2 boys

Food Swaps for a Healthier Child

Back-to-school is a milestone in every child’s life. Whether they’re heading off to pre-K or high school, it’s fun to take the photos, tell the stories about first-day jitters (the child’s and yours!), and send them out the door with a lunch in their backpack.

While many students eat school lunches, making healthy choices in the lunch line or in what they choose when they pack their own can be an ongoing dilemma. This can be even more of a battle if your child is a picky eater or struggles with over-eating.

Children spend more than 1,200 hours in school each year. How can you encourage them to make good choices to fuel their bodies for learning when they eat one or two meals away from home? Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK) encourages children to make healthier eating choices by teaching them the connection between food, the body, and the mind. Help them to understand that when a body is fueled well, the brain functions better, so they’ll be more focused in the classroom and when doing homework.

It also helps when you make it easier to choose healthy snacks. After bringing home the groceries, wash and cut up fresh fruits and veggies into individual servings in the fridge to make it easier to grab when the hungries hit. Put a handful of nuts or low-fat granola in a snack-size bag or container for your child to tuck into their backpack for a school lunch or snack.

AFHK recommends fueling up with nutrient-packed meals that include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free milk products, seafood and lean meats, eggs, beans, and nuts. But if your child prefers to toss a snack size bag (or two) of chips into their school lunch, encourage him/her to try smart food swaps. According to Eat This, Not That, eating fifty calories less per day will help you lose five pounds over a year—more if you swap even more food choices regularly.

  • A thin-crust pizza over a hand-tossed crust
  • Mustard over mayo
  • Light juice over premium juice
  • Tuna in water rather than in oil
  • Cookie thins instead of “standard” cookies

Making food swapping a game could result in your child turning it into a habit and they may begin making such choices on their own at home and school. And don’t forget to encourage them to drink plenty of water to keep their body functioning properly and feeling healthy!

Find more healthy snack ideas and food choices for the whole family in our blog.