It’s already the end of August and schools and colleges around the country are gearing up to start classes — or in some cases have even begun. Healthy eating is often easier during the summer — more fresh vegetables are more easily available during peak produce time and there is just a little more time for things. But with the return of the school year comes the stress of the daily meal planning. Eating healthfully is especially important for kids returning to school. Balanced nutrition and healthy eating enhances children’s energy, sharpens their minds, and promotes overall defense from sickness, all of which are key to a successful academic year.
What do I pack my kid for lunch? And will they really eat it?
What snacks should we have around?
What is my new college freshman going to eat without me?
And worst of all with, with school, activities and your own work all kicking into high-gear, how will I ever get dinner on the table?
This annual stress is a real concern and challenge, but remember, eating food is the fuel we need to function properly and productively, so like anything else, some planning needs to happen or everyday will be a test to get it done.
Here are some great tips to help make this happen:
1. Take the time to sit with your kids and plan the menu for the full week. When kids are part of the process they become part of the solution, actually taking a real interest in the end results.
2. Shop ahead for your meals, stocking up on good snack foods such as fruits, grain bars, pretzels, peanut butter, crackers, veggies and dips and popcorn.
3. Get set the night before for your lunches by cutting vegetables, making dips, packing drinks and snacks, cleaning and cutting fruits or having entrees ready to heat for the morning.
The Freshman 15: Truth or Myth
Studies have show that many new college freshman in that first flush of freedom from family mealtime do indeed gain an average of 2.5 – 15 pounds their first year of college. Why? Kids living on their own for the first time are often distracted by the endless, unlimited and all too often unhealthy eating and lifestyle choices. In the dining hall they can have continual bowls of Captain Crunch cereal and self-serve ice cream and desserts. Add to that the stress of a new living and academic situation, late-night cramming and snacking, experimentation with alcohol and not finding the time to exercise they keep falling prey to the 15 pounds.
Hopefully by the time you are sending your kids off to college, you have helped them learn healthy eating habits and portion control, and after a quick flurry of eating excess, they will settle down into a healthy eating routing.
There’s not much you can do to influence your kids eating from afar. But one thing that you can do as parents is to address the eating situation during the college search. College campus dining has and is continuing to evolve addressing the need for better balance choices in campus dining programs, but there is still a ways to go.
Look for schools that offer healthy eating options: student gardens helping to supply dining facilities, featured foods from local farmers, antibiotic free proteins and sustainable. Sushi bars, Asian grills, juice bars and vegan stations instead of outdated steam tables filled with overcooked meats, frozen vegetables with instant whipped potatoes. Parents and students are paying a premium for their educations so demanding quality food service program, providing smart healthy choices is no longer a request, but should be a requirement for enrollment.