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  • Writer's pictureBrittany Shapiro

Nutrition Survival: Back to (Virtual) School Edition

This fall, schools and daycares are going to look very different. These changes are going to affect your children’s dietary routines and opportunities.

Many kids will be going to school remotely. Along with the comforts of home come the temptations of snacking and the absence of a fixed eating schedule. Other students may be going back to school in-person, but they will have some new rules about food handling and lunchtime processes.

As you navigate this transition in your family, let me share some nutrition survival advice.

Feeding your kids during virtual learning:

We all know that kids thrive on structure! Since their school routine will look very different for the foreseeable future, it is that much more important to maintain some form of order at home. For your kid’s health and education (and your own sanity) you want to prevent your virtual learners from constantly begging for food or sneaking into the pantry for a snack. As you juggle all your obligations you may also feel like mealtimes keep sneaking up on you without any plan in place for what to prepare.

Avoid these scenarios by writing out a schedule for the school day. This will help both you and your child stay on the same page about when meals and snacks are served. (Note that younger kids may do best if the schedule involves some visuals in addition to words!)

While the kitchen may only be a few steps away, consider “packing” your child’s lunch and snacks anyway, as if they were actually going to be eating at school. This way you won’t have to think about what to serve them multiple times throughout the day. And it has the added benefit of teaching them to be a bit more independent so they don’t have to run to mom or dad (potentially interrupting an important Zoom meeting) to announce that they’re hungry.

Finally, involve your child in preparing meals and cleaning up after themselves to minimize your housekeeping duties. Setting the table, washing produce, washing or putting away dishes are just a few ways to get them started. See my previous post for more ideas about getting your kids in the kitchen.

Packing your child’s lunches for school or daycare:

If you are planning to send your child to school or daycare, there are likely new restrictions about what you are allowed to send them for lunch. Work closely with the facility to understand the rules. Make sure to include your child in the discussion, and work together to come up with ideas for food.

You may also need to reset your expectations: It’s entirely possible (and acceptable) that lunches aren’t as perfectly balanced compared to previous years. Focus on making sure the food served at home is extra-nutritious, while the priority for school lunches should be to provide your child with enough energy to get through the day.

Here are some easy ideas within each food group that travel well:

· Fruits: clementines, apples, canned peaches, canned pears, dried cranberries, raisins, freeze-dried apples, banana chips

· Vegetables: carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, celery sticks, snap pea crisps

· Grains: crackers, bread, chips, muffins, tortillas

· Proteins (best with a cold pack): nuts or nut butter (if allowed), cheese sticks, boiled egg, yogurt, turkey or ham slices, cottage cheese, beans

I know this upcoming semester might feel daunting. I hope these recommendations will help alleviate stress for you and make it easier for your kids to get the nutrition they need.

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