Students need nutrition as much as school supplies

schoolAs Virginia schools open their doors to students, parents should consider more than what they’re stuffing in backpacks.

“A productive school year depends on more than just the supplies in a student’s desk,” said Laura Buxenbaum, a registered dietitian. “Children need to supply their bodies with essential vitamins and nutrients to boost their learning power.”

Buxenbaum, who is assistant director of food and nutrition outreach for The Dairy Alliance and the mother of a third- and fifth-grader, said she is “always looking for fast, healthy and tasty foods to keep my children fueled throughout the day.”

Breakfast “is the most important meal of the day,” Buxenbaum noted. “However, it is still the most skipped meal of the day.”

She explained that studies show breakfast eaters have more energy and ability to focus. Additionally, “research suggests children who eat breakfast have better attendance in school, improved test scores, and superior nutrition and are less likely to be overweight.”

But if breakfast is still too much to tackle when trying to get sleepy children out the door, Buxenbaum suggested that students eat breakfast provided by their schools.

“It’s important for children and young adults to get enough calcium, protein and other nutrients found in dairy products, lean meats and whole grains,” noted Tony Banks, a Virginia Farm Bureau Federationcommodity marketing specialist. “It’s worth the time it takes to provide nutritious meals.”

For those making breakfast at home, there are a variety of options: Blend frozen fruit with lowfat milk for a quick smoothie; sprinkle lowfat cheese on scrambled eggs, and roll them in a whole-grain tortilla; or layer granola, berries and vanilla yogurt for a breakfast parfait.

For a grab-and-go breakfast, “hand the kids a piece of string cheese and a whole-grain granola bar on the way out the door,” Buxenbaum shared.

“Experts agree the best way to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs is through eating foods rich in nutrients,” she explained.

Healthy lunch ideas include wrapping a slice of Swiss cheese, deli ham and Dijon mustard in lettuce leaves and pairing that with fresh fruit and graham crackers. Another suggestion is to let children assemble pizza-inspired lunches by packing pita rounds, English muffins or sandwich thins, as well as pizza sauce and shredded cheese. Alternately, pack carrots, celery sticks and mini tomatoes along with lowfat ranch dressing for dipping. Or roll up ham and turkey slices and pack salsa for dipping.

Parents also can stock up on cups of fruit, boxes of raisins, snack cheeses, yogurt tubes, whole-grain crackers, baked chips and low-sugar granola bars to add to lunches.

For more meal ideas, recipes and nutrition tips, visit


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