From the community

Keep your kids eating healthy as they go back to school

Posted Sept. 06, 2010, at 10:18 p.m.

By Marcia Kyle
Nutrition and Diabetes Care Center

Summer school break is over. The first few weeks of school are the most challenging. As a parent, I know how hard it is to fit healthy meals into the day.
Breakfast 101
Breakfast eaters have better school attendance and less tardiness. Plus, eating breakfast reduces the likelihood of becoming overweight. Start with something quick, like cereal topped with fruit and milk. Get non-perishable breakfast foods out the night before and set the table. Better yet, have your kids help with the preparation.
Any good food can be a breakfast food, even a slice of pizza or a peanut butter sandwich and low fat milk can be good choices. Try banana or thin slices of peaches on the peanut butter sandwich in place of jam for a sweet surprise.
Have a pack-and-go breakfast ready just in case you run short on time. Dry cereal, nuts and dried fruit packed in individual size bags make for quick backpack fillers. Don’t forget to pack a midmorning snack, too. Yogurt frozen the night before will be thawed by midmorning snack time and won’t need refrigeration.
Brown bag or school lunch?
Help your child plan lunch, whether they buy it or pack it. Have the school’s menu posted on the refrigerator and discuss choices. Ask them if they prefer to pack it and then let them get involved in the planning. The more involved children are in the menu planning process, the greater the likelihood they will eat those carrot sticks.
Variety is the key to keep it interesting. Try making sandwiches with different types of bread. Fill a whole-wheat pita pocket with salad fixings. Raw veggies with dip, fruit, string cheese and yogurt cups are easy, fun and healthy. Be sure to regularly wash the lunchbox or insulated bags. If paper bags are preferred, use a new one every day.
Don’t forget after-school snack attacks
Young children need to eat every two to three hours. Since many schools schedule lunch as early as 11 a.m., an after-school snack is in order. Don’t forget to keep to that schedule on home days. Children who are provided consistent meals and snacks are less likely to develop stress eating habits or obesity as adults.
For the adolescent, have the pantry stocked with healthy after-school snacks that should include some carbohydrates and a little protein. Keep a variety of fresh fruit in a bowl on the kitchen counter and a variety of whole-grain cereals in the cabinet. Include low-fat dairy products like yogurt, cottage cheese and milk to assure strong bones and the added protein for growth.
Remember that your teen is still growing and requires more calories than an adult. It is not surprising that so many teens regularly frequent fast food restaurants and vending machines after school. They are hungry! Keep salad fixings, sliced deli meat, tuna or beans available.
Homemade Hummus
Try this protein-rich spread from the Middle East for a dip for crackers or vegetables.
15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons water
2 garlic cloves
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons oil (olive oil works and tastes best)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 to 3 tablespoons minced parsley (optional)
Puree the chickpeas with the water and lemon juice in a mixer or blender. Add remaining ingredients. Blend to a creamy paste, adding more water if needed. Sprinkle with a little paprika before serving.

Tossed Tuna Salad
Makes about 4 main-dish portions.
Use this light salad to fill a whole-wheat pita pocket.
4 cups lettuce
1 can (15-ounce) white or pinto beans,rinsed and drained
1 can (6-ounce) tuna in water
Chopped tomato, cucumber, and onion (choose amounts to your taste)
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
Low-fat Italian dressing
Toss the lettuce, beans, tuna, and vegetables in a large bowl. Add just enough dressing to coat the salad. Toss again. Sprinkle on the feta cheese and serve.

Quick Quesadillas
Makes 4 to 6 portions.
For whole grain goodness choose soft corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas. Cut up leftover cooked chicken into small pieces and add with the cheese for extra protein.
2- to 6-inch soft corn tortillas
Grated cheese
Plain yogurt
Prepared salsa
Nonstick spray
Spray the nonstick oil in frying pan. Put one tortilla in pan, add the cheese, and cover with the second tortilla. Grill on both sides until the cheese melts. Cut in triangles and serve with yogurt and salsa.

Merry Berry Sundaes
Low fat yogurt in place of ice cream makes this a healthy alternative to the traditional high fat version. To crush graham crackers, place in a plastic bag and invite your child to work away with a rolling pin.
Graham crackers, crushed
Vanilla yogurt
Strawberries, blueberries, and bananas
Wash the fruit. Slice bananas and strawberries. Place all three fruits in a bowl and mix gently. For each sundae, put 3 tablespoons yogurt in a dish. Top with 2 tablespoons fruit and 1 tablespoon graham cracker crumbs.
Marcia Kyle is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Pen Bay Healthcare Diabetes and Nutrition Care Center. Visit www.pbmc.org/diabetes for more information.

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