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Good Eats for School-Age Kids

How you feed your kid now can inspire healthy eating habits for a lifetime.

Kids in the Kitchen continued...

Giving kids a say in what they eat encourages the autonomy they crave.

Allow your child some veto power in the supermarket, but make sure they choose among healthy foods. For example, let your child choose between bananas and kiwis, or oatmeal and other whole-grain cereals. At home, encourage your children to prepare healthy brown-bag lunches and easy snacks.

Gather as often as possible for family meals, particularly when your child has been involved in making them. Research shows dining together without distractions -- including the TV -- translates into a better diet and lower chance of overeating, says Economos. Plus, it gives you and your child a chance to talk.

Bet on Breakfast

Mornings can be chaotic, leaving breakfast -- and better nutrition -- in the lurch. Nicklas' research bears that out. Kids who eat breakfast take in more of the nutrients they need, she says. Breakfast skippers typically do not make up for the missed opportunity the morning meal provides.

What you eat for breakfast matters. Cereal (particularly whole-grain types) with milk and fruit make a quick meal that offers an array of nutrients, including carbohydrate, fiber, calcium, iron, folic acid, and zinc.

Cereal can be good for the waistline and the heart, too.  A 2009 Journal of the American Dietetic Association study that followed 660 boys and girls ages 8 to 10 for an average of seven and a half years found a link between eating cereal and a healthier body weight and lower levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides (fat in the blood.)

Other Than Cereal

There's no need to limit breakfast foods to traditional choices such as ready-to-eat cereal, however. The following healthy, kid-friendly breakfasts will beckon kids to the table (many are portable feasts to eat on the way to school or during morning snack time):

  • Half a whole-grain bagel spread with almond, peanut, soy, or sunflower seed butter and topped with raisins; milk
  • 1 small slice of leftover cheese pizza; 100% orange juice
  • 8 ounces low-fat fruited yogurt; whole-grain toast; 100% juice
  • Fruit and yogurt smoothie; whole-grain toast
  • Scrambled egg stuffed into half a whole-grain pita pocket and topped with shredded cheddar cheese and salsa or ketchup; 100% juice
  • Waffle sandwich: two whole-grain, toasted waffles spread with almond, peanut, soy, or sunflower seed butter; milk

Snack Attack!

School-age children are notorious noshers. Not to worry, as long as between-meal snacking is nutritious. The best snacks offer significant nutrients for the calories they provide.

Hungry kids will eat what you have on hand, so stock the kitchen with the fixings for healthy snacks like these, many of which are great to take on the go:

  • Trail mix made from low-sugar cereal, dried fruit, chopped nuts, and mini chocolate chips
  • Sandwiches prepared with whole-grain bread
  • Hummus or peanut butter and whole-grain crackers
  • Fruit and yogurt for dipping
  • Bowl of whole-grain cereal and low-fat milk
  • Vegetables and low-fat dip
  • Reduced-fat mozzarella cheese sticks and low-fat crackers
  • Low-fat microwave popcorn and 100% juice
  • Roasted soybeans
  • Low-fat cottage cheese and whole-grain crackers
  • Nuts
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Reviewed on July 20, 2011

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