Is Chocolate Milk Good For Kids?

Is Chocolate Milk Good For Kids?

My kids like to drink milk, but it’s not something they drink often. After interviewing experts about the benefits and drawbacks of different types of milk for this Fox News story, I was sold on the research that shows cow’s milk is inflammatory, linked to a host of diseases, and it’s not even the best source of calcium in the first place. From time to time, my kids also indulge in chocolate milk but it’s usually for a special occasion. Lately, I’ve been thinking more and more about why school lunch isn’t healthy and its link to childhood obesity, and because it’s on the school lunch menu, it begs the question, is chocolate milk good for kids?

Is Chocolate Milk Good for Kids?

Benefits of drinking chocolate milk

In schools, serving chocolate milk is seen by proponents as a way to encourage kids to drink milk when they otherwise wouldn’t.

According to DairyMAX, a non-profit organization affiliate of the Dairy Council, flavored milk is good for kids for some of the following reasons:

 

  • Kids who drink flavored milk drink more milk overall.
  • Kids who consume flavored milk get more nutrients than kids who don’t drink milk.
  • Kids who drink flavored milk are less likely to drink soda and juice.

When it comes to the benefits of chocolate milk, let’s take a look at the nutritional composition of one cup of  low-fat chocolate milk:

 

Calories: 157

Protein:  8.1 grams

Carbohydrates: 26.1 grams

Dietary fiber: 1.2 grams

Sugars: 24.8 grams

Fat: 2.5 grams

Calcium: 29 %DV

Vitamin D: 25 %DV

Riboflavin:  24 %DV

Phosphorus: 26 %DV

Milk also has other nutrients like vitamins A, B6, B12, magnesium, niacin, selenium and zinc, as well as omega-3 fatty acids.

Related: 5 Foods With Healthy Fats Your Kids Will Love

There’s no doubt chocolate milk has some nutritional value, including calcium, which kids need for strong teeth and bones.

Yet there are far better sources of calcium than milk, which also don’t contain growth hormones, allergenic proteins and antibiotics.

Some include:

  • Chia seeds
  • Black turtle beans
  • Sardines (my kids love them!)
  • Sesame seeds
  • Almonds
  • Rhubarb
  • Tofu
  • Spinach
  • Bok choy
  • Collard greens
  • Salmon
  • Figs
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Spinach
  • Turnip greens

 

Is chocolate milk good for kids as a post-workout recovery drink?

In addition to school lunch, chocolate milk is also often promoted as a post-workout recovery drink for athletes.

Thanks to its’ protein, carbohydrates, fat and water and electrolytes, chocolate milk may be a great recovery drink that rebuilds and refuels muscles, according to research out of the University of Connecticut.

In fact, a June 2018 meta-analysis in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found drinking chocolate milk has similar—or superior—results compared to either water or other sports drinks.

However, it’s important to note that the authors say this isn’t definitive and more research is needed.

Interestingly, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says flavored milk in schools is OK, but instead of sports and energy drinks (which are also high in sugar) after a workout, water is best. Sort of contradictory, right?

 

Drawbacks of drinking chocolate milk

Although it’s a good (but not the best) source of calcium for strong teeth and bones, as you can see, chocolate milk is high in sugar: 24 grams or more sugar than a Mr. Goodbar!

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we limit sugar to no more than 10 percent of our total calories for the day.

For kids, that works out to be about 30 to 35 grams of added sugar for little ones who get between 1,200 and 1,400 calories a day, according to Jessica Cording, a registered dietitian-nutritionist in New York City.

Diets high in sugar are proven to lead to weight gain and obesity, type-2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and heart disease—all conditions that can follow kids throughout their lives.

Chocolate milk, as well as soda, sweetened ice teas, lemonade, sports and energy drinks, fruit punch, and apple juice already make up a majority of the amount of sugar kids get in their diets.

In fact, between 2011 and 2014, 63 percent of kids consumed a sugar-sweetened beverage on any given day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The other drawback of drinking chocolate milk is that some brands add artificial ingredients and additives.

