Way to Grow!

Back to school tips

By Shannon Pope, MD

Here are some nutritious options for school lunches:

  • Pack fruits and vegetables with little cups of low-fat dip or guacamole.
  • Choose baked tortilla chips, pasta salad or pretzels.
  • Disguise nutrition in your dessert choice: graham crackers spread with peanut butter and topped with mini-marshmallows, fruit yogurt sprinkled with low-fat granola or a homemade bran muffin.
  • Try string-cheese; it’s kid-friendly, full of protein and lower in fat than most cheeses.

The time crunch and your child’s lunch

One way that many parents ease the morning rush is to bypass the sandwich-making process in favor of a packaged lunch that pops into the backpack effortlessly.

Ready-made lunches may help reduce the morning chaos, but they may not be the best choice – nutritionally or financially. At about $2 each, a typical ham, cheese and cracker pre-packaged combo gets about 37 percent of its calories from fat. That’s without the candy bar and sugary drink most ready-made lunches include.

Pre-packaged meals once or twice a week isn’t going to derail an otherwise healthy diet as long as they aren’t a daily habit.

Kids at lunchtime are a lot like adults at a restaurant – presentation is as important as quality. So if you can plan ahead, you can make homemade lunches just as enticing as the pre-packaged kind.

Think about bright packaging and fun shapes. Experiment with different types of plastic containers that can be washed and reused.

The bottom line: Try to strike a balance between convenience, cost and nutrition that works for you and your family. And don’t forget the school cafeteria lunch option. School lunches are required to meet federal nutritional guidelines at reasonable prices.

Dr. Pope practices with Family Medical Care of Smithfield.

Homework Hassles?

Along with the excitement of a new school year comes the dread of the old homework hassle. This year, alleviate some of the nightly stress by making “homework time” a positive time for the family to be together.

  • Set aside a quiet time for the whole family. Turn off TVs and other distractions (radios, stereos). Children can use the time to do homework, read or study. Parents can read or write letters.
  • Create a study center for each child. An uncluttered desk or table with good lighting will do. A flat surface is preferred. The kitchen table, dining room table or a desk in the child’s room will work. Make sure supplies are available – paper, pencils, dictionary.
  • Set clear rules. Be aware of the amount of homework assigned so you can help your children set realistic time allowances for homework and study. Make sure goals are set and met. Plan for breaks.
  • Be available but don’t “help” with homework. Help him figure out where to go for answers or how to tackle a problem. Allow your child to succeed on his own. He will build confidence in his own ability if you let him.