Back to School Nutrition Tips and Recipes

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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.

granola

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. 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. 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! Plus, even the greenest of veggies and plainest of water can taste better and refreshing on an empty stomach.

Get kids involved.

Kids love to eat what they create. Not to mention, getting kids involved with the creation of their food helps to teach them important life skills like cooking. In this modern time where independence is key, you can’t rely on the woman of the house to provide nutrition for you for the rest of time. Need some ideas? 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 homemade granola, and drizzle some honey into their plain yogurt and add their own fruit. Not just meant for school days, some of these snacks can be excellent during vacation too. Kids can surely appreciate the nourishment that a fruits or veggies bring, when they are kept physically active such as during vacation when kids go out to play, families go on hikes and road trips. Most of these recipes can make for good hiking snacks for your little ones, and maybe even you. Making them together can add a lot more fun to the mix.

Replace less quality packaged snacks with better options.

Don’t choose the cheapest snacks out there because those tend to have more corn syrup, added sugar, and bad fats compared to more quality brands. For example Doughp Cookie Dough tends to have better nutrition than other cookie dough brands out there, at least according to this review. It’s important to pay attention to the nutrition information on the back of the pack, so you can choose low-sugar applesauce vs. a sweetened one, the same goes for low-sugar brands of yogurt (Greek yogurts are usually the lowest and Siggis brand has tubes that are great for lunches). Homemade of course is better, choose non-GMO popcorn and tortilla chips, use toasted seeds or nuts to satisfy crunch cravings, and use healthy dips for veggies such as a homemade Italian balsamic dressing, guacamole, or hummus vs. bottled Ranch.

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

  • � 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

frozen yogurt with berries