One more thing to consider is the motivation behind serving chocolate milk in schools.

Despite a lack of evidence that milk is the best food to build strong bones—and may actually lead to more fractures—the government mandates schools serve milk at every meal because they can’t get their federal lunch money unless they do, Dr. Mark Hyman states in his book, “Food: What The Heck Should I Eat.

Although studies show that when chocolate milk is removed from school lunch menus, milk consumption drops, I’m not so sure this is a bad thing.

In fact, in February 2019, The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine called on the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to update the new guidelines to include a warning about the health dangers of dairy.

Regardless of where you stand on giving your kids regular milk or chocolate milk, I think it’s a good idea to take stock of their diets overall.

For example, if your child eats a mainly whole foods diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy protein and fats, and whole grains, there’s probably nothing wrong with serving up chocolate milk for an occasional treat or dessert.

If your kids already eat a lot of sugar however, including sneaky sugars like those found in yogurt, cereal, dressings, sauces and dried and canned fruits, chocolate milk isn’t going to do their bodies any good.

 

 

Let me know what you think: is chocolate milk good for kids? Leave me a comment.

Is School Lunch To Blame For Childhood Obesity?

Is School Lunch To Blame For Childhood Obesity?

We all know the sobering statistics: 30 percent of kids in the U.S. are overweight or obese. We also know that consuming high-calorie, low nutrient foods like fast food, processed foods and sugary drinks, spending too much time watching TV or in front of devices, and lack of exercise and sleep are to blame. But there’s another topic that’s been debated in recent years: is school lunch to blame for childhood obesity?

Is cafeteria food healthy?

The USDA’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP), a program that provides federally subsidized school lunch and breakfast, serves more than 30 million kids in the U.S. every day.

Something that surprised me as I was conducting research is that 50 percent of the calories kids consume are at school.

This is particular important for kids who receive free and reduced lunch since what they eat at school can make up a significant amount of the nutrition they get all day.

When the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was passed, the goal was to provide healthier school lunches.

Schools participating in the NSLP made some positive changes to their menus like adding more fruits and vegetables and whole grains, limiting the amount of calories and reducing the amount of sodium in meals.

The good news is that the changes seemed to work.

In April 2019, the USDA released the “School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study,” which found the Healthy Eating Index, or the nutritional quality of school lunches, increased 41 percent between school years 2009-2010 and 2014-15.

Another win is that studies show when school lunches became healthier, kids ate more entrees, vegetables and fruit. 

In December 2018 however, the Trump administration rolled back the school lunch standards, giving schools even more flexibility to serve foods that are within a budget but only worsen our kids’ health.

With the new changes in effect, schools can now offer 1% chocolate milk and strawberry milk and keep the same levels of sodium in meals, instead of reducing it.

School are also only required to have half of the grains on the menu be whole grains.

Whether the schools stick to the old guidelines or not, I’m not convinced that school lunch is healthy to begin with.

Let’s take my kids’ school lunch menu as an example.

Nearly all of the items that are offered are highly-processed, made with factory-farmed animal products, and are frozen foods that come out of a package.

Take a look at some of the foods they offer:

  • crispy chicken patty          
  • general tso’s chicken
  • beef nachos with tortilla chips 
  • hot dogs                  
  • tater tots
  • processed deli meats and cheeses                                                
  • popcorn chicken
  • chicken nuggets
  • mozzarella sticks
  • pizza
  • hamburgers and cheeseburgers
  • French toast sticks
  • Bosco sticks (breadsticks)

There are also several items on the school lunch menu that are high in sugar, including:

Of course, diets high in processed foods and sugar are associated with increased rates of childhood obesity.

Another factor to consider is that with a menu that’s made up of mostly foods like chicken nuggets, mozzarella sticks, macaroni and cheese and other kid-friendly foods, we’re explicitly teaching our kids this is a healthy way to eat.

Instead of having a plate made where fruits and vegetables are front and center, in the school cafeteria, they’re presented in a way that makes them look like they’re a side dish.

Plus, take a look at the nutritional value of some of these foods.

