We are nearing the end of summer, and the school year has either already started or is rapidly approaching. If you’re a parent, you might wonder if your child is getting the proper nutrition to stay focused and excel in the classroom. Two opportunities to support your child’s emotional and dietary health are providing a nutritious breakfast and engaging in a family dinner. Often, parents face a variety of barriers to participating in these opportunities.
Here are some quick-and-easy solutions to common barriers parents face when it comes to providing nutritious breakfasts and family dinners during the school year.
Barrier: “I don’t have enough time in the morning to make a nutritious breakfast.”
Solution: Try preparing your child’s breakfast the night before. Set out ready-to-serve foods such as bagels, cut up some fruit or make pancake batter that can be easily poured onto a griddle. If the morning school routine is too hurried for a sit-down breakfast, try preparing to-go breakfasts such as a yogurt parfait with Greek yogurt, assorted fruit and whole-grain granola.
Barrier: “My child isn’t hungry in the morning.”
Solution: If your kids don’t want to eat right when they wake up, keep non-perishable, healthy items in their backpacks for easy access once their appetite kicks in or their class has a snack break. Examples include trail mix, high-fiber cereal bars or a whole-wheat bagel with peanut butter.
Barrier: “My child doesn’t like breakfast foods.”
Solution: Ask them what they like! Breakfast doesn’t need to consist of “traditional” breakfast food to be balanced and nutritious. Serve a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole-grain bread, leftover vegetable pizza with a glass of milk, or a lean turkey wrap on a whole-wheat tortilla.
Barrier: “I don’t have enough time to cook a family meal.”
Solution: Dinner doesn’t need to be gourmet — when in a time crunch, think simple! For example, try a pasta dish or make a simple-but-hearty soup. Another hack is to cook when you do have time, like during the weekend. Make frequently used ingredients such as browned ground beef and cooked chicken in bulk, tripling the amount and then freezing them. Then use them in tacos, soup and more throughout the week.
Barrier: “My family members don’t like the same foods.”
Solution: Let your child choose the meal a couple times a week. Additionally, try a buffet-style dinner or choose-your-own ingredients meal, such as tacos or pizza, that includes at least one option that appeals to everyone.
Lastly, remember to have fun! Getting children involved in the kitchen will excite them to eat the meals and it can foster a positive attitude toward nutrition for the future.