By Guest Blogger Laura Buxenbaum, MPH, RD, LDN
Grab your backpacks and pencils, it’s back to school time! My sons start 2nd and 4th grade this year and we’ve already stocked up on school supplies to prepare for a successful year. As a Registered Dietitian, I know that a productive school year depends on more than the supplies in their desk. Children need to supply their bodies with essential vitamins and nutrients to boost their learning power. As a busy mom, I am always looking for fast, healthy and tasty foods to keep them (and me) fueled throughout the day. So, while you are out shopping for school supplies, make sure your cart is filled with healthy meal and snack time foods as well. Here are some of my favorite meal and snack ideas to give students the edge this school year.
Boost Bodies and Brains at Breakfast
Chances are you have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. However, after decades of motherly encouragement for the morning meal, it is still the most skipped meal of the day. Studies show breakfast eaters eat less overall and gain less weight than those who avoid it. Skipping breakfast can cause low energy, the inability to focus and even irritability. Not to mention, research suggests children who eat breakfast have better attendance in school, improved test scores, superior nutrition and are less likely to be overweight. Below are some quick and easy out the door breakfast ideas. If breakfast is still too much to tackle when trying to get sleepy children out the door, consider the breakfast provided by the school. School Breakfast delivers daily servings of fruit, whole grains, and milk, plus roughly a quarter of the recommended calories needed for lasting energy.
- Blend frozen fruit with low-fat milk for a quick breakfast smoothie.
- Sprinkle low-fat cheese on scrambled eggs, then roll it all up in a whole grain tortilla.
- Layer granola, fresh berries and vanilla yogurt for a yummy parfait.
- Top whole grain waffles with peanut butter or ricotta cheese and fruit.
- Oatmeal is quick, delicious, and nutritious and when made with low-fat milk it provides not only filling fiber, but protein, calcium and vitamin D.
- For a true grab-and-go meal, hand the kids a piece of string cheese and a whole grain granola bar on the way out the door.
Remember incorporating protein foods into the morning meal will prevent mid-morning tummy growls. Satisfy children in the morning with protein rich dairy foods, eggs, or peanut butter.
Experts agree the best way to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs is through eating foods rich in nutrients, such as dairy foods, 100% whole grains and fresh fruit. Skip the pre-packaged lunch options and whip up a nutritious lunch your kids will gobble up using these ideas:
- Wrap a slice of Swiss cheese, deli ham and Dijon mustard in lettuce leaves. Pair with fresh fruit and graham crackers.
- Try peanut butter and jelly on a whole grain waffle, bagel or tortilla as a new twist to an old favorite. Or get creative with peanut butter and jelly sushi: Flatten out crustless whole grain bread with a rolling pin. Spread with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and jelly on the bread. Roll into a tight spiral and slice into 4 pieces.
- Make your own pizza lunch: Kids will go crazy when they see they can assemble their own pizza. Pack pita rounds, English muffins or sandwich thins as well as pizza sauce and shredded cheese and let the kids be their own pizza chef.
- Get Dipped! Pack carrot “chips,” celery sticks and mini tomatoes together with low fat ranch dressing for dipping. Roll up ham and turkey slices and pack salsa or dressing for dipping. And don’t forget dessert! Cut up pieces of angel food cake and provide flavored yogurt to dip it in.
- Eat lunch at school. It’s healthy, a time-saver for mom and a great bargain!
- Stock up on cups of fruit, boxes of raisins, snack cheeses, yogurt tubes, whole grain crackers, baked chips and low-sugar granola bars to add to lunches.
Kids are snacking more than ever. When done right, snacking can serve as purpose as it provides nutrients missed during meal time. Make snacking a great way to get in those often-missed food groups like whole grains, fruit, veggies and dairy.
- Dip a few graham crackers or gingersnaps into a cold glass of low-free milk.
- Freeze squeezable yogurt tubes for a quick and creamy popsicle.
- Pack string cheese and dried fruit into the sports bag for a post-activity energizer.
- Mix Parmesan cheese with popped popcorn and pretzels for a super delicious crunchy snack.
- Serve crunchy vegetables with hummus. For a new twist on hummus, try the creamy avocado hummus recipe below.
For more meal ideas, recipes and nutrition tips, visit our website at southeastdairy.org.
Creamy Avocado Hummus
- 1 large avocado, peeled and seeded
- 1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 1/3 cup cilantro leaves
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1 large jalapeño, seeded, deveined and roughly chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Blend until smooth (yield: 2 1/2 cups).