Consider the pancakes that the USDA encourages schools to offer as “breakfast for lunch.” With only 2 grams of protein, 1 gram of fiber and 3 grams of sugar, it’s definitely not what our kids should be eating.


School lunch might be healthy, but fruits and vegetables are being thrown in the trash

Another concern with school lunch is the amount of food that is wasted everyday.

One study estimates that the food thrown in the garbage at school accounts for $1.2 billion annually.

If you’ve had lunch with your kid (something I recommend you do), you know how crowded, loud and chaotic it is, particularly in the elementary schools.

According to a January 2016 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, kids who had 20 minutes or less to eat lunch consumed 13 percent less of their entrees, 12 percent less of their vegetables, and 10 percent less of milk compared to kids who had 25 minutes or more to eat. There was also more food waste for kids who had less time to eat.

Yet more time to eat lunch, quieter cafeterias, and less crowding is associated with higher consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, a January 2019 study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found.

So although kids might be offered healthy school lunches, if they’re not eating them, what’s the point?

If fruits and vegetables are being tossed, kids aren’t getting the fiber and water content these foods provide which satisfy hunger and aid in weight control.

Furthermore, if kids aren’t eating foods that fill them up, chances are they’re making up for it with processed snacks at other times of the day.

Is school lunch to blame for childhood obesity?

A 2009 report out of Northwestern University (before the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed), suggests kids who eat school lunch are more likely to be overweight or obese than those who bring lunch from home.

What’s more, kids who are eligible for free and reduced lunch weigh significantly more than kids who are ineligible by the end of first grade.

The research that has looked specifically at girls is also important to note.

According to an April 2011 study in JAMA Pediatrics, the average Body Mass Index (BMI) for girls from low-income families who consumed lunches in the NSLP was the same for those who did not. However, girls who consumed the lunches gained weight faster and the differences between the two groups were significant. 

What is the school’s role in preventing childhood obesity?

When it comes to the responsibility of schools to offer healthy school lunches and do their part in preventing childhood obesity, parents say they play a significant role.

According to a June 2013 survey by Kaiser Permanente, 90 percent of Americans say schools should play the biggest community role in fighting childhood obesity.

Plus, according to a January 2019 survey by Revolution Foods, a provider of healthy school meals, 66 percent of parents say that while they and the schools should share the responsibility of offering and teaching kids about nutrition, they look to the schools to encourage healthy eating habits and offer healthy, delicious meals throughout the year.

 


Preventing childhood obesity starts with parents

If kids eat lunch every day at school, or even once in awhile, schools certainly play a role in the food that is being served, how it is served and the environment in which it is consumed.

Although I believe that schools have some responsibility for preventing childhood obesity, like anything else when it comes to our kids, childhood obesity starts with us.


Related: Are Parents To Blame For Childhood Obesity?


In fact, a June 2019 study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior suggests that parents play an integral role in preventing childhood obesity.

In the study, researchers looked at two groups of parents: a Health Education group who were mailed information about nutrition and parenting strategies to make changes and the Developing Relationships that Include Values of Eating and Exercise (DRIVE) group, made up of parents who met with a psychologist and nutritionist. This group was encouraged to plan healthy meals, reduce the amount of screen time and move more.

The result? Researchers found kids in the DRIVE group gained less weight than the less intervention group.

Kids learn from their parents so if we’re not serving healthy food, teaching healthy eating habits and encouraging our kids to move more, get sleep and have healthy lifestyle habits—and show them how we do the same— we can’t blame the schools for childhood obesity.

Here are some tips to consider.

Serve fruits and vegetables as much as possible
Do your best to include fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack, which will give your kids the nutrition they need, help satisfy their hunger, and prevent overeating.

Make healthy food visible and accessible
According to the 2010 White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity report, “children’s choices depend on what is most visible and easily accessible.”

So resist the urge to stock your pantry with chips, crackers and cookies and other types of fake food and put healthy food at eye level.

Also, spend 30 minutes or so on the weekend to wash and cut up fruits and vegetables and store them in clear glass containers front and center in the refrigerator.

