Back to School Nutrition Tips and Recipes
Registered nutritionist and dietician Jane Schwartz eases you into school-lunch-packing season with her nutrition tips for parents and their kids
By Sarah Emily Gilbert
How many times have you looked into your child’s lunch bag to find a piece of fruit left behind? Most kids have no problem finishing their Dunkaroos or fruit snacks, but when it comes to eating health foods, they often transform into picky eaters. Registered dietician and nutritionist Jane Schwartz has 30 years of experience tackling these types of issues. The former Outpatient Dietician at Princeton Medical Center provides personalized nutrition consultations out of her private practice on Ewing Street in Princeton for patients of all ages and backgrounds. She is also the co-founder of The Nourishing Gurus, a company that provides health coaching, nutrition and weight loss information to their clientele via educational online programs, classes, and support groups. However, out of all of her impressive titles, it’s likely that of “Mom” that makes Schwartz a snack food sage for parents and their children. In addition to having two grown boys in college, Schwartz lives in Princeton with her fiancé Marc, his two boys, and her dog, Lucy. In short, she understands the challenges that come with feeding a family in a nutritious way.
What’s the secret to getting kids to eat well according to the expert? Make healthy food taste good! With recipes for homemade granola and chocolate chip cookies, it’s clear that Schwartz knows how to do just that.
“Most people think that for a food to be healthy, it has to have no fat or salt and/or be steamed and bland,” explains Schwartz. “Parents should not be afraid to use small amounts of healthy fats, natural sweeteners, and sea salt to spruce up their dishes. I mix real butter into my broccoli, use olive oil or coconut oil to roast or sauté veggies, count on small amounts of honey or maple syrup to add to a plain yogurt or use in baking, and use quality sea salt to flavor food as necessary, along with other healthy spices and herbs. It’s also important to not necessarily qualify food as being healthy and force kids to eat it. Healthy food should just be a part of everyday meals and parents should try to be more matter-of-fact about it. Keep a lot of junk out of the house so there is not a lot of temptation and use healthier substitutes.”
In the classes she runs with The Nourishing Gurus, Schwartz has found that kids particularly enjoy the frozen treat they call Banana Fro-Yo. “The base is only two ingredients,” says Schwartz, “but be sure to let your kids choose their favorite add-ins. This is fun to do after school or on the weekend, and can double as a dessert.”
Below, Schwartz shares her famous Fro-Yo recipe along with five tried-and-true tips for getting kids to eat healthy this school year. For more advice and information, follow The Nourishing Gurus on Facebook and Instagram.
Strike when the iron’s hot.
When kids are at their hungriest (just getting home from school, or right before dinner), lay out a small tray of fruits and veggies such as crunchy carrots, celery, sweet bell peppers, snap peas or cucumbers, along with a few sliced apples, strawberries, blueberries, or cantaloupe. Do not bring attention to the fact that it’s healthy or not healthy. Just put out the tray without comment and see what happens. They are more likely to grab what’s put in front of them if they are hungry!
Get kids involved.
Kids love to eat what they create. Have them spread peanut or almond butter onto their apple slices or celery stalks, mash avocado for homemade guacamole, pick out their favorite nuts and seeds for a homemade granola, drizzle some honey into their plain yogurt and add their own fruit.
Replace less quality packaged snacks with better options.
Choose a no sugar added applesauce vs. sweetened one, choose a lower sugar brand of yogurt (Greek yogurts are usually the lowest and Siggis brand has tubes that are great for lunches), or add your own sweetener to plain, choose nonGMO popcorn and tortilla chips, use toasted seeds or nuts to satisfy crunch cravings, use healthy dips for veggies such as a homemade Italian balsamic dressing, guacamole or hummus vs. bottled Ranch.
Have their snack waiting for them when they get home from school.
Have a plate out with a variety of healthy choices for them to select. I like using the plates that have dividers on them. In one section goes a few raw veggies, another some fruit, and another a healthier chip or popcorn.
For school lunch, lay out options and have kids pick.
Let your kids choose between 2-3 veggies, 2-3 fruits, and one salty/sweet snack like toasted seeds, homemade granola or nonGMO popcorn or corn chips). Say they can have one of each in their lunchbox.
Banana Fro-Yo Recipe
2 frozen bananas, peeled and cut into chunks
2-4 tablespoons full fat coconut milk from can or carton (like So Delicious Culinary)
Place bananas into your food processor and process while slowly adding the coconut milk until you have the consistency of frozen yogurt. This is delicious on its own but more fun to play around and mix in other stuff (see below):
Blend in or put on top
1 tablespoon of cacao powder (for chocolate treat), or raw cacao nibs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup other frozen fruit such as mango, strawberries, blueberries, pineapple (may have to let these thaw slightly before blending in; always use bananas as the base fruit).
Nuts such as almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc.
Natural mint extract and pistachio nuts
Shredded unsweetened coconut