Success in School is Easier with Good Nutrition
Dietitian Offers Breakfast and Lunch Tips for Busy Parents
It is estimated that 30 to 50 percent of the nutrition an average child gets in a day comes from what they eat away from home. During the school year that means lunch at school. At a time when nearly 30 percent of children are overweight or obese, making sure your kids eat breakfast before school and enjoy a healthy lunch during the day may be the two most important things you can do to ensure they get the nutrition they need, and the foundation to succeed in school.
"With meals away from home, it can be challenging to meet a child's daily nutrition needs, especially for calcium, iron and vitamin C," says Kimberlee Alvari, a registered dietitian and director of the Food and Nutrition department at Washington Hospital.
"You should aim to include at least three different food groups in breakfast and lunch," says Alvari. "For instance, a tortilla with peanut butter and banana gets you grains, protein and fruit."
Including a healthy mix of foods isn't the only challenge for parents who want to ensure kids have a nutritious lunch.
"Mornings can be chaotic, and planning a healthy lunch can get lost in the rush," notes Alvari. "That's why advance planning is so important."
Making Healthy Lunches Happen
Alvari has a number of simple tips to make packing a healthy lunch less stressful on busy school day mornings, and for increasing the chances your kids will eat what you pack.
- Get kids involved in grocery shopping. Have them pick healthy items they're interested in eating. When kids are involved in planning, shopping, and packing their own lunch they are more likely to eat it than throw it away or trade it for something less nutritionally sound.
- Put lunches together the night before. All non-perishable items can be gathered. Prep fresh items - you can cut vegetables or fruit, and put perishable items in an easy-to-access spot in the refrigerator. Getting organized ahead of time means lunch can be easily packaged in the morning so you can grab and go.
- Be creative - think outside the lunch box. Do you have dinner leftovers that can be sent for lunch? Egg dishes, like mini turkey sausage quiches (see recipe below), are an easy and healthy choice. They also do double duty - have them for breakfast one day, and lunch on another.
- Keep it fun and make it easy. Cut sandwiches or fruit into fun shapes. Peel fresh fruit and cut large fruits and vegetables into bite size pieces. Kids tend to rush through lunch so they can play - make food easy to access and eat.
- Trying something new? Send extra for sharing. Kids are more likely to try something new together.
- Keep food cool. Food will stay fresh at room temperature for 2 hours, not long enough to last from breakfast to lunch time. If possible, get an insulated lunch bag with an ice pack. You can also freeze 100 percent juice drinks (no added sugar) or a bottle of water, then pack it with lunch as a chiller to keep food fresh.
School Lunch Program Can be Healthy, Too
If your child is purchasing lunch at school, there are several things you can do to help your child make good choices for himself. The best thing for a parent to do is model at home the choices you want him to make when he's away from you. That means choosing to eat more fruits and vegetables, drinking milk or calcium-fortified beverages, and limiting junk foods and sugary drinks. Review the school menu together. Talk with your child about making healthy choices and why it's important.
Don't Forget Breakfast
Studies show that kids who eat breakfast do much better in school. They concentrate better, earn higher grades and make fewer visits to the school nurse. Here are a few things you can do to make sure breakfast doesn't get lost in the rush.
- stock your kitchen with healthy breakfast options
- prepare as much as you can the night before
- let kids help plan and prepare breakfast
- have grab-and-go alternatives (fresh fruit, individual boxes of cereal, yogurt or smoothies, trail-mix) on days when there is little or no time to eat
Healthy Choices, Healthy Kids
A little advance planning, letting kids help choose healthy items at the grocery store, and making foods that do double-duty can help you get your family on the path to good nutrition, whether eating at home or away.
To learn more about nutrition programs at Washington Hospital, visit whhs.com/nutrition. You can also visit whhs.com and click on the button "Upcoming Health Seminars" for classes and lectures on a variety of health-related topics. Many of the classes are offered free to members of the community.
Mini Turkey Sausage Quiches
Make these double-duty quiches ahead of time for an easy lunch or breakfast. Individually wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to three days or freeze for up to one month. To reheat, remove plastic, wrap in a paper towel and microwave on High for 30 to 60 seconds.
8 ounces turkey breakfast sausage, removed from casing and crumbled into small pieces
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced--optional
1/4 cup sliced scallions
1/4 cup Swiss cheese
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
3 egg whites
1 cup 1% milk
1. Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 325¡F. Coat a nonstick muffin tin generously with cooking spray (see Tip).
2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Add oil to the pan. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to the bowl with the sausage. Let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in scallions, cheese and pepper.
3. Whisk eggs, egg whites and milk in a medium bowl. Divide the egg mixture evenly among the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of the sausage mixture into each cup.
4. Bake until the tops are just beginning to brown, 25 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Place a rack on top of the pan, flip it over and turn the quiches out onto the rack. Turn upright and let cool completely.
Note: A good-quality nonstick muffin tin works best for this recipe. If you don't have one, line a regular muffin tin with foil baking cups.
Nutrition Per quiche: 90 calories; 5 g fat (2 g sat, 1 g mono); 105 mg cholesterol; 3 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 9 g protein; 0 g fiber; 217 mg sodium; 108 mg potassium.
Source: Eating Well