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Nutrition

Send Kids Back to School With Good Nutrition


It's that time again and children have got it bad, the "back to school blues." Parents can make the transition easier on their kids by beginning the school year with good nutrition habits. Nutrition and learning go hand-in-hand and kids who are nutritionally fit are more likely to have the energy, stamina and self-esteem that enhance their ability to learn and be active, according to the American Dietetic Association (ADA).

The following "study tips" can help ensure a successful school year for your children.

Healthy Starters

Start kids out with a healthy breakfast. For children and teens a morning meal is especially important.

"After eight to 12 hours without a meal or snack, a child's body needs fuel," according to Althea Zanecosky, a Philadelphia, Penn., registered dietitian and spokesperson for the ADA. "Breakfast prepares children to meet the challenges of learning.

Breakfast skippers often feel tired, irritable or restless in the morning, but those who regularly eat a morning meal have a better attitude towards school and have more energy by late morning, research reveals.

"Kids who eat breakfast tend to have more strength and endurance, and better concentration and problem-solving ability," Zanecosky commented.

Breakfast not only has a significant effect on learning, it also may help control weight and reduce the risk of heart disease, studies suggest.

"Breakfast eaters are less likely to be ravenously hungry for mid-morning snacks or lunch and they tend to eat less fat during the day too," Zanecosky commented.

Don't let kids use the excuse of not being hungry. Even eating a small breakfast can help restore needed fuel for the morning.

"Make breakfast fun by planning it with your child; decide who prepares what and work together to get it done," Zanecosky said. "If your child doesn't like traditional breakfast foods, don't worry — breakfast can be any food they like, even a slice of pizza."

The kinds of foods kids eat for breakfast can make a big difference in energy levels. When a breakfast consists mostly of sugary foods, such as fruit, fruit juice, candy or pop, a quick rise in blood sugar occurs, causing a rush of energy. After about an hour, blood sugar and energy decline, bringing on symptoms of hunger. A balanced breakfast, consisting of foods containing carbohydrate, sugar, protein and fat, gives a constant release of energy, delaying symptoms of hunger for several hours.

Keep quick-to-fix foods on hand or get breakfast foods ready the night before, if time is an issue. Breakfast cereal, bagels, toaster waffles, yogurt, canned and fresh fruit, juice, milk, cheese and cottage cheese are all good options. Or, bring your breakfast with you: a carton of yogurt; a bagel spread with peanut butter; or grapes, crackers and cheese.

"Food nourishes at every age and stage in a child's life and proper nutrition is crucial for social, emotional and psychological development. Teaching children how to eat healthy will enable them to establish a foundation of good nutrition and healthful lifestyle habits," according to Zanecosky.

For more information on back to school nutrition, visit ADA's Web site at www.eatright.org.


© 2001 Health Resources Publishing