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Back To School Meal Planning & Smart Snacking By Yasmine Haddad

After a speedy summer, it’s time once again to head back to school! Getting back into a routine that first week back to school can be rough. That’s why Clinical Dietician for adults and children, Yasmine Haddad, is here to help your kids make the grade with healthy foods to fuel brain power and give them the energy they need to get through their day. Here are her top five tips for a happy and healthy back-to-school season.

Top Tip #1 Snack Galore!

Allow your children to eat between two to three snacks during the school day. This number however differs between a child and another due to age difference, height, weight, physical activity levels, and medical history. Having healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables available, instead of less nutritious foods like chips and cookies, keeps kids from eating too many empty calories.

Top Tip #2 Keep It Simple And Wholesome

If you’re packing lunch for the kids, keep it simple and balanced by filling bento-style lunchboxes with protein, whole grain, vegetables, and fruit. Children - and adults - need snacks to be filled with fiber, protein, healthy fats. You can pack some crackers with a healthy side dip like hummus or chopped veggies. Variety is key in this case so make sure to serve your kids a wide range of fruits and vegetables so eating healthy stays new and exciting.

And don’t forget to pack a bottle of water to stay hydrated without the extra calories of soda or juice which brings us to this crucial piece of advice: keep snacks containing processed sugar to a minimum. Processed sugar affects the child’s focus in class and unbalances their hormones. Sugar is found in a wide range of food from cookies, ketchup, salad dressings, sugar-sweetened cereals (even some whole grain ones), smoothies, and sweetened yogurts. Many beverages are also high in added sugar such as soda and lemonade, iced tea, fruit punch, and fruit juices. Check out the food labels to see just how much sugar is in your favorite snack or drink!

Top Tip #3 No Screen Time During Meal Time

Sit down as a family to have dinner, if possible. Research indicates that families who eat dinner together have a stronger bond, their children have higher self-confidence and perform better in school. Also, avoid eating meals and snacks in front of the television to avoid overeating and to encourage mindful eating. No screen time during meals encourages children to try new foods and thus, reduces pickiness.

Top Tip #4 Involve Your Children

Not only is it helpful to have an extra pair of hands in the kitchen, but letting your kids help make their lunches also will help them gain valuable life skills as they grow older. They will learn things like patience as they wait for something to cook, or for their turn helping out, and math skills as they measure out ingredients. Kids have fun when they can be creative putting together colorful lunches. Plus they’re more likely to try out new foods when it’s something they helped prepare! Make sure to work around a calendar of healthy meals your kids can be a part of choosing what to eat. Consider giving them the chance to choose their own snacks for every day between a variety of healthy ones.

Top Tip #5 Avoid Choking Hazards

Certain foods can become stuck in your child’s throat or block their airway. Foods that are hard, small, round, smooth, or sticky present the greatest risk, especially for children under four years old. Certain foods require careful preparation. To prevent the risk of choking, be sure to:

  • Fruit with skins or pits, such as apples or apricots. Remove pits and peel fruits before giving them to your child. Fruits can also be diced or cooked and mashed.
  • Fish or chicken with bones. Carefully cut the meat off the bone and then into small pieces. Check meat thoroughly for any signs of bones.
  • Peanut butter. A spoonful of peanut butter can block the windpipe. Peanut butter can also stick to the lining of the throat and windpipe, making a child unable to breathe. Only allow peanut butter that is spread thinly on a slice of bread or a cracker.
  • Hot dogs and sausages. Slice and dice these meats. You may want to remove the skin before cutting them.
  • Grapes. Peel and mash grapes before serving.
  • Beans (green, string, lima, kidney, and others the size of a marble or larger). Mash before serving.
  • Peas. Although peas are small individually, a child who eats more than one pea at a time may choke.
  • Whole carrots. A child may break off too big a bite and choke. Cook carrots and cut them into smaller pieces, or cut raw carrots into thin slices.

These are Yasmine’s tips! What are your smart back-to-school meal planning ideas?

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.


September 06, 2021 — Mint Basil Team

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