Back-to-School Nutrition Tips - Cincinnati Children's Blog

Back-to-School Nutrition Tips

Breakfast: It Really Is Important

When kids head back to school it becomes harder and harder to find time to get them to eat a healthy breakfast. Many kids want to use every last minute of the morning to sleep and that can leave very little time to get dressed, let alone eat a healthy breakfast. But, getting good carbohydrates and a source of protein in your child before school can be a key to their success in the classroom.

The ideal breakfast has a mix of nutrient dense foods such as good carbohydrates and protein. Cereals are not necessarily a bad way to get some of those nutrients, you just have to make sure to limit the portion size of cereals high in sugar and look for more wholegrain-based cereals.

Don’t Forget the Protein

Starting the day off with a protein will give your child good building blocks for the rest of the day to keep their energy level high and keep them alert in class.

Making time to prepare a protein like eggs can be difficult in today’s fast-paced lifestyle, which has led to a rise in the use of protein bars. These are an easy way to get protein in your child, but you want to make sure the bar you choose has no more than 10 grams of sugar per serving. Other good sources of protein include peanut butter, cheese and yogurt.

Your Kid Won’t Eat Breakfast

Many parents have every intention to give their child a healthy breakfast option in the morning, but their son or daughter won’t cooperate. We find that a lot of kids will do better if they have a breakfast on-the-go option, because they don’t want to make time to eat at home.

I recommend what I call “quick grabs” like yogurt cups with fruit or peanut butter and apples. These are things that can be assembled the night before, in reusable containers, so that your child can take them with them as they head to school.

I find families have more success if they work together to create these. By working with your child, you give them a sense of ownership in what they are eating. This makes them more likely to buy into the idea of starting their day off with a healthy breakfast option. 

Don’t Forget After School 

I really encourage parents to have healthy “power” snacks available for their kids when they get home from school or before they head to extracurricular activities.

These can include things like little sandwiches with vegetables, whole wheat wraps, hard cooked eggs on an English muffin, bananas and peanut butter or healthy trail mixes. The snack should include a good carbohydrate and a protein to help fuel your child until dinner.

Hydrate Before Bed

If a child goes all evening without eating and drinking after dinner they can wake up already low on glucose and low on energy. This puts them behind when trying to rehydrate to start the day.

If your child tends to wake up with dizziness or headaches you can also give them an electrolyte beverage that is low in sugar before bed to help keep them hydrated through the night.

Get Some Sleep

One of the things that can get in the way of a solid eight hours of sleep for your child is video games or another form of screen-time. When kids are up late either playing games or watching TV their brains don’t turn off in time for them to get the rest they need.

You will want to give your child a hard stop on screen time so that they have an easier time falling asleep. That stop time will vary depending on the child, but it should be long enough before bed that your child has enough time to power down. An hour is a good starting point and then you can adjust as needed.

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Mary Pat Turon-Findley

About the Author: Mary Pat Turon-Findley

Mary Pat Turon-Findley MS, RD, LD, a clinical Registered Dietitian III in the Division of Nutrition Therapy at Cincinnati Children’s.

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Comments

  1. MorningStruggles August 24, 08:00
    What do you do when your child just won’t eat in the mornings?
    • Bryce Anslinger
      Bryce Anslinger August 27, 15:17
      Excellent question. Mary Pat says to try a liquid like carnation instant breakfast or fluid type yogurt. In tough cases she suggests working with your child to decide which of the options will work for each day. Smoothies are a great option along with a bag of healthy trail mix, fruit or a protein bar. Repeat offering is key. She also suggests you make kids part of the solution and decision via menu and shopping involvement.