Back to School: Healthy Eating for Kids

By "Dr. Dae" Daemon Jones, ND, HealthyDae's Naturopathic Medical Center

It’s the end of summer and you know what that means—it’s officially the start of back to school season. But between your trips to pick up school supplies, you may want to focus on something that can have a big impact on your child’s academic performance: their diet.

Back-to-school is a great time to step back and see if your child is getting the food she needs to achieve peak performance. And Dr. Daemon Jones has information, tips and insight to help you give your child nutritious “brain food” to help them with school success.

With childhood obesity at epidemic levels, it’s no wonder that surveys of United States children have shown that 25 percent of school aged children get one serving of vegetable per day, and only 50 percent of school-aged children get one serving of fruits per day. The recommended daily allowance for fruits and vegetables for school age children, or adults for that matter, is 5 to 9 servings per day—much higher than what kids are actually eating!

Fruits and vegetables, along with a whole foods diet, have been shown to increase immune function—which means less sick days at school. This diet also has been shown to increase athletic performance, focus and concentration, and decreases the exacerbation of chronic diseases, like asthma. So when choosing meals and snacks for your children, let fruits, vegetables and whole foods be your guide.

A large part of the obesity problem stems from children eating foods like sodas, refined foods, processed foods, junk foods and fried foods. These foods are low in nutrients and high sugars and in calories – which pack on the pounds. Lack of exercise is another major factor to be considered in children's obesity.

The best way to combat obesity is to get your children excited around eating a whole foods diet that has a great balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes. These foods are high in vitamins, nutrients, including phytonutrients, fiber, proteins and healthy fats. Lean meats, chicken, and fish are good choices for proteins.

The key to changing children's diets is to change the options of food they can choose from on a daily basis. One method is to start by changing the snacks that they are accustomed to eating. Remove the junk foods from their lunches and in between meal and replace them with healthier options. If you stop bringing snacks and junk food in the house they will create the habit of eating better with the food is in the house. Fruits and vegetables are great snacks for children especially in the wake of the obesity epidemic that our country is facing.

Here are some suggestions on how to get your children to eat more fruits and vegetables:

  • Cut up fruits into bit size pieces and put them on a tray or in containers where they have access to see them and eat them.
  • Vegetables, carrot sticks, snap peas or zucchini sticks can be a wonderful snack by having a tasty salsa or yogurt dip with cinnamon or other spices.
  • If your children like pizzas or quesadillas then use whole wheat tortillas with hummus, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, or bell peppers tucked inside.
  • Smoothies go over well for breakfast time as well as snack time, children love to be able to pick the fruits that you will use to make your snack.
  • Finally children mimic what their parents eat if they see you eating more fruits and vegetables they will too.
Creating new healthy eating patterns will help them to lose weight because whole foods have fiber, protein and healthy fats that fill the stomach and cause satiety for the child. In three months time, your child will have more energy and weigh less, because they are consuming more nutrients and less calories over time.

You will be happy and your child will be healthy. Everyone wins!

For help on more specifics for your child consult your local Naturopathic Physician. Find a Naturopathic Physician in your area.