A Dozen Healthy Family Ideas for Breakfast, Lunch, and Snacks

For nutrition advice, QualityHealth consulted Sally Kuzemchak, RD and real mom nutrition blogger. "Eating healthier really doesn't take more time. It's a mindset. A great place to start is to read labels and know what's in your food."

Your child will concentrate better in the classroom, and be less prone to sugar cravings later, if you refuel him in the a.m. with a healthy mix of complex carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and a little bit of fat. Here, some ideas:

1. Think outside the box. Last night's leftovers or previously boiled eggs and a cheese stick, or a piece of fruit with yogurt can be a quick and nourishing alternative to cereal.

2. Oatmeal is a terrific option and keeps little tummies filled up longer. For a balanced breakfast, serve oatmeal with milk, frozen fruit, and a handful of almonds.

3. Cereal can be loaded with sugar so read labels and look for healthier versions. "Remember four grams of sugar is equivalent to one teaspoon. Many popular cereals aimed at kids have 12 grams of sugar or more. That's three teaspoons per serving!" says Kuzemchak.

4. Frozen whole wheat waffles topped with lowfat yogurt or a whole wheat bagel with cream cheese is always a kid pleaser.

5. Check out the frozen food aisle for healthy breakfast food items to try at home. Today you can find healthy versions of French toast (Van's variety) and there's even a frozen tofu scramble wrapped in a whole wheat burrito

6. Yogurt smoothies are delicious and quick to make. Throw half a banana or some fresh (or frozen) berries, lowfat yogurt, and a sprinkle of ground flax seed (your kids won't even know they're in there and flax is a good source of healthy omega-3s) into the blender.

7. Don't restrict carbohydrates. "Carbs are the body's fuel and kids need them. Not eating carbs isn't healthy," says the nutrition expert who is also the mother of two boys ages three and seven. "Breakfast is a good time to serve carbs. Milk has carbs and whole grain bread is a good source of fiber."

Healthier Lunches, Snacks and After-School Tips

8. To save time in the morning, pack non-perishable items such as bottled water and a plastic bag filled with nuts and raisins in lunch boxes the night before. All you'll have left to do in the morning is make sandwiches or heat up a small container of last night's dinner.

9. Be sure to store what you need for lunch making in a central location. Keep brown bags, lunch boxes, plastic bags, plastic utensils and reusable plastic containers handy.

10. Starving after school? Train kids not to throw away uneaten food. Give it to them as an after-school snack. "An uneaten half of a peanut butter sandwich is a nutritious pick-me-up" says Kuzemchak. (Note: Lunch meat based sandwiches won't be safe to eat due to lack of refrigeration throughout the day.)

11. Before serving a snack, think about what in your child's diet might have gone missing that day. If your daughter didn't eat her apple at lunch, offer a piece of fruit," explains the nutrition expert. "Pretzels don't necessarily satisfy a hunger pang after school—they're a little like eating air. Alleviate the problem by adding protein. Have kids dip pretzels in a little peanut or almond butter."

12. Work out the natural way and play in the yard with your kids. "The next time they suggest going outside, don't rush to say "no," says Kuzemchak who admits she's often tempted to stay inside her warm house. "Organized sports aren't necessary for exercise. Just open the door and go out in the yard with a ball or a jump rope. Twenty minutes of fresh air will get everybody moving. It's good for the body and soul."

If you're looking for more great tips to smooth a hectic start-of-the-day, here's How to Improve Your Morning Routine.




Interview with Kathy Peel

Interview with Sally Kuzemchak, RD

The American Academy of Pediatrics

United States Department of Agriculture