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Explore nutrition tips, kids’ meal plans, kids’ activities, recipes and more from pediatric nutritionist, Melissa Halas, MA, RDN, CDE.

Fueling Children’s Bodies for Growth and Learning

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An important component of learning for students is fueling their bodies and minds with nutritious, wholesome food that provides the proper nutrients and energy required to learn, grow and move.

When it comes to healthy eating, parents, teachers and school systems should be positive role models for children by emphasizing the importance of healthy eating. A great place to start is by ensuring that children eat nutritious snacks and meals at school because well-nourished children learn better, are more active and have fewer absences from school due to illness.

By fueling children’s bodies with nutritious, wholesome food you are ensuring that your child receives the proper nutrients and energy to learn, grow and move. Children are consuming increasingly more soda and sweetened beverages while their intake of milk and 100% fruit juice has declined. Almost a quarter of adolescents are consuming more than 26 ounces of soft drinks each day.  Many snacks eaten and available to children are high-calorie, low-nutrient foods. Consequently, the total calorie intake from snacks has increased by 150 calories per day over the past two decades. This greater calorie snack consumption coupled with a decline in physical activity are two likely contributors to our nation’s child obesity epidemic.

Healthful food promotes achievement in all aspects of a child’s life. Due to their small stomach volume and high energy requirements, children require smaller, more frequent meals and snacks. Instead of consuming nutritious and small snacks, many children consume unhealthy, nutrient-poor snacks that are high in sugar and unhealthy fats. You can help teach your children that nutritious food is needed to fuel their bodies for learning, growth, sports and play by following the guidelines below.

  1. Make snack preparation easy and environmentally friendly. Use small, plastic containers and encourage children to bring home uneaten food. This teaches them not to waste food and allows you to see what hasn’t been eaten. Food may be brought home because your child was full or because he/she didn’t like it.
  2. Provide age-appropriate portions. Providing adult-sized portions can overwhelm children and lead them to become disinterested in the entire meal or snack. Small portions with more options lead to independence because it allows your child to choose what they want at that time.
  3. Read the nutrition facts and ingredients, not just the front of the box. Products may claim they contain fruit juice but look above the nutrition facts to make sure. Only purchase juices that are 100% fruit juice. Know the difference between whole grain and 100% whole grain and wheat versus whole wheat. 100% whole grain and whole wheat provide more naturally occurring fiber, protein, and other important nutrients. Avoid foods that contain “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated” oils in the ingredient list.

Read more healthy eating tips in Healthy Eating or Controlling Portions for You and Your Family.


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About the Author

Picture of Katie Jeffrey-Lunn, MS, RD, CSSD, CDN, LDN

Katie Jeffrey-Lunn, MS, RD, CSSD, CDN, LDN

Katie is a Registered, Certified, and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist and a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics. She owns her own business, FitNutrition, in Mystic, CT. Katie is passionate about helping others be the best they can be both physically and emotionally. To do so, Katie provides individual counseling, sports nutrition, and gives nutrition presentations to athletes, students, and adults.

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