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Back-to-School Nutrition Tips for Parents


GUMC experts weigh in on how to make sure that kids are eating healthy when they go back to school

August 29, 2006 - Washington, DC -- As students go back to school, they’re not just going back to books, recess, and long-lost friends, they’re often returning to vending machines, cafeteria food that’s overprocessed and fattening, soda machines in the hallways and after-school snacks from the nearest convenience store or fast-food restaurant.

What can parents to do ensure that their kids are getting the best nutrition possible-- whether on their breakfast plates, in their lunchboxes, or when they sit down to dinner after a long day? We asked our experts:

Thomas G. Sherman, Associate Professor of Physiology and Biophysics, who teaches courses on nutrition at Georgetown University Medical Center:

"It is very tempting for parents to start the school year by lecturing their children on the evils of saturated and trans fats, to demonize the carbohydrates that all kids love, to forbid the consumption of soft drinks and simple sugars, or to pack lunches full of whole grain breads and fruits; although well intentioned, this strident advice will probably be ignored.

“Instead, talk to your children about the benefits of good nutrition and get them to participate in the establishment of good dietary practices. Don’t expect 100 percent compliance, and allow for fun foods, but do so in the context of a healthy diet, including your own. Promoting an interest in good food and cooking is as much a part of your child’s education as math and writing, and cannot be expected to be gained by a single lecture.”

Myrtle McCulloch, Ed, RD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Nutrition, Georgetown University Medical Center:

"There are several suggestions for packing childrens’ lunches, which are also endorsed by the Academy of Pediatrics. These include:

* Fruit juices with no added sugars should be limited to six ounces per day. The remaining beverages should be water and low-fat milks (dairy, soy, rice) for children over 2 and whole milk for children under 2.
* Healthy snacks for the lunch box should be mostly whole fruits and vegetables --apples, bananas, pears and other fruits in season, grape tomatoes, zucchini slices, baby carrots.
* “Dessert” could be yogurt, sweetened at home with added berries or flavorings. Store-bought varieties are often too high in sugar. Purchase a large tub of plain yogurt and flavor, sweeten and add fruit as desired, for a delicious snack.
* Keep baked goods to a minimum, and try to buy trans fat free products (check the labels).
* Try to make sandwiches with whole grain breads and tortilla wraps. Fillings can be from left-over chicken or breast of turkey, (chopped and mixed with non-fat mayo for adherence), or peanut butter without trans fats.
* Provide a healthy breakfast before school to ensure alert, productive studying habits. Cereals should be whole grain with little or no added sugars with milk and fresh fruit slices or berries. A boiled egg every other day and a wedge of cheese alternating with egg for healthy protein sources.
* Keep “treats” down to a minimum, including ice cream.
Avoid all sodas, as most are very high in sugars, provide no nutrition and replace the healthier beverages"

About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical Center is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through our partnership with MedStar Health). Our mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis -- or “care of the whole person.” The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing and Health Studies, both nationally ranked, the world-renowned Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization (BGRO).


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