When and What Kids Should Eat

Breakfast, lunch, mid-morning and afternoon snacks, and dinner should fulfill a child’s nutritional needs if they follow dietary guidelines. But skipping meals, excessive snacking, and lack of exercise can throw a kid’s diet out of balance.

Breakfast is the most important meal for school-age kids as well as adults. If kids are hungry midmorning, they will have poor concentration and difficulty with brain function. Breakfast does not need to be limited to traditional breakfast foods. It’s worth taking time to find nutritious foods they’ll eat willingly, rather than to fight through the meal, or let them skip it.

A brown bag is preferable to a school cafeteria lunch. School lunches are typically packed with fat, sodium, and sugar and are overcooked to the point of diminished nutrient content. They usually don’t taste very good, and they can do some damage to the positive food attitudes you have been trying to build.

Select what goes into the brown bag with care. By lunchtime they will be hungry and will need healthy energy, not sugar-packed juice drinks and junk food.

By dinnertime, if they have been eating nutritiously in appropriate quantities all day, they will probably be ready to clean their plates. One way to ensure they’ll eat what’s put in front of them is to make sure they get a daily dose of vigorous exercise to round out the day’s healthy activities.

Essential

Snacks are a useful way to stave off hunger and to ensure all daily nutrients are being consumed. But this only works if the food is nutritious, so keep healthy snacks in the house. High-fiber, low-sugar snacks are ideal and provide enough stamina to get through the homework without nodding off from a sugar crash. Veggie sticks, cheesy popcorn, and cereal are excellent choices.

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