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Back to School Nutrition: Preparation Tips

Pack balanced lunches at night and store in a certain spot in the refrigerator so you can grab and go in the morning. Try to include a serving of fruit, vegetable, protein, whole grain, and a fun snack like baked chips or a dark chocolate square. If you pack lunch at night, you have more time to prepare a healthy breakfast.

Store insulated lunch boxes in a designated area. Make sure to have ice packs on hand in the freezer to keep lunches from spoiling. When the kids get home from school, ask them to empty their lunch box, place it in the designated area and then place the ice pack in the freezer.

Start a "snack station." Clear a pantry shelf and store with healthy snacks like granola bars, dried fruit, cereal, applesauce and crackers with peanut butter (if there are no allergies in the house!). Same idea for a "snack section" in the refrigerator where you can keep fruits and veggies with dips and yogurt and/or string cheese.

Shop for breakfast essentials like eggs, fruit, yogurt, milk, cereal, whole-grain breads and granola bars for those busy mornings. For a quick and healthy breakfast enjoy cereal (with less than 10 grams sugar/serving), low-fat milk and a banana and/or yogurt. Make sure to balance the breakfast with a protein and carbohydrate for lasting fullness and energy.

Prep meals and chop veggies on the days when you are least busy. Having the foods all ready to go will make cooking a lot quicker. BONUS: Kids are more likely to choose fruits and veggies if they are already cut up and ready to eat. Placing nutritious snacks in plain sight makes everyone more likely to pick them up.

Make lists, organize items, and have a plan. Before you know it, you and your family will have a stress-free and nutritious morning routine!

Add some of these to round out your child’s lunch:

  • Fruit cups (with no sugar added) or fresh fruit salad
  • Applesauce (also with no sugar added)
  • Nuts (if age and allergy appropriate), such as walnuts, pistachios, almonds or peanuts
  • Raw veggies (ready to pack) such as carrot sticks, sugar snap peas or celery sticks
  • Individual snack cups of hummus or guacamole with whole grain crackers or pita chips
  • Cheese sticks — available in 2% sharp cheddar or part skim-milk mozzarella
  • Healthy snack bars (individually wrapped) with 3 or more grams of fiber, less than 10 grams sugar, and no more than 1 gram saturated fat
  • Yogurt with less than 10-12 grams of sugar per pack (or purchase the plain and add honey and fruit)