Back to School…Make it healthy!

School is in session and it’s important to focus your efforts to ensure your child’s health is top priority. Providing healthy meals and encouraging physical activity are essential for your child’s growth and development as well as success in school. Here are some ideas to get you off to a good start.

Start the Day Off Right with Breakfast.
Breakfast eaters tend to have higher school attendance, score higher on tests, concentrate better and solve problems more easily. They also have better muscle coordination. Since time is limited in the morning, opt for quick options like fruit and yogurt parfaits made with low-fat yogurt and sliced fruit, whole-grain toast with peanut butter or oatmeal with raisins and nuts. If cereal is on the menu, look for one that has less than 8 to 10 grams of sugar per serving. Pinellas County has free breakfast for all students. If you are on the go you can also find your school menu on an app for your smart phone at either the Apple Store for iPhones or Google Play for Android. Just search for the app called School Lunch by Nutrislice and you will never have to wonder what’s for breakfast or lunch again!

Create a Healthy After School Snack sStation. Stock a pantry shelf with healthy snacks like granola bars, dried fruit, cereal, applesauce and crackers with peanut butter or nut butter for those with peanut allergies. In the refrigerator, keep fruits and veggies with dips and yogurt and/or string cheese. These are all good choices which can help satisfy hunger until the dinner bell rings.

Quick, Healthy & Delicious Lunch Idea If you prepare lunch for your child, why not try a wrap. They provide a nice change of flavor and texture from the usual sandwich. Start with a whole grain tortilla and spread with mustard, hummus, oil and vinegar-based dressing, or pesto sauce. Grilled chicken salad or assorted lean meats, tomato, sliced cheese and shredded Romaine lettuce are great fillers. If Mexican is a child favorite, roll up the wrap filled with guacamole, salsa, black beans, grilled chicken and brown rice.

Fun Sides to Liven up the Lunchbox
Try some of these great ideas.
• Fruit cups (with no sugar added) or fresh fruit salad
• Applesauce (also with no sugar added)
• Nuts (if age and allergy appropriate), such as walnuts, pistachios, almonds or peanuts
• Raw veggies like carrot, zucchini or celery sticks, cut up broccoli and cauliflower
• Cheese sticks — available in 2% sharp cheddar or part skim-milk mozzarella
• Individually wrapped healthy snack bars with 3 or more grams of fiber, less than 10 grams sugar, and no more than 1 gram saturated fat
• Yogurt with less than 10-12 grams of sugar per pack (or purchase the plain and add honey and fruit)

For more fun and healthy recipes check out the following websites:
http://www.cookinglight.com/food/recipe-finder/back-to-school-recipes
http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/recipe_slideshows/back_to_school_lunch_for_kids

Get Up and Get Moving
Don’t forget the regular physical activity. It is is vital to strengthen muscle and bones, promote a healthy body weight, support learning, develop social skills and build self-esteem. Encourage your kids to be active for 60 minutes per day. Involving the family is a great way to spend time together. Plan an active weekend outing, ride bikes after dinner, play catch after work or take the dog for a brisk walk.

The UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program in Pinellas County will be offering free nutrition education classes in select schools throughout the county. For additional information or to schedule a program at your child’s school, contact Nan Jensen at njensen@pinellascounty.org