About a week ago my oldest son and his buddy Carter had a chance to attend a kids cooking and nutrition session at our local grocery store, ShopRite. The boys had a chance to sit with an in-store Registered Dietitian for a brief nutrition education session followed by a hands-on food prep session. The boys learned all about the nutritional benefits of whole grains and how our bodies process whole grain and non-whole grain foods.
The in-store Registered Dietitian for the ShopRite in my area is Samantha O’Toole. Ms. O’Toole is one of the more than eighty Registered Dietitians who service ShopRite stores in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland. Together, these Dietitians offer nutrition advice, meal planning and diet modification for specific medical conditions.
After the nutrition education and food-prep session were over I asked Ms. O’Toole if she’d be interested in sharing 10 of her best healthy back to school tips on my blog. She was pleased to do so and put together a great list just in time for back-to-school. Check out her 10 Healthy Back to School Food Tips.
- Breakfast – It can’t be said enough, make sure your child eats a healthy breakfast every day. It has been proven that students concentrate better, solve problems more easily, and have fewer behavioral problems when they are sent to school with a full stomach. Not to mention the positive effect it has on their body weight. Kids who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight.
- Plan lunch menus together – Just like schools have a lunch menu, you can create your own at home. Give your child a list of foods-including ones they love, and ones that you want them to eat. On a dry erase calendar have them write which foods they want on which day. This makes them more aware of different foods, and may make it more likely for them to eat their packed lunch knowing that they were involved.
- Talk Nutrition – Whenever you are preparing or cooking with you child talk about the nutrition of foods. You may not think they are interested, but they love hearing the relation between foods and how it is affecting their body. Examples include preparing a fruit salad while teaching them about vitamin c, what fruits and veggies have a high amount, and how it protects us from catching a cold.
- Upgrade their sandwiches – Sandwiches are an easy lunch to pack and most kids are pleased with them. A sandwich can be really healthy, or unfortunately they can be loaded with sodium, fat and refined and processed ingredients. Some healthy spreads and add ons include: hummus, avocado, tomato, cucumber, sprouts, and crushed beans. Always make sure your bread or tortilla is %100 whole grain (always check the first ingredient on the list, never trust the front of the label!) Or you can get crazy and put all sandwich toppings in a romaine leaf to make lettuce wraps, they stay great in Tupperware.
- Give food fun names – A study showed that elementary school students were more likely to try vegetables when they had a fun name attached to them such as “x-ray vision carrots” rather than the “veggie of the day”.
- After school snacks – Kids are always hungry after school and they usually grab whatever they can see when they walk in the door. Always have portable fruit on the counter – apples, oranges, clementines, peaches, bananas. Keep trail mix and fresh popcorn in little baggies instead of the typical junk food snacks.
- Dippers – Kids love to dip anything! Take advantage of this and always offer veggies with hummus, tahini, or cottage cheese. Put yogurt in a bowl and tell them it is a sweet fruit dip.
- Get them involved – Kids are always more likely to try new foods when they have picked them out themselves. Take them to the grocery store and gather snacks for after school. Emphasize the nutrition of each food and what it will do for them ex.) give them energy for soccer practice. Make a homemade granola and have them choose the nuts, oatmeal and the dried fruit. Put it together when you get home and package into baggies.
- Swap out sugar – If your kids drink juice, buy the large bottles and transfer them into a new bottle where you can dilute it with water. They may never notice!
- All shapes and sizes – For younger kids you can cut sandwiches and fruits into shapes like stars and moons. If you are trying a new food like a whole wheat bread, they may be more likely to try it if it looks exciting.
For a great back-to-school snack idea, consider making these tasty rice cakes which the kids made during their session with Ms. O’Toole. The kids were offered a plain rice cake and a variety of toppings including natural peanut butter, honey, blueberries and shredded coconut.
This was Ev’s first time having a rice cake as an older kid (he loved them as a baby but as he got older he didn’t enjoy them as much) and he didn’t resist it at all. He had fun prepping his rice cake with his favorite toppings and even gave it a try (he didn’t finish it but hey, it’s a start).
Here is his completed rice cake. I even like this idea for me!
While I pride myself on the quality of lunches I pack in my kids’ lunch boxes there is definitely room for improvement. I will definitely be putting Ms. O’Toole’s sandwich tips into play as well as her after-school snack tips (which is not an area of strength for us).
I am loving these healthy back to school tips from Registered Dietitian, Samantha O’Toole and I hope you do too. Happy Back to School planning!
RD Sessions offered at local ShopRite Stores are complimentary. In addition to being a ShopRite customer, I also blog a “Potluck” blogger for ShopRite.
This article was written by food blogger Linda Arceo and Giggles, Gobbles and Gulps