Healthy Snack choices can have a huge impact on how kids perform at school.

The clock is ticking down on the lazy days of summer. In just a few weeks, it will be time to send the kids back to school. While a fresh notebook and a sharpened pencil are important, let’s not forget about healthy lunches and healthy snacks. According to a recent study by Tufts School of Medicine, the average American kid takes in about a third of their daily calorie count from snacks. That’s a lot, especially if the snacks are comprised of junk foods filled with fat and added sugar, the same types of foods that are contributing to skyrocketing rates of diabetes in children across America. Encouraging your child to make healthier food choices can have a huge impact on how they perform at school.

Studies show that healthy eating can stabilize children’s energy, sharpen their minds, and even out their moods.

According to a study by the American School Health Association (ASHA), students who had consistently insufficient protein intake scored lower on achievement tests than their classmates who had adequate nutrition. Students with chronic iron deficiency were more likely to suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Undernourished or malnourished children were found more prone to infections and illnesses, causing them to miss school and fall behind in their education.

Helping your child make healthy choices can be difficult because of the constant bombardment of print, television and radio ads that promote these unhealthy foods.

The facts on junk food marketing and kids taken from Prevention Institute

  • The food and beverage industry spends approximately $2 billion per year marketing to children.
  • The fast food industry spends more than $5 million every day marketing unhealthy foods to children.
  • Kids watch an average of over ten food-related ads every day (nearly 4,000/year).
  • Nearly all (98 percent) of food advertisements viewed by children are for products that are high in fat, sugar or sodium. Most (79 percent) are low in fiber.

California-based nutrition expert, McKenzie Hall, RD offers 5 tips to help your child have a more nutritious school year.

  1. Get your kids involved in planning and packing lunches and snacks alongside you. This will show them being nutritious can be fun! And who knows, maybe their lunchbox creativity will shine through.
  2. Kids love chips, right? Why not offer them better-for-you corn tortilla chips that make kids and parents happy. Try chips made with sea salt and sprouted grains, beans and seeds, which offer enhanced nutritional benefits and are easier to digest. And believe it or not, they taste great, too! Enjoy sprouted grain chips with a favorite tomato salsa, guacamole or red pepper hummus.
  3. Choose reusable containers or lunch boxes, which have compartments for high protein dips such as hummus for veggies or Greek yogurt for fruit. More produce will be consumed if there is a “fun” dip to use.
  4. Get creative and build your own sandwich kabobs. This allows you to use different types of veggies (like zucchini, jicama) and leftover roast chicken from the night before.
  5. Keep a bag of grapes in the freezer. Use in school lunches or after-school snacks. Frozen grapes are a tasty, fun and healthful treat.

Here are a few ways you can help you kids make healthy snack choices

Choose these healthy snacks…

  • Fresh fruit
  • Baked chips or pretzels
  • Fresh veggies with salsa or low-calorie salad dressing
  • Unbuttered popcorn and other low-fat snacks

Instead of these…

  • Fried foods
  • Sugary drinks, such as regular sodas and sweetened fruit punches
  • Baked or processed goods

By making small changes you can have a big impact on your child’s health, well-being and their performance at school.