When and What Older Kids Should Eat

Breakfast, lunch, midmorning and afternoon snacks, and dinner should fulfill a child's nutritional needs if you follow the 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 for adults. If kids are hungry midmorning, they will have poor concentration and difficulty with mental functioning. Breakfast does not need to be limited to traditional breakfast foods. It's worth taking time to find nutritious foods kids will eat willingly, rather than fighting through the meal or letting them skip it.

A brown bag lunch is preferable to one from a school cafeteria. School lunches are typically packed with fat, sodium, and sugar, and are over-cooked 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 children will be hungry and will need healthy energy, not sugar-packed juice drinks and junk food.

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. Veggie sticks, cheesy popcorn, and cereal are excellent choices. High-fiber, low-sugar snacks provide stamina, so kids can get through their homework without nodding off from a sugar crash.

By dinnertime, if your kids 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 before dinner to round out the day's healthy activities.

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