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Back to School Nutrition

Release Date: August 23, 2022

Heading back to school is an exciting time of the year for families. As children prepare to get back into the school routine, it is important that they are eating the right foods to fuel their day. Healthy eating in childhood and adolescence is important for proper growth, development, and prevention of various health conditions. It is also a vital part of having a healthy and successful school year. Consider following these tips to help your child thrive and start the school year off right.

Eat a healthy breakfast. Eating a healthy breakfast is the best way for children to start the day and give their body the fuel it needs to sustain energy throughout the morning. Studies suggest that eating breakfast is associated with improved memory, better test grades, reduced absenteeism, and improved mood and behavior.  It can also improve school performance, increase energy levels, and can make a difference in children’s overall health and well-being. Consider items from the following three food groups:

  • Whole grains, such as whole-wheat bagels, whole-grain cereals, whole-wheat tortillas, oatmeal, and whole-grain toast.
  • Protein, such as eggs, meat and poultry, tofu, beans, nuts, and fish.
  • Fruit, such as berries, melons, apples, and bananas (frozen fruit is also a healthy option).

Have a healthy lunch. Whether your children eat a school-provided lunch or bring lunch to school, focus on a nutrient dense meal that will sustain them through the end of school day. To create a healthy lunch, include one of each food group: one protein, one whole-grain, one fruit, one vegetable and one dairy choice. Do not forget to drink plenty of water.

Provide healthy after-school snacks. Whether your child is gearing up for an after-school activity or getting ready to do homework, a healthy snack before dinner is important to keep energy levels up. Incorporate fruits and vegetables as healthy snacks to replace highly processed snack foods like cookies and chips. Suggest an apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter or cut-up veggies with hummus. Offer a cup of yogurt, a healthy granola bar, or cheese and whole-grain crackers. These types of snacks can help satiate hunger without spoiling appetite for dinner.

Lead by example. It is important to remember that children imitate adults. When your kids see you enjoying a nutritious snack or meal, choosing water over sugary beverages, or engaging in physical activity, they are more willing to adopt these habits themselves.

For more information about healthy eating for children and adolescents, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate or the Nutrition.gov Kids’ Corner page. Always consult with your physician before starting any diet or exercise plan. If you have questions, please contact worklife@hq.dhs.gov

Last Updated: 08/23/2022
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