Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Parent Report Card? Huh?

If you were graded for your efforts in helping your children eat right, what kind of score would you get? Here are some helpful tips to help your children reach the head of the class.

First things first, we must start our school day off right. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, for your children too, and for good reason. Many studies have found a strong relationship between eating breakfast and learning ability, attention span, and general well-being. Children who regularly eat breakfast think faster, clearer, solve problems more easily, and are less likely to be irritable, according to the American Dietetic Association. Kids have excuses for not eating breakfast, such as “I don’t have time,” “I am not hungry,” and “I don’t like breakfast foods.” The important thing to do is to find something healthy they do like. With all the studies conducted on this subject, the evidence points to a healthier life and overall general well-being if we eat breakfast.

Some examples of breakfast foods that are healthy and quick and easy to make are fiber rich muffins, low fat yogurt with granola, English muffin with natural peanut butter, scrambled egg whites, protein shake, fruit smoothie and high fiber cereal with skim milk. Some school cafeterias offer breakfast, which can be advantageous to a busy student who doesn't have the time at home to grab a bite to eat at home. If students skip breakfast, researchers have found that the lack of breakfast or drop in blood sugar levels will cause problems for students later in the morning such as less ability to reach solutions and conclusions. So, start your day off right by boosting your metabolism and getting your brain functioning by eating a healthy vitamin-enriched meal in the morning.

In a perfect world, many nutritionists would like to see students eating six small balanced meals throughout the day. In many instances for students, this will not do. Schedules are crammed from the beginning of the school day until lunch so eating a small meal between breakfast and lunch may not be feasible. In this instance, it is of utmost importance to eat breakfast like a king. Make sure you are eating a meal rich in protein and fiber to keep your blood sugar levels steady. If you are able to eat a small meal, pack a low sugar granola bar, protein shake, trail mix or piece of fruit in your bag to keep your energy levels up until lunchtime.

When the bell rings for lunch, many students are off to pick up lunch at the school’s cafeteria. School districts across the country have been taking steps to make food in schools healthier because of new federal guidelines and awareness that a growing number of children are overweight. It is important to encourage your children to make a healthy choice as this affects how they perform the rest of the day.

An alternative to eating in the cafeteria may be bringing a “brown bag lunch.” For safety’s sake, keeping your lunch cold until lunchtime is essential. You can do this by packing a reusable ice pack, or try packing a small water bottle or 100 percent juice box that has been frozen. Some examples of healthy lunches that are portable include peanut butter/jelly sandwich on whole grain bread, turkey or chicken sandwich and salads. Be sure to pack some fruits and vegetables such as carrot sticks, celery, apples and bananas.

When school lets out for the day, many students participate in extracurricular activities and sports. It is vital to eat a small meal consisting of carbohydrates and protein to fuel the body for the chosen activity. Some examples of this might be an energy bar, yogurt, or a small serving of whole grain pretzels, protein shakes, rice cakes or soy crisps. It also important to keep hydrated by drinking water before, during and after exercise.

So far, so good on scoring high marks on that report card. Dinner poses a problem for many busy families these days. Both parents are typically working and have little time to prepare a well-balanced meal. This is where planning is important. Grill several ounces of lean protein and freeze half. Use your slow cooker - turn it on in the morning and when you get home - dinner will be ready! Or, throw together a protein rich, veggie-filled salad!

All in all, there are several ways you can grade your kids on their nutrition report card. Be sure they are getting about 0.5 grams of protein for every pound they weigh. That’s a gram for every 2 pounds they weigh. Children older than 6 years should have 3-5 servings of vegetables and 2-4 servings of fruits per day. Also, whole grains are essential to a child’s diet - that’s their fuel! Children should be getting at least 5 servings of whole grains per day. And, last but not least, let’s not forget dairy to build those strong healthy bones. It is recommended children have 3 servings a day of dairy products each day.

Following these guidelines will ensure a fit and healthy kid and lay the groundwork for a life of healthy living for many years to come! Now let’s make the grade!

For more information about how to get your family moving and eating right log ontowww.fitnhealthyschools.org . Our non-profit is committed to building Fit & Healthy Schools across the nation. Our national nutrition partner is Max Muscle Sports Nutrition, so next time you are in any of their stores ask for more information about having one of the Certified Nutrition Coaches come talk to your school!

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