Henry Mayo nutritionist weighs in on healthy back-to-school snacks

File Photo: Ryder Doremus, 5, eats his lunch as Koa Brown, 5, talks to him at Charles Helmers Elementary School on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018.

With the new school year recently kicking off, diet and nutrition experts both around the country and in Santa Clarita are reminding parents of the importance of sending their students off to school with both breakfast and healthy snacks.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently noted, according to a news release distributed by Texas A&M, that there are multiple studies linked benefits to children eating a balanced breakfast.

“Among these are evidence that children who eat breakfast have a lower (body mass index) than those who skip breakfast, and those who have breakfast have more energy and concentration. And this may lead to better academic performance,” said Dr. Jenna Anding, professor and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service nutrition specialist.

And with one in three children around the country ages 2-19 being either overweight or obese in the United States, according to Maria McIntosh, a dietician and clinical nutrition manager with Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. But even so, breakfast and healthy snacks are becoming even more critical to a students success in personal wellness and academia.

“Giving kids snacks for school is fine, however, it’s the type of snacks that parents are giving their kids for the school days that parents should be looking at,” said McInosh.

McIntosh said it’s important for kids to eat breakfast, even if it’s just grab and go. And as for lunch, parents should be looking at incorporating more fruits and vegetables into their kids sack lunches.

“Instead of chips, try adding some fruits or olives or unsalted nuts,” said McIntosh, adding that even adding lettuce to a sandwich can help get vital greens into a developing child.

However, not only does packing healthy snacks help them in the short-term, but can help children in the long term as well.

“It starts with you being a role model and you kind of have to do it together as a family,” said McIntosh. “You can go shopping together and they can help, and you can see what tastes good to them.”

Shopping together, and letting kids see what healthy foods look like and what they might like, helps them develop good habits and an expanded palette that will benefit them later on in life, McIntosh said.

McIntosh said that what parents need to keep in mind, whether its taking them to school in the morning or practice in the evening, is always “how much and what kind” of food.

“It starts from when their younger,” she said. “If you expose them to a lot of different foods, they’ll perhaps be open to trying new foods when their older because their tastebuds have gotten used to it.”

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