Return to Normalcy: Back to School Tips

As summer comes to an end (sniff sniff), we say goodbye to half-day Fridays and bon voyage to weekends at the beach. It’s time to get motivated for a healthy new school year, and when I say “school year,” don’t feel left out if your school days are long past. These tips are meant for the whole family. After enjoying 5-hour baseball games, BBQ parties and one-too-many frozen margaritas, we could all benefit from a few tips to jumpstart a healthy new normalcy! 

TIP 1: Eat breakfast.Kids who eat a healthy breakfast perform better in school and have improved cognitive functions, attention spans and memory skills. Eating breakfast is also associated with better satiation, weight loss/maintenance, and making better food choices throughout the day. Focus on high fiber, lean proteins and calcium-rich foods. Here are some breakfast ideas:

  • Greek yogurt with granola and fruit
  • Egg sandwich (2 whole eggs) with ½ cup of vegetables on whole wheat bread
  • High-fiber cereal (at least 5 grams per cup) with 1 serving of fruit
  • Whole-grain waffle with berry compote plus a cup of low-fat milk. Berry Compote Recipe: Place a mix of your favorite berries in a saucepan, mash lightly and add a tiny amount of water if necessary until the sugar dissolves in the juice. Ta da! You just made a replacement for butter or syrup.

TIP 2: Ask About School Lunches. If your kids are getting a school lunch, inquire about their choices. Given the freedom, most kids will order chicken nuggets or pizza every day. Don’t let that happen! School meals should now include whole grains, fruits (some whole, some with syrup) and vegetables (salad bar, sautéed). There is no reason why they shouldn’t take advantage (at least most of the time) of these healthy choices. Even their choice of milk makes a big difference: low fat milk has 102 calories and 13 grams of sugar, whereas chocolate milk has 158 calories and 25 grams of sugar.  

TIP 3: Pack a Healthy Brown Bag (or nowadays, a “Cooler Lunch Box”).Make the meal simple and exciting. Provide a filling sandwich on whole-wheat or whole-grain bread with at least one vegetable and one fruit. If your kid complains about the “mushy banana” or “hard-to-peel orange,” try providing cut-up fruits instead. If they (like most kids) don’t like vegetables, explain why we need veggies in the first place. An interesting study found that when children understood that they need the nutrients in vegetables to function properly, they chose vegetables more often—without even asking! If you must, include a sweet snack like these “lunchbox cookies.” Add variety to your sandwiches:

  • Mozzarella cheese, fresh tomato and olive oil
  • Tuna salad with celery, onions and cranberries or red apple (1 tsp of mayo, max!)
  • Hummus (variety of flavors) with cucumber slices
  • Eggs and peppers
  • Veggie burger with avocado
  • Mediterranean with feta cheese, tomato and olives
  • The classic: Peanut butter and jelly
  • Revised classic: almond butter and honey

Quick food safety tip: Pack lunches in an insulated lunch box, especially when including animal protein.

TIP 4: Use Healthy Snacks To Your Advantage.Kids are usually hungry when they get home, so be smart about the options you make available to them. Provide healthy snacks such as fresh fruit, cut-up veggies, string cheese, non-flavored yogurt, hummus, bean dips, nut butters (like almond butter), whole-grain breads, popcorn, pretzels or trail-mix. If these are the only options, they will eat them!

TIP 5: Provide Water, Not Juice or Soda.This is self-explanatory. Kids less than 6 years old should not drink more than 4 oz. of juice a day. Soda has no nutritional value and should be avoided altogether. As if we needed another reason to avoid soda, a new study showed that soda makes kids more aggressive. Enough said. To make water more interesting, add lime wedges, cucumber slices or mint leaves to a pitcher of water.

What is your favorite healthy brown-bag recipe?

Written by Alanna Cabrero, MS, RD.

Originally posted on NYHRC Tumblr

Picture by Melissa ( in Flickr.

Edited by TCabrarr.