Nutrition Matters – August 2019

— Written By

Family & Consumer Sciences, N.C. Cooperative Extension of Greene County

August is a big month to recognize nutrition for youth health. A healthy diet is important for children and adolescents because it promotes needed growth and development and it prevents health problems later in life. To recognize Kids Eat Right Month, here are some tips for helping your children eat right every day:

Quick Breakfasts: Most school-aged children are awake for school early in the morning, making it difficult to eat a good breakfast or even eat breakfast at all. Set your children up for success from the start of their days by giving them nutritious breakfast options. Try to include a fruit or vegetable, whole grain (such as whole wheat toast, cereal, or an english muffin), and source of protein (such as eggs, milk, or yogurt) or unsaturated fat (such as nuts, avocado, and plant-based oils). You may think eggs take too long to cook in the morning, but there are ways to make it easier to eat eggs for breakfast. One way is to bake eggs in a muffin tin in advance and refrigerate them until you’re ready to reheat them. Also, you can cook scrambled eggs in the microwave instead of on the stovetop. If you like hard-boiled eggs, you can make a whole batch in advance and refrigerate them. Hard-boiled eggs make a great choice any time of the day!

At School or Packed Lunches:   Whether your child brings a lunch from home or eats a school-provided lunch, there are many ways your child can get the nutrition they need to keep them nourished and focused. When packing a lunch, pack it the night before and refrigerate it so the lunchbox is cold when your child leaves for school, saving valuable time in the morning! Also, choose an insulated, soft-sided lunchbox and use frozen ice packs to keep cold foods cold. Use an insulated container like a thermos for hot foods like soup. If possible, have your children refrigerate cold foods once they get to school. When buying lunch at school, children should avoid choosing packaged foods like chips and cookies. Encourage kids to choose grilled or baked protein options over fried, and load up on vegetables and fruits. Also, encourage them to choose drinks like water or milk instead of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Family Dinners:  Dinnertime is a great time to get kids involved with cooking. As with any meal or snack have your children play a role in shopping, deciding what to eat and help in preparing the food encourages them to eat the nutritious foods you buy. Preschoolers can help with gathering kitchen tools and ingredients, measuring ingredients, and mixing things together. Show them the recipe along the way to get them acquainted with following a recipe before they learn how to read. Young school-aged children can start learning how to use a plastic knife. Have them help cut softer fruits and vegetables like bananas and mushrooms instead of harder ones like apples and carrots. This is also a good age to have children start setting the dinner table for you. Preteens and teens, with enough practice may be able to cook whole meals on their own or can at least assist with most steps involved in making dinner. Eating dinner as a family can help children do better in school, promote high self-esteem, lower risk of obesity, and much more! It’s also a great opportunity to teach children table manners and how to have a conversation without cell phones and other electronics. Eating nutritious, satisfying foods is important for your children’s health, but time spent eating with your family is also a key part of their health, so try and eat together as a family every night. Remember to set a good example for your children. Model healthy eating, physical activity and getting enough sleep to encourage them to do the same. You’re their biggest role model so take advantage of this and help them eat right!

For additional foods, health and nutrition information contact Shelina Bonner, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Greene County Center at (252) 747-5831.