Cook healthy meals
Studies show kids who consistently eat meals with their families are healthier kids overall and are less likely to become obese.

Cooking healthy meals also shows kids what real food and a healthy plate look like and can help prevent picky eating.

Teach healthy eating habits
Lead by example and show kids how to eat slowly and mindfully, eat sitting at the table (instead of in the car or in front of the TV,) and how to recognize their hunger and satiety signals. Also, avoid using food as a reward.

Move more
Kids should get 60 minutes of exercise everyday and although it can be challenging to find the time, your kids won’t be motivated to be active if you’re not.

Try to take walks after dinner, have an indoor “dance party” on rainy or snow days or play Twister.   

 

What do you think: is school lunch to blame for childhood obesity? Let me know in the comments.

11 Healthy Breakfast Ideas For Kids

11 Healthy Breakfast Ideas For Kids

Growing up in the 80’s, breakfast usually consisted of cereal: Cheerios, Corn Flakes, Cinnamon Toast Crunch (still my favorite!), and Honey Bunches of Oats. Today, so much has changed and although as parents we want meals to be easy and fast, we also need healthy breakfast ideas that are packed with protein, filled with fiber and have plenty of vitamins and minerals.

Another thing that’s changed over the years is that because of our kids’ dietary restrictions, food allergies, food preferences and picky eating behaviors, we as moms have found ourselves focused on things like:

  • Gluten-free
  • Dairy-free
  • Plant-based
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Low-carb
  • High-protein
  • Nut-free

So despite all of the choices we have, we’re all short on time (and patience!) and can’t sift through the tons of healthy breakfast recipes that will work for our kids. As a result, we tend to serve the same breakfasts day after day.

Nevertheless, the old adage, breakfast is the most important part of the day, still holds true today. So busting through the boredom and having healthy breakfast ideas you can put into rotation will help your kids thrive—and make your hectic life a bit easier.

 

Benefits of a healthy breakfast for kids

Serving up a healthy breakfast daily can:

  • Give kids the nutrition the need for healthy growth and development
  • Provide the energy they need at school
  • Help them stay alert and focused
  • Prevent weight gain, childhood obesity and type-2 diabetes
  • Improve their mood and behavior

 

More nutrition

Kids who eat breakfast everyday have a higher daily consumption of key nutrients such as folate, calcium, iron and iodine than those who skip breakfast, according to a August 2017 study in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Lower risk of weight gain and childhood obesity

According to a March 2016 study in the journal Pediatric Obesity, kids who ate breakfast at school, even if they already had breakfast at home, were less likely to be overweight or obese than those who didn’t eat breakfast.

Although I don’t think we should encourage our children to eat two breakfasts, eating even a small, healthy breakfast can go a long way.

Lower risk of type-2 diabetes

According to a September 2014 study in the journal PLOS Medicine, 9 and 10-year-old children who reported regularly skipping breakfast had 26 percent higher levels of insulin in their blood after a fasting period and 26 percent higher levels of insulin resistance, a risk factor for type-2 diabetes, than children who ate breakfast every day.

A healthy breakfast helps to balance your child’s blood sugar and give him a steady amount of energy until lunchtime.

Better mood, behavior and body image

You know the feeling when you’re hangry: you’re tired, irritable and on edge. And your kids are no different.

When kids skip breakfast, their energy and blood sugar dips, which affects their mood and behavior. If your kids are snappy with you, have frequent meltdowns or seem cranky, try feeding them a healthy breakfast.

What’s more, a February 2019 study in the journal Social Work In Public Health found teens who eat breakfast with their families have a stronger body image than those who skip the meal.

Improved academic performance

Kids need to eat a healthy breakfast because it’s nearly impossible to stay focused and concentrate on anything when you’re hungry.

Breakfast fuels their bodies with the key nutrients they need to listen, learn, understand, complete tasks and boost their overall function at school.

In fact, a June 2016 study in the journal Public Health Nutrition, which included 5,000 kids, found those who ate breakfast and those who ate a better quality breakfast, were twice as likely to do better in school than those who didn’t.

 

What should a healthy breakfast include?

