It's time to send kids back to school. But with all of the changes happening in their daily schedule and what is

offered in school, they have some choices to make. "Whether it's grade school, high school or college, food choices come into play for our kids—and we aren't there all day to help them make the best decisions," says Lifestyle Fitness Chef, Jen Arricale.

According to the USDA, nearly one-third of American children are obese. "We can help our kids stay healthy by talking with them ahead of time," says Arricale. Parents, educators and health professionals are voicing support for providing healthy meals in schools, and they are backed by powerful organizations: the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Parent Teacher Association, among many others.

"Parents should be concerned with what their children are being fed at school," says Arricale, "Food affects kids physically, mentally and emotionally, so I don't think anyone wants their tax dollars being spent on unhealthy meals for children."

Arricale is not alone in her thinking. In 2010, Congress passed the bi-partisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to help ensure every child in America has access to nutritious food they need to perform well in school.

Arricale says, "It's a start, but parents are short on time, and often short on money, so it's important to know easy, healthy snacks and meals that parents and even kids can prepare."

Time, money, and picky eaters can put obstacles in the way of making healthy choices, so Arricale has suggestions for healthy snacks that are inexpensive and simple to pull together for busy families:

Snacks for young kids:
Natural nