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Put nutrition at top of school supply list

It’s time for parents and kids to get back into the school mindset and make preparations. In addition to pencils, paper, folders and gym shoes, parents should add “a healthy diet” to the school supply list. Feeding children regular meals and snacks made up of a variety of nutritious foods jump-starts them for success. Hungry minds require a healthy diet.

Breakfast

I am constantly amazed at the number of children and adults who continue to skip breakfast despite all the evidence pointing to the meal’s benefits. Some of these are improved mood and concentration, an increase in metabolism, faster and clearer thinking and more energy. Breakfast should provide one-fourth to one-third of the day’s energy and nutrient needs. Quick breakfast ideas include: whole-grain toast with an egg and a glass of low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt with fruit, whole-grain toasted English muffin with peanut butter, high-fiber/low-sugar cereal with low-fat milk, a hard-boiled egg and a banana.

Fluids

At home, encourage your children to drink plenty of plain water to stay hydrated. Have your child keep a water bottle in their locker or on their desk if the school allows it. Many children are dehydrated while at school if they aren’t drinking enough water. Dehydration can cause fatigue, muscle cramping, and lightheadedness.

Snack smart

Many elementary school students are allowed to bring a snack to school for morning break. Take advantage of this. A mid-morning snack gives your child an energy boost and helps control hunger until lunchtime. Pack healthy snacks that are low in sugar and are rich in nutrients. Suggestions include low-sugar cereal and granola bars, peanut butter crackers, fruit, string cheese, trail mix and raw veggies with low-fat dip. Snack bags make packing easy, or use small containers that are easy for kids to open and throw in their backpacks to be washed and re-used the next day. A healthy snack after school is also important. For more healthy snack ideas, visit the myplate.gov website.

Lunchtime

Talk to your children about lunch at school. Do they enjoy the school lunch and eat most of the food items? What do they drink with their lunch? Whether it is the school lunch or a packed lunch from home, mid-day nutrition is important to help finish the day productively. Include at least three food groups and a drink. Add vegetables and fruits often. Get creative with starches and try whole-wheat tortillas, wraps, crackers and sandwich thins. Involve children in lunch packing by letting them choose and prepare some of the items.

Evening meal

The most important thing to remember about your dinner meal is to try to eat together as a family as often as possible. A meal of spaghetti and salad, grilled chicken and rice with vegetables or a homemade pizza and fruit is best enjoyed when in the company of family. Turn off the electronics, discuss the day and share some laughs.

Slow Cooker Orange Pork Tenderloin With Sweet Potatoes

3 pounds butternut squash or sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces (6 cups)

½ teaspoon salt

1 pork tenderloin (2 pounds)

¼ cup orange marmalade or pineapple

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Arrange squash or potatoes around edge in 3- or 4-quart slow cooker. Sprinkle with salt. Place pork in slow cooker (it will overlap squash or potatoes slightly). Mix marmalade and garlic. Spread over pork. Cover and cook on low heat setting 7 to 8 hours. Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 290 calories, 6 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 270 mg sodium, 24 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 35 g protein.

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