With the first day of school right around the corner, it’s time for parents to start brainstorming about healthy meal ideas for breakfast and lunch that won’t break the bank.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states “breakfast is the most important meal of the day and will allow kids to maintain better focus throughout the day.” For breakfast eaters, its great – but what about non-breakfast eaters?
Linda Arpino, a certified nutritionist and author of Eat Fit, Be Fit: Health and Weight Management Solutions, believes that “if you provide your children with adequate nutrition they will focus better in school and will have an overall healthier lifestyle.”
Through her practice in Rye Brook, Arpino has helped people improve their overall health, active lifestyle, and positive outlook on life.
Arpino believes that the key to having children eat breakfast in the morning is to have a timed dinner schedule. “Parents may have a very late dinner where a child may not eat until 10pm and as a result, they don’t want to eat in the morning when they wake up,” said Arpino. “Having a timed dinner schedule where the child eats two hours after getting home from school is ideal.”
If you’re on the go and don’t have time for a full-blown meal, that doesn’t mean you should go to the quick and easy sugary cereals or granola bars.
“A child’s attention rate deteriorates when they are given foods that are high in refined sugar cereals,” said Arpino. “Granola or chewy bars are a misleading marketing tool – but in reality it is like giving a child a candy bar for breakfast.”
Parents should look for a balance of 5-10 grams of protein, 3-10 grams of fiber, and a fruit or vegetable. “Having a balance with nutrients is really important,” said Arpino. Instead of the breakfast bars, try oatmeal with a sliced apple and a glass of water or fat-free/soy milk or whole-wheat toast and organic peanut butter.
If your child is more of a pickier eater, try Cheerios, multigrain waffles, or whole-wheat English muffins.
Try to experiment and not give your child the same breakfast or lunch everyday because the same peanut butter and jelly sandwich can get boring. “I find that parents may want to give their child the same thing everyday because it is easy,” said Arpino. “But the more variety there is, the more nutrients the children are going to have.”
Just like breakfast, Arpino believes that there should be a grain, whether it comes from pasta, rice or beans, protein from a plant or animal, and vegetable or fruit packed in the lunch bag.
While she is not an advocate for cold-cut sandwiches, Arpino recommends pasta with vegetables, sandwiches with nut-butters or turkey or chicken wrapped up with cheese for lunch.
When packing up the lunch, try to limit the junk food intake and teach healthy eating portions.
Through Arpino’s practice, she has learned that it is important for children to be apart of the food process. “The more you engage your child in the cooking process, whether it is helping them plant in the garden or sitting with them at the table, the healthier the lifestyle the child will have,” said Arpino.