Alice Smith

Where did the summer go? It seems like the school bell just rang dismissing the students for the summer and not it is time to go back to school! Good nutrition is imperative for children’s health and August is Kid’s Eat Right Month.

To start the day children, and all of us, need to eat in the morning to “break the fast” of overnight when we were sleeping. Morning is a the time to start fueling your student to learn better all day. Always serve breakfast, even if it must be “on the run.” Some ideas for a quick, healthy breakfast include: fruit, milk, bagel, cheese toast, cereal, or a peanut butter sandwich. There are several easy to make egg dishes that can be made, frozen and reheated for a quick breakfast.

Many children like to take their lunch at least part of the time. While pre-packages ready to eat lunches are easy, they are often high in calories and sodium so not as healthy as we would like.

Today, it’s imperative that children’s lunchboxes contain a well-balanced, healthy, and appetizing selection of foods that can be kept cool until eaten. Appetizing is probably the key as we want children to eat the foods we pack.

Here are some tips to help you pack healthy, safe, and appetizing lunches. Introduce children to a variety of whole-grain breads and rolls. If your child doesn’t like sandwiches, try an unassembled one they can eat in stages.

Try “planned-overs” like hearty soups, chili, or spaghetti from the night before. Use a container that can keep foods hot. Veggies and dip are always a hit. Cut up carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, or cauliflower and pack with a small container of your child’s favorite low-fat dressing.

Pack cheese sticks by cutting your own. Children need calcium each day, so include cheese even if milk is served. Offer beverages like water and low-fat milk; 100% fruit juice should be an occasional beverage.

Minimize the salty and sweet treats in the lunch bag. Items like chips, “fruit” roll-ups, and cookies in the lunch bag make it tough for small stomachs to get all the nutrients needed for good health and growth.

When you try something new include a favorite item along with new foods. This way if the child doesn’t care for the new item, he or she will still have the old favorite.

Involve children when planning lunch bag menus. They’ll look forward to lunchtime knowing they’ve helped create the menu. Older children can also pack their own lunches from a designated list of lunch items.

Keep foods safe. Use insulated bags with reusable ice packs to keep foods cool. Use a lunch box with rigid sides to keep foods from getting crushed. Remind the child to bring the lunch bag home daily to clean, refreeze and repack.

Some school-age kids go right from class time to sports practices or games. Having a healthy snack might be just what they need to boost their energy. You can also take advantage of big appetites after school by serving healthy snacks, such as fruit, veggies and dip or humus, yogurt, turkey or chicken sandwiches, cheese and crackers, or mild and cereal.

The start of school is also a good time to work on having at least one family meal a day. A family meal simply means that the family eats together, without electronics at the table. This is the time for positive family interaction, modeling good eating habits to children and fun conversations. If sports and work schedules do not make a family dinner possible consider having a family breakfast.

How about a quick and easy Egg Muffin for a special breakfast treat? Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray muffin tin with nonstick spray. Prepare and mix together 2 cups of diced vegetables, Choose favorites such as broccoli, red and green peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, and onions. The vegetables can be chopped and mixed the evening before. You can also add chopped ham or cooked sausage. Beat together 6 eggs, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder. Pour eggs into the muffin tin and bake 20-25 minutes. Remove the baking tin from the oven during the last 3 minutes of baking. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the muffins and return the tin to the oven. Bake until the temperature reaches 160°F or a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. You can also bake in an 8x8 pan for 20 minutes. This makes 6 serving. Each about 60 cents. Serve with toast and fruit. Left overs can be refrigerated and reheated and served in a warmed tortilla.