Healthwise: Back to School Nutrition

By: Cheryn Stone Email
By: Cheryn Stone Email

August 18, 2010

Now that children are heading back to school, doctors say it's just as important to ask them what they ate for lunch as it is to ask them if they did their homework.

Parents spend plenty of time rolling through the aisles to grab deals on back to school supplies, and experts at Martha Jefferson Hospital say parents should spend equal time picking out the right food for their kids.

"After going through the summer and kids sleeping in, one of the most important things to get them back in the habit of is eating three meals a day," said Nutrition Services Coordinator, Dave Stebbins.

Stebbins, who is certified in pediatric and adolescent weight management, says breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day.

"[Children] are more awake. There are plenty of studies that show they learn material better and do better throughout the day, as well as eat less throughout the day, when they eat breakfast," he said.

However, Stebbins stresses that not just any breakfast will do the trick. He says parents should avoid snacks or meals high in sugar and fat, which are usually low in calcium. The snack packs you see at the store may be a quick, portion-controlled fix, but convenience doesn't make it healthy, cautions Stebbins.

For many children, Vitamin D and fiber are missing from their diets because of the lack of fruits and vegetables. So, how do you get your kids to eat healthy? Stebbins suggests growing the habits.

"If you have a garden, kids are more likely to eat the vegetables they get out of their garden than they are to eat vegetables you just put in front of them," he said.

He also says kids will often eat what they see their parents eat.

"Kids mimic what they see their parents do... [if] parents eat more fruits and vegetables and make them more available to their children, like having them out on the counters letting them know that these snacks are free snacks," said Stebbins.

Stebbins says one of the best ways to make sure your children are getting healthy snacks and meals throughout the day is to pack it for them to take to school.

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