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Just in Time for Back-To-School: How Parents and Teachers Can Instill Healthy Eating Habits in Their Kids


A poorly nourished student cannot perform his or her best in the classroom, according to Leslie Bonci, R.D., director of sports medicine nutrition at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine.

“Proper nutrition gives children more energy, improves their performance in school and helps them to feel better about themselves inside and out,” said Ms. Bonci. “Parents and teachers should encourage their kids to become responsible eaters who take on active roles in their health. Children who acquire healthy eating habits while they’re young are more likely to make healthy choices on their own, and that can benefit them for the rest of their lives.”

Ms. Bonci offers the following ideas:

Make Healthy Eating a School-Wide Initiative

At school, smart eating habits should be enforced just as much as aptitude testing. Get your entire school involved in a healthy eating initiative to give students even more opportunities to eat healthy at school. Consider these ideas:

Get everyone involved. Set up a school-wide healthy eating event. Have parents, teachers and faculty bring their favorite healthy dishes to the school cafeteria for sampling, and compile a book of these recipes for everyone to take home.
Require a snack break. To ensure that students are eating often enough to maintain a good energy balance, encourage your school to require a morning snack break for late lunch eaters and an afternoon snack break for early lunch eaters.
Improve vending machine policies. Encourage restrictions on how often vending machines are available, or suggest that your school opts for better food choices in the machines altogether. Acceptable items include baked potato chips, pretzels, animal crackers, low-sugar cereal boxes, popcorn, peanut butter crackers, granola/cereal bars, trail mixes, fig bars and graham cracker bites.
Compile a food services survey. With the help of the food services staff, survey students on what they like and dislike about the cafeteria and the types of foods they would like to see added to the menu.
Initiate slow improvements. Slowly but surely, work with administration to improve your school’s overall atmosphere when it comes to nutrition?from upgrading the cafeteria to changing the menu. Be sure to consider students’ suggestions.
Fun Food Activities for Teachers and Students

Proper nutrition has countless benefits, but creating lasting, healthy eating habits needs to be an all-day initiative if it’s going to be successful. Teachers can make healthy eating part of students’ curriculum by assigning these activities:

Assign a food diary. Ask students to record their daily eating habits in a food diary. Students should include when, what and how much they eat, while commenting on how they physically feel and how hungry or full they are throughout the day.
Show the real serving size. Have students pour the amount of cereal they would normally eat into a bowl. Measure these amounts and compare them to the actual serving size on the nutrition label of the cereal box.
Go shopping. Make a grocery list with your students and take them on a short field trip to the supermarket. Prepare the foods in class when you get back.
Let students be their own chefs. Help your students prepare a simple dish themselves. Teach them age-appropriate kitchen survival skills, such as how to correctly measure ingredients, how to read a recipe or how to properly use kitchen utensils.
Test their taste buds. Plan a lesson on the sense of taste and how taste buds work. Then have a taste-testing contest, asking students to name the foods they taste and place them into different flavor categories, like sweet, sour, spicy, salty and bitter.


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