 

Vegetables

I know it sounds like a pipe dream, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend kids eat vegetables at every meal and snack. Depending on your kid’s age, they need between 1 and 3 cups of vegetables a day.

Serving vegetables at breakfast is actually a great opportunity to teach kids what a healthy meal looks like. And the more opportunities they have to eat vegetables, the more likely they will.

When kids eat vegetables at breakfast, they’ll get the nutrition they need for their  growth and development and to help prevent serious health conditions as they get older. Vegetables are also filled with fiber which will help them stay satiated and may prevent weight gain.

Related: 7 Ways to Feed Kids Vegetables for Breakfast


Fruit

Fresh, whole fruit has plenty of vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber and water which kids not only need to thrive, but promotes feelings of satiety and can prevent constipation.

Protein

Protein helps to build muscle, carry nutrients through the body, regulate hormones, and strengthen skin and bones. Making sure to include protein with breakfast staves off hunger, balances blood sugar and can prevent weight gain.

Whole grains

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 50 percent of the grains we eat be made up of whole grains, which are a great source of B vitamins, zinc, magnesium and fiber. Unlike white, refined grains, whole grains do a better job of satisfying hunger and balancing your kid’s blood sugar levels.

Healthy fats

We now know that fats are not the villain they were made out to be for years. Healthy fats like those found in fish, avocado and nuts are a vital source of energy for our kids and help satisfy their hunger.

Fats are essential for healthy cell membranes, they support kids’ brains and the growth and development of their nervous systems, and help their bodies absorb fat-soluble vitamins like  A, D, E, and K. Fat are also necessary to make hormones and immune cells and they help regulate inflammation and metabolism.   

 


Healthy breakfast ideas with eggs

With nearly 30 grams of protein in one large egg, plus several key nutrients like potassium, vitamin D, B vitamins, lutein and omega-3 fatty acids, eggs are one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids.

Hard-boiled eggs

Boiling a batch of hard-boiled eggs in the beginning of the week is the ultimate time saver and ensures you’ll have a quick and healthy breakfast that’s also a great option when you’re rushing out the door in the morning. Pair eggs with veggies, a fruit and whole grain option and you’re set.

Egg muffin cups

The great thing about egg muffin cups is that you can make a batch and have a quick and easy option ready to go. You can also customize the egg muffins with leftover vegetables and your choice of meat and cheese—or none at all.

Try this recipe: Veggie Egg Muffins

Frittata or quiche

Using eggs in a frittata, quiche or breakfast casserole is easy and a great way to serve vegetables for breakfast. Try this recipe: Broccoli, Cheddar & Spinach Frittata

Breakfast burrito

A breakfast burrito with eggs, veggies and beans is a great healthy breakfast to have on hand.

Beans are an excellent source of protein and fiber which will give your kids plenty of energy and brain power until lunch time. Also, the more often you serve them—at breakfast or at other meals—the more likely your kids will eat them.

Try putting out beans with their favorite extras: salsa, avocado, cheese and a whole wheat tortilla and let them make their own breakfast burrito.

 

Healthy breakfast ideas without eggs

Healthy overnight oats

Cooking oatmeal in the morning takes time but putting together individual mason jars of overnight oats takes just a few minutes. Start with rolled oats (I like Bob’s Red Mill) and add milk, fruit and chia seeds and you have a healthy and easy egg-free breakfast ready by the time your kids wake up.

Baked oatmeal

Baked oatmeal is my (and my kids’) new favorite way to serve up a healthy breakfast. Instead of waiting for oatmeal to cook on the stovetop, you simply add your ingredients to a loaf pan, bake it the night before and you have breakfast for a few days. Try this recipe: Baked Oatmeal With Pumpkin and Bananas.

Healthy breakfast smoothies and smoothie bowls

I’m not a fan of pureeing vegetables and sneaking them into meals so kids will eat them, but when you make a green smoothie or a smoothie bowl, it’s no secret what they’re eating.

