Julie Whittington, RD

Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian

Back to school nutrition checklist

With the start of school right around the corner, stores are filling up with markers, folders, pencils, bookbags and other back-to-school necessities.  Amidst all the thought going into what color folder to buy for each subject, have you also put thought into planning school year meal and snack ideas for yourself or your kids?


We all know that the start of school also means the start of new schedules.  For many of us, that means no more sleeping till noon. For others, it means more stress of having to be well prepared in everything from doing homework and going to football practice to packing a healthy lunchbox or knowing what to select in the cafeteria.  There are a lot of decisions and plans to be made.


And, while fueling your body with the right types of foods should not have to be a daunting task, for many it is.  So, perhaps you should take some time to decide just how much effort, time and money you can put into eating healthfully.  For example, if time is short, but you have extra cash in your wallet, maybe picking up dinner to go is a good idea.  Or, if you are on a tight budget and not much time to spare, think about setting aside one to two days per week to shop and prep foods for the week.  Making your own frozen meals or doubling recipe size in order to have leftovers for a few days may help you in the mid-week rush, when so many of us tend to put nutrition on the back burner.


Rather than a list of things to avoid, here are some tips to help keep you focused on nutrition while also leaving time for all your activities:


  • When you go out to eat, select grilled chicken, turkey and fish as your main protein source.  If you are a vegetarian or elect to eat some non-meat based meals per week, select legumes (beans, peas, etc.), lowfat dairy and high protein grains.  Most restaurants offer healthy versions of proteins…if you do not see what you want on the menu, ask!
  • Stock up on these handy, healthy, no-prep lunchbox items: 4-6oz 100% juice boxes, fruit cups, applesauce cups, lowfat/low sugar yogurt cups, milk or soymilk boxes, baby carrot baggies, single serve graham cracker or whole grain cracker snacks, apples, bananas, whole grain granola bars, 100% fruit leathers and string cheese.
  • Find a good lunchbox.  Lands End has many great sizes and even versions with thermoses in combination with cooler packs.  Local stores and other online catalogs also offer a good variety.
  • If you play competitive sports, focus on hydration.  Sports drinks, water and diluted 100% juice are good choices for game time and practice time fluids.  At mealtime, don’t forget about the importance of milk.  Lowfat dairy will help with weight management, protein intake, calcium & vitamin D for your bones and other nutrients for overall health.
  • Keep fruits and vegetables in easy-to-grab locations.  If chips, sodas and processed foods are readily available, you and your kids will most likely reach for those first, rather than the healthier foods.
  • Get kids involved in food shopping, meal prep and cooking.  If they are interested in helping out, they will be more likely to try new foods.  Plus, more hands in the kitchen means faster meal preparation and clean up!

While it may take a few times to get in a good routine, a little planning and preparation can go a long way when it comes to good nutrition.  And, it will help the school year go much more smoothly for everyone!


Julie Whittington is a Registered Dietitian in the Lake Norman area.  Reach her at juliewhittingtonrd@yahoo.com.


One comment on “Back to school nutrition checklist

  1. Willie
    August 5, 2008

    I agree. A little planning ahead is the key to making more time and good nutrition for your kids, because no one is going to care of your children the way you do. You also control what, and how much they eat.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: