Back to School Nutrition Tips for Active Kids
Good nutrition has benefits beyond healthy growth and development. Breakfast, in particular, has been linked to better school performance, less weight gain and lower body mass indexes (BMIs) in kids. A healthy breakfast sets kids up for healthy meals and snacks the rest of the day and reduces the likelihood of overeating or choosing junk foods to curb their hunger later in the day.
Kids involved in sports have even greater nutrient needs. They require extra calories to fuel exercise or training schedules in addition to calories and nutrients needed to maintain normal growth and development. Plan for three balanced meals, healthy snacks and plenty of water during the day.
Create balanced meals by including as many of these food groups as possible at each meal. For example, if your child likes toast for breakfast, add a piece of fruit and a source of protein, like eggs, to make the meal complete.
- Lean protein (meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds): Better options are usually grilled, baked or roasted.
- Vegetables and fruit (mostly vegetables): Eat at least one serving per meal and snack.
- Whole grains (bread, pasta, rice, cereal, oatmeal, etc.): Choose products that say “100% whole grain” for more fiber and nutrients, and help your child feel fuller for longer.
- Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt): These foods are a good source of protein and carbohydrates and contain calcium and vitamin D to promote healthy bones.
- Water is important, especially if kids are exercising. Encourage kids to carry a refillable water bottle and refill it several times per day.
Because snacks can make up a significant part of kids’ diets, suggest healthier snacks that combine protein with a complex carbohydrate (whole grain, fruit or vegetable). For example, instead of traditional chips or cookies, go for mixed nuts and an apple, half a peanut butter and jelly or Greek yogurt with berries and granola. It’s okay to eat sweets or snack foods once in a while, but there are more nutrient-dense options kids should be eating most of the time to fuel their active bodies.