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Back-to-School Nutrition Tips

As families prepare for back-to-school, their plans may be focused on ensuring their children have the right "equipment" — pens, notebooks, clothing — to make it through the day, but far fewer families think of proper nutrition as a vital part of those back-to-school plans.

If you truly want your children to be at their best, however, you need to be sure they're receiving the proper nutrition essential for back-to-school success, says Dr. Sheryl Hausinger, pediatrician and an associate of Texas Children's Pediatric Associates.

The first step, Hausinger said, is to jump-start your children's day with a well-balanced breakfast, including fruit juice, toast, cereal or eggs. This meal will provide your children with the energy they need to make it through the day.

"A simple, yet nutritious breakfast can be made quickly for families on the go, including fruit, yogurt or a bowl of cereal," Hausinger said.

Lunch, however, is an even bigger challenge for parents of school-age children. Because your children often have access to snack bars and vending machines, you must include excitement and variety in prepacked lunches that children will eat unsupervised, she said. Lunch should contain foods from all five essential food groups: breads, fruits, vegetables, protein and dairy products; however, including some variety in the menu can prevent children from getting bored with their lunch and straying to other, less healthy choices.

Among Hausinger's suggestions:

Mix and match breads to create a colorful sandwich.

Try substituting potato chips with crackers, popcorn or pretzels.

Alternate sandwiches with leftovers.

Offer dips or spreads to make fruits and vegetables more interesting.

Satisfy children's sweet tooth with graham crackers or fruit, rather than candy and cookies.

If your children won't drink milk, add calcium to their diet with string and cottage cheeses or yogurt.

Don't forget to add a little sunshine to your child's day by including a short note in the lunch bag every so often, Hausinger said.

You also can encourage your children to make healthy eating choices by including them in menu planning and offering them choices, she added.

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