Nutritious Back-To-School Meals

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Submitted by the Baylor College of Medicine…..

healthychoicePlanning children’s meals during the school week can be made simple when providing nutritious foods. Alicia Beltran, research dietitian at the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital, maps out healthy meals and snacks to feed your child before, during and after school.


Protein fills you up for longer, so you should always include protein in your child’s breakfast. Eggs are a perfect and flexible meal that keep your child full, especially if you incorporate vegetables, which adds more fiber to the meal. Another simple morning meal is a quesadilla with chicken and cheese. Make this with a whole wheat flour or corn tortilla for more fiber and less fat. Serve this with a side of fruit and milk to give your child energy for school.

For a quick breakfast, you can give your child yogurt with fresh fruit and granola so they get their dairy and grains. You can also make them a fruit smoothie. According to Beltran, parents often serve their children orange juice, which is simple sugar since you are not incorporating the fiber of a fresh orange, and is not filling. Instead, make a fresh fruit smoothie with no added sugar to get more nutrients that will keep them full.


Make sure you always include protein, whether it’s baked or grilled chicken or low-sodium deli meat. For adequate dairy intake, pack cheese, yogurt or milk in your child’s lunch. Be careful when purchasing yogurt, as many of them contain added sugars. Fruit flavored yogurt also can double as dessert for the meal. It’s important to always include fresh fruit or vegetables in their lunch – preferably both. Talk to your child to learn which produce they prefer, and pack them for lunch daily.

Parents often choose easy meals over nutritious foods for their children’s lunches. Buying processed foods seems easier, but you spend more money purchasing this instead of taking time to prepare healthier meals for lunch. Beltran suggests making tuna or chicken salad with Greek yogurt instead of the traditional fatty mayo. Children can enjoy this in a sandwich with whole wheat bread or in a whole wheat wrap. You can also change it up and serve it with crackers.

“You can use the same protein in different recipes, depending on what your kid prefers.”

Avoid packing sports beverages or juices that are not 100 percent juice, since they contain added sugars. Chocolate milk should not be their main source of dairy for the meal, but can be packed as a dessert or treat. Pack plain milk for dairy. Children should drink water throughout the day. If they want flavor, try adding fresh orange slices or other fruits to their water. Make sure your child always has water and can refill their bottle at school.

“Add a little treat or note for dessert. It’s ok to pack a small cookie or piece of chocolate from time to time. Just choose wisely,” Beltran said

After-school snacks

Children should eat a snack after school to keep energized for homework and extracurricular activities. Beltran lists nutritional snacks that will keep kids full until dinner:

  • Cheese sticks or string cheese
  • Cut up fruits and vegetables
  • Raisins
  • Trail mix
  • Plain popcorn
  • Fruits they can easily peel, such as citrus like mandarins or cuties
  • Carrots with hummus or low-fat ranch
  • Small peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a small amount of jelly

saladheartRefrain from giving children sugary cereal, candy or other snacks that are high in sugar after school. These snacks will not fill them up or hold them over for dinner. They will grow hungry and cranky quickly.

“Plan ahead. Making lunch doesn’t have to be a nightmare,” Beltran explains. “Take your kid to the grocery store and involve them in the preparation. This makes it fun for them, and they will enjoy it more.”

How Childcare Centres Plan Nutritious Meals That Kids Always Love

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By Anthony Smith

saladheartsmallHow much time do you spend thinking about, preparing and cooking the meals for your child? As parents, we strive to do what’s best for our children and often that starts with meals. What to feed your child is one of the first major decisions a parent makes and then before you know it, your bundle of joy has an opinion of their own on what they want to eat. Regardless of the time and consideration you may have put into planning and making your child’s lunch, whether or not they eat it, is a whole other story. Then there’s the fact that Grandparents, babysitters and child care centres seem to have a significantly higher success rate of convincing your two-year-old to eat whatever is put in front of them. How do the centres do it – what’s their secret and how do they get a fussy-eating toddler to eat at day-care what they won’t at home.

1. The Menu

Food provided in child care has an important role to play in the growth and development of children and in the development of their future eating habits. Most parents should be able to take comfort in knowing that a significant amount of toddlers’ daily nutrition requirements are being met by their long day childcare centre. Check for displayed menus to show a variety of foods such as vegetables, fruits, cereals, lean meat, fish, chicken, milks, yoghurts and cheeses. Make sure your child has easy access to plenty of water and check to see if milk is also provided throughout the day.

2. Age Appropriateness & Variety

Most centres will ensure the menu includes food that is appropriately sized and textured for the age and ability of the child. Children with special dietary requirements due to food allergies, cultural background or medical condition should also be catered for – ensuring the centre works together with these families to meet the specific needs of the individual child. Variety of food also plays an important factor. Plates should be loaded with a few different foods from the menus, allowing the children to explore a new food – pick it up, touch it and smell it – so that it becomes more familiar to them. It can take up to fifteen attempts before a child gets used to a new taste.

3. The Power of The Masses

kidseatinghealthyChildren learn from an early age to follow and mimic those around them. Often times a sour reaction to a new food is just a knee-jerk reaction to the unknown. So when toddlers see their friends happily eating the variety of food offered at a child-care centre, they often follow along.
Finally, when children gather together to eat and drink, staff should create an atmosphere that is relaxed and home-like. It is also seen as an opportunity for social interactions and language development. Meal and snack times are happy, social occasions that promote healthy eating habits. Food always looks better when your best friend is eating it too.

Just remember – Working together with childcare staff can positively reinforce healthy food messages and eating habits for your child.

– Anthony Smith is the Chief Operating Officer of an Australian childcare management company, Guardian Child Care. As a parent himself, Anthony recognizes the importance of providing quality childcare for children where they are able to thrive and in an educational and nurturing environment.