Back to school nutrition

The first day of school is right around the corner. The lazy days of summer are quickly going to shift to early morning alarm clocks, long school days, and busy afternoon schedules. Below are five tips to get your family off to a great start when it comes to back to school nutrition.


Mornings can often feel rushed as parents and kids scramble to get out the door in time. Set the alarm clock 10-15 minutes earlier to allow time for breakfast. A healthy breakfast should include protein, healthy fat, and low sugar carbohydrate. Eggs, whole grain toast, and avocado will keep your child full until lunchtime. Not enough time to cook? Choose cereals that contain less than 7 grams of sugar per serving. If using alternative milks, select the unsweetened varieties to limit added sugar and artificial flavors. Yogurt is another quick breakfast choice. Just make sure it contains live cultures. Select plain yogurt and add your own fruit, nuts or granola. Smoothies can be a great choice, too. Skip the juice in your smoothie and instead add berries, plain yogurt, nuts, seeds, and collagen powder for wholesome protein and fiber.


Don’t have time to make lunch in the morning? It all comes down to food preparation and planning. Sunday evening is a great time for the family to prepare lunches for the week. Cut up fruit and vegetables, make individual servings of nuts, whole grain crackers, or popcorn to satisfy that need for crunch. Nut butter and jelly sandwiches can be made in advance for the week and placed in the freezer. Think outside the box and make egg salad, tuna salad, or chicken salad sandwiches. Soups are a great idea, too. When it comes to packaged foods, always check the label. Ideally, products should contain five or fewer ingredients. Avoid foods that contain high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, or artificial food dyes. Swap the cookie for a square of dark chocolate. Replace juice boxes with a water bottle to reduce sugar intake.


Our schedules become busy during the school year, especially as the kids get older and are involved in after school activities. Sitting down as a family for dinner is important. If you cannot eat together every night, try scheduling family dinners at least three nights per week. Make the selected dates a priority by writing them on the calendar. The dinner table should always be a cell phone-free zone. This is a great time for the family to reconnect and share a meal together.


Summer is coming to end, which means no more late bedtimes and sleeping in. Start putting the kids to bed a little earlier each night and wake them up earlier in the morning beginning at least one week before school starts. This will help the kids transition to the school day schedule. Having adequate sleep (9-11 hours depending on the child’s age) has a direct effect on a child’s performance in school, appetite, energy, growth and development.


I highly discourage parents and teachers from using food as a reward. Giving a child candy and treats for good grades, good behavior, or finishing his vegetables teaches children to associate feelings of happiness and accomplishment with food. Studies have shown a correlation between rewarding with food and obesity later in life.

Good luck to everyone as the new school year begins!

Sara Gail is a registered dietitian, Daniel Island resident, and mother of two teenagers. She has her own private practice, Sara Gail Nutrition, and specializes in individual counseling, family counseling, and food sensitivity testing. Office location: 126 Seven Farms Drive Suite 160-B.

Daniel Island Publishing

225 Seven Farms Drive
Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

Office Number: 843-856-1999
Fax Number: 843-856-8555


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