Maureen DiNapoli, CPNP
Back-to-school time means early mornings and the chaos that comes with everyone trying to get ready and out the door at the same time. Taking the time to select and prepare healthy snacks and meals will make sure that everyone gets the most out of their day.
Don’t forget breakfast! It is the most important meal of the day. Plan ahead to allow for time to eat. Focus on meaningful foods that will keep you child full for a while. Lean protein sources, vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy help to keep your child full longer. Consider boiling eggs and leaving them in refrigerator to eat with a whole wheat English muffin or a slice of toast and some fruit. This provides a quick, healthy and easy breakfast. Low fat yogurt (watch your sugar content) with fruit or a piece of toast with peanut butter is another great option. Consider choosing cereal with less than 10 grams of sugar per serving with low fat milk. Be careful with juice as it contains a lot of sugar but lacks nutritional value. Also, keep your portion size in mind.
For snack time, pack an apple and a tablespoon of peanut butter, a low-fat yogurt or carrots/celery and hummus. If your child enjoys crackers, make sure to check your portion size on the food label and count them out. Using snack size bags can help control portion size as well.
Back-to-school also means school lunches. Schools have improved the quality and variety of offerings over the last few years but often offer “kid friendly” foods like chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese or pizza. Having your child bring a healthy lunch from home is a good strategy to reinforce healthful choices. If your child struggles with bringing lunch from home, try having your child pick one school lunch per week and brown bag it the rest of the week.
Some healthy ideas for lunch include, wraps (use whole wheat tortilla) with lean protein (chicken, turkey or even leftovers from dinner) and vegetables along with a water and a piece of fruit.
An afterschool snack is often necessary as kids will have many hours between the time they eat lunch and the time dinner is ready. Help your child to pick an appropriate sized snack that has some protein. Teach them to resist the urge to fill up on lots of high carb or sugary foods. This way they will be satisfied for their afternoon activities/homework and still be hungry for a healthy dinner. Limit the amount of “junk food” (chips, cookies, cakes, candy, crackers) you buy at the grocery store to make their choices easier for them.
Try to sit as a family for dinner as often as possible. Enjoy lean protein, vegetables and milk. Limit carbohydrates or choose more complex carbohydrates – whole grain bread as opposed to white – and limit the serving to one per dinner. If your family loves dessert consider fruit for dessert or picking one night per week for a special dessert treat.
Good nutrition is a life-long habit. Teach your children healthy eating habits young for better health throughout their lives!
Maureen DiNapoli CPNP is a board-certified Nurse Practitioner with over 26 years of experience in nursing. Maureen graduated from Boston College in 1991 with a Bachelor’s degree and worked many years at Tufts New England Medical Center as a Registered Nurse in many disciplines including adult medicine and surgery, pediatric medicine and surgery, and pediatric and neonatal intensive care. She also worked in an outpatient adult cancer center as well as teaching pediatric nursing at Middlesex Community College. She received her graduate degree focusing on Primary Care in Pediatrics from Northeastern University Bouve College of Health Sciences in 2002. Maureen started working in Primary Care as an NP in 2003 and accepted employment with Pediatrics West in 2006. Her interests include wellness promotion across the lifespan, developmental challenges in the preschool and school aged child, asthma management, ADHD, eating disorders, obesity and patient education surrounding preventative measures to improve health. Maureen sees patients at our Groton office.
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