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Madison, Wis. — As many families plan for a return to full-time online learning, UW Health nutritionists offer tips to parents and guardians for providing healthy meals and snacks during the day.
"The start of this school year will look very different. With COVID-19, many kids will be learning at home and they could develop bad eating habits," said Camila Martin, UW Health pediatric registered dietitian. "Poor food choices and habits in childhood are associated with decreased academic performance and poor health outcomes later in life."
UW Health offers the following tips
Start with a balanced breakfast. This provides calories that support growth, brain development, and focus throughout the morning. Studies have linked breakfast with better test scores and a reduced risk of leaning difficulties.
Breakfast ideas: Whole grain cereal with milk or a non-dairy alternative, oatmeal with nuts and fruit, eggs with avocado and whole grain toast, or yogurt with granola and fruit.
Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages. Regular consumption of juice, fruit-flavored drinks and soda is associated with lower academic performance.
Beverage ideas: Try adding flavors to water (or sparkling water) with fruits and herbs and letting it sit in the refrigerator for an hour or two.
Include fruits or vegetables with every meal and aim for 5 servings a day. One study showed that students with a higher intake of fruits and vegetables were less likely to fail literacy assessments than students with intake below the recommended 5 servings per day.
Schedule snack times and use snacks to help boost energy and focus between mealtimes and virtual learning activities.
Snack ideas: fruit, yogurt, hard boiled eggs, veggies and a yogurt-based dip, unsalted trail mix, or hummus and whole grain crackers.
To avoid grazing or eating out of boredom, pair food groups together to stay full longer between meals.