

  • Jen

    Re #4 – I love this idea. My mom let me choose my cereal when I was a kid (nutrition labels were a new thing then) and I was allowed to choose whatever I wanted, as long as the amount of sugar was below a certain level (I think it roughly correlated to Honey Nut Cheerios or something like that). It gave me some freedom, it meant I was not allowed to eat Froot Loops, and it taught me to read a nutrition label.

    I notice two things stemming from this. One, I loved sleepovers at another kid’s house because I got to eat junky cereals there. Two, I am more than capable of reading a nutrition label now, while my husband has to shove packages in my face and ask me “is this healthy or not?”.

  • http://www.beachbodycoach.com/seankane Coach Sean Kane

    I also love idea #4! I love the app and my kids have become accustomed to seeing the grade of the food that I eat. Never considered letting them help with the shopping by using the app. That will make things a lot more fun for them too!

  • Nicole

    Based on my experience, I feel protein is also important at breakfast time. Since my daughter is in love with cereal, we look together for kinds that contain more protein and then she gets to choose from those.