Healthy Kids    

How To Start the School Year Eating Right

A nutritionist's top 10 tips to keep your child healthy

1) Make sure your child has breakfast. A healthy breakfast has been shown to be important for keeping children's energy high and children who eat breakfast tend to maintain a healthier weight. Depending upon how much time you have, try a low-sugar cereal + low-fat milk, fruit and yogurt, a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread or a high fiber, low-sugar meal replacement bar.

2) Send your child to school with a fruit or vegetable snack. Try some raisins or a bag of baby carrots or some baby tomatoes. You'd be surprised how popular these snacks can be with other children.

3) Surprise your child with interesting snacks. Other children like to look at what your child is bringing if it varies.

4) And talk about varying: vary the bread the sandwiches are on. Try tortillas for wraps one day and sandwich bread the next. Try to make sure the bread is whole grain.

5) Buy a cool looking water bottle and have your child just fill it up at the fountains in school.

6) Don't forget to leave a snack for your child when s/he comes home from school. Sometimes school lunch can be very early and children are often hungry after school. If your child didn't have cereal for breakfast, try it as a snack.

7) Get rid of juices or high calorie sugar-filled drinks. Fresh or frozen fruit is higher in fiber, chock full of vitamins and lower in calories. Stick with no-calorie drinks and low-fat milk.

8) Limit television watching and computer surfing. The less your child uses a remote or a mouse, the more your child will be physically active, even if it's just walking around the house! But try putting on some music and see if it doesn't spur the whole family to dance around the house.

9) Don't forget the vegetables at dinner. Try two different ones at each meal. Think of half your plate filled with those luscious greens and reds and oranges. Your child won't eat it you say? Keep serving it. It's good for the grown ups too, and a child who never sees a vegetable will never learn to eat it.

10) Finally - but very importantly - no eating in front of the television. There should be a family rule that everyone eats without the television on!

Cathy Nonas is Director of Diabetes and Obesity Programs at North General Hospital in New York City. Her most recent academic publications include two books: Managing Obesity: A clinical guide, (ADA, 2004), the first book for clinicians that combines an overview of the most current science with practical applications for clinical practice; and Outwit Your Weight (Rodale Press, 2002), which includes 200 weight loss behavioral tools.