Smoothies are a great way to feed kids vegetables for breakfast and get several servings in at once. A good rule of thumb when making smoothies or juices is to use 80 percent vegetables and 20 percent fruit. Add protein like your kid’s favorite nut or seed butter and serve with whole grain toast.

Yogurt parfait

Greek yogurt is an excellent source of calcium and protein and a parfait for breakfast couldn’t easier. Since most yogurt brands have plenty of added sugar, stick with plain Greek yogurt and add fresh fruit like raspberries and a low-sugar granola for extra fiber.

Related: How To Choose a Healthy Kids’ Yogurt


Avocado toast

Avocado is chock full of nutrition, and high in fiber and healthy fats. When it’s paired with whole grain toast and vegetables and fruit, it also makes for a healthy and easy egg-free breakfast.


Protein bars

Grabbing a protein or breakfast bar is quick and simple, but most bars are high in sugar and contain artificial ingredients. Read labels carefully and look for those with protein, fiber and low sugar.  Or, make your own breakfast bars with whole ingredients like oats, dried fruit and nuts or seeds.

Healthy breakfast pudding

Pumpkin is one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids so I was so excited when—after interviewing Danielle Walker of AgainstAllGrain.com—I discovered her delicious recipe for Paleo Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding.

If you’re trying to avoid gluten or simply looking for new breakfast options, try it out. My kids loved it and it was so quick and easy to make.


What are some of your favorite healthy breakfast ideas? Let me know in the comments.

[VIDEO] 10 Healthy Back To School Tips For Moms  These healthy back to school tips will help to keep you and your kids healthy and stress-free.

[VIDEO] 10 Healthy Back To School Tips For Moms

These healthy back to school tips will help to keep you and your kids healthy and stress-free.

When my daughters go back to school in a few short weeks, I’m trying to prepare myself for what happens every school year: they get sick.

Within weeks of returning to school last year, my older daughter would get a fever one day and then be fine the next. Despite my nagging to “wash your hands” and “keep your hands out of your mouth,” she missed several days of school.

I don’t want her to be sick of course, but as a working mom, all those sick days at home makes work challenging and adds another layer of stress to my already chaotic life.

It turns out, I’m not alone in feeling the back to school stress, especially when it comes to everything that has to get done. According to a survey by Coupons.com, 50 percent of moms with kids in school say shopping for and packing school lunches makes them feel stressed.

So here’s the good news: there are some easy, healthy back to school tips that can go a long way in helping to keep your kids healthy and you from pulling your hair out. Here are 10.

 

 

1. Don’t overthink healthy back to school lunches

Those photos of beautifully crafted bento boxes for school lunches that fill up your Instagram feed can definitely give you some inspiration, but who has time to make fruit into animal shapes and sandwiches into pinwheels?

Instead, stick to the basics.

Have a list of go-to foods that are healthy and quick, re-purpose leftovers, batch cook ahead of time, and set aside individual portions of grab and go snacks.

Also, focus on whole foods instead of processed foods: fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources, beans and legumes, whole grains and calcium-rich foods.

Related: 7 Hacks for Stress-Free School Lunches

2. Teach kids to wash their hands

Kids under the age of 6 in particular get 8 to 10 colds a year, not including the countless fevers, infections and stomach bugs they’ll get this year.

Although it’s probably inevitable that your kids will get sick, one thing you’ll want to do your best to avoid is the flu.

Last year, despite my entire family getting our flu shots, we still got the flu and it was horrible. In kids under 5, the flu can be dangerous, even deadly.

The flu spreads quickly, especially because at school, kids are in close contact.

So one of the best healthy back to school tips to garner is to teach your kids the importance of washing their hands.

Teaching your kids proper hand washing can prevent the spread of infection and cut down on the amount of times they get sick.

Show kids how to wash with warm water and soap, wash all surfaces of their hands including their fingernails and in between their fingers, and wash while singing “Happy Birthday” twice.

Also, remind kids to sneeze in their arm—not their hands—to prevent the spread of germs.

3. Don’t forget about healthy back to school snacks

According to a survey published in 2014 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 6 in 10 children don’t eat enough fruit and 9 in 10 don’t eat enough vegetables.

Yet studies show eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower blood pressure, balance blood sugar, prevent weight gain and childhood obesity, reduce the risk for eye and digestive problems, heart disease and stroke, and prevent certain types of cancer.

Of course, when kids eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables it lays the foundation for healthy eating throughout their lifetimes.

So when it comes to healthy back to school snacks, do your best to swap crackers, pretzels and fruit gummies for fruits and vegetables.

 

Looking for crazy, easy ways to get your kids to eat their vegetables? Check out my video:

 

 

4. Add probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods

Another way to boost your child’s immunity is by serving up plenty of foods with probiotics, or the healthy, live microorganisms found in the gut. Probiotic-rich foods include yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and naturally fermented vegetables, including sauerkraut and pickles.

It’s also a good idea to include foods rich in prebiotics, which are non-digestible food ingredients that work with probiotics to boost your child’s immunity.

Prebiotic rich foods include onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, bananas and Jerusalem artichokes.

5. Making sleep a priority is one of the best healthy back to school tips

According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2014 Sleep in America poll, many kids don’t get enough sleep and some get less than their parents think they need. 

Not only can lack of sleep affect your kid’s energy levels, mood and behavior, and performance in school and on the field, sleep deprivation can also affect their weight.

When kids are sleep-deprived, the hormones that affect appetite can get all out of whack.

Ghrelin, “the hunger hormone” which tells our bodies to eat, ramps up while leptin, a hormone that decreases appetite, slows down, making it more likely that your kid will overeat.

Power down devices 1 to 2 hours before bed time, use black-out shades and help your kids wind down before bed with a story, prayer and some snuggle time.

5. Carve out time for breakfast

According to an August 2017 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, only about one-third of kids eat breakfast every day, 17 percent never eat breakfast and the rest only eat breakfast a fews days a week.

Yet kids who eat breakfast everyday have a higher daily consumption of key nutrients such as folate, calcium, iron and iodine than those who skip breakfast, the same study found.

Eating a healthy breakfast gives kid the energy and focus they need to get through the day, and they may even do better in school.

In fact, a June 2016 study in the journal Public Health Nutrition, which included 5,000 kids, found those who ate breakfast and those who ate a better quality breakfast, were twice as likely to do better in school than those who didn’t.

Eating breakfast is also associated with a lower risk for obesity and serious health conditions.

According to a March 2016 study in the journal Pediatric Obesity, kids who ate breakfast at school, even if they already had breakfast at home, were less likely to be overweight or obese than those who didn’t eat breakfast.

And a September 2014 study in the journal PLOS Medicine found 9 and 10-year-old children who reported regularly skipping breakfast had 26 percent higher levels of insulin in their blood after a fasting period and 26 percent higher levels of insulin resistance, a risk factor for type-2 diabetes, than children who ate breakfast every day.

If your kids don’t have an appetite in the morning or don’t have enough time, try moving back their bed time and getting them up earlier.

Related: 7 Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat a Healthy Breakfast

6. Carve out time for breakfast

According to an August 2017 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, only about one-third of kids eat breakfast every day, 17 percent never eat breakfast and the rest only eat breakfast a fews days a week.

Yet kids who eat breakfast everyday have a higher daily consumption of key nutrients such as folate, calcium, iron and iodine than those who skip breakfast, the same study found.

Eating a healthy breakfast gives kid the energy and focus they need to get through the day, and they may even do better in school.

In fact, a June 2016 study in the journal Public Health Nutrition, which included 5,000 kids, found those who ate breakfast and those who ate a better quality breakfast, were twice as likely to do better in school than those who didn’t.

Eating breakfast is also associated with a lower risk for obesity and serious health conditions.

According to a March 2016 study in the journal Pediatric Obesity, kids who ate breakfast at school, even if they already had breakfast at home, were less likely to be overweight or obese than those who didn’t eat breakfast.

And a September 2014 study in the journal PLOS Medicine found 9 and 10-year-old children who reported regularly skipping breakfast had 26 percent higher levels of insulin in their blood after a fasting period and 26 percent higher levels of insulin resistance, a risk factor for type-2 diabetes, than children who ate breakfast every day.

If your kids don’t have an appetite in the morning or don’t have enough time, try moving back their bed time and getting them up earlier.

Related: 7 Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat a Healthy Breakfast

7. Move more

My kids are constantly in motion and although I take them to the park and for bike rides, I still find getting them 60 minutes exercise a day a challenge.

Nevertheless, I do my best to make sure they get some form of exercise in every day.

Exercise has so many benefits for kids, and as it turns out, can improve their gut health and immunity. In fact, a study in the journal Gut shows exercise may diversity gut microbes.

During the dog days of winter or on snow days when you can’t get out, put on music and have a dance party or enjoy a game of Twister.

8. Help kids cope with anxiety

Most healthy back to school tips focus on physical health, but let’s talk about mental health for a second.

According to a June 2018 study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, between 2007 and 2012 the amount of children between ages 6 and 7 with anxiety increased by 20 percent.

There are a lot of factors that play into a person’s propensity to develop anxiety and depression like genetics and family history, trauma and environment.

As someone who has had anxiety since childhood, I can tell you it’s not a crutch or a character flaw.

Anxiety is real so recognizing the signs is key.

Teaching kids techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and meditation can all be helpful. If you suspect your child has an anxiety disorder or you simply need help coping, seek out a therapist who can offer treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Related: 5 Reasons Why Healthy Eating Makes Kids Happy

9. Make an appointment for an eye exam

Since vision problems can sometimes look like problems with focus and concentration or reading difficulties, and they can go undiagnosed. That’s why it’s a good idea to get a routine eye exam.

Another factor to consider is the effects electronic devices are having on kids’ eye health. According to a 2015 survey by the American Optometric Association (AOA), 41 percent of parents say their kids spend three or more hours a day using digital devices.

Digital eye strain can cause burning, itchy or tired eyes, headaches, fatigue, loss of focus, blurred vision, double vision or head and neck pain, according to AOA.

Research also suggests that the blue light these devices emit may affect vision and lead to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which can cause blindness down the line.   

Related: 5 Best Foods For Healthy Eyes

10. And finally, one of the best healthy back to school tips? Learn to say “no”

Between homework, after-school activities and coordinating schedules, if you’re like me, you don’t stop all day.

I also find nearly every week there are extras that the schools ask you to help out with like school fundraisers, classroom parties and field trips.

I particular dislike “crazy hair day,” and “silly socks day,” that I just don’t have time for.

My advice is to get good at saying no. Sure, homework is a priority, but running the bake sale? Not so much.

Also, carve out some me-time anywhere you can get it.

Maybe it’s your favorite early morning class at the gym, meeting a friend for coffee on Saturday morning, or just taking 10 minutes to meditate after the kids go to sleep.

Whatever me-time looks like for you, put your oxygen mask on first. It will make you a better mom and better equipped to handle the school year. 

10 Easy and Healthy School Lunch Ideas  These nutritionist-approved easy and healthy school lunch ideas will make back-to-school stress-free.

10 Easy and Healthy School Lunch Ideas

These nutritionist-approved easy and healthy school lunch ideas will make back-to-school stress-free.

When it comes to packing a healthy school lunch, do you often find yourself in a rut, relying on the same ho-hum foods every day?

I certainly do.

Call me boring, but in an effort to make things easy for myself and my husband, I cook a large batch of lentil stew on Sunday that lasts most of the week.

We definitely switch things up a bit and use leftover chicken or salmon, make egg salad or crack open a can of sardines, but the key for us is that school lunch is healthy, quick and easy.

The funny thing is that my kids actually don’t seem to mind eating the same school lunches over and over again.

Still, I know that exposing them to a wide variety of foods is important if I want to raise kids who are healthy, adventurous foodies.

So on a quest for creative, easy and healthy school lunches, I found some great options.

All of these ideas were developed from nutritionists, so they have a guaranteed health stamp of approval, and they’re super quick to boot.

Related: 10 Best Tips For Packing a Healthy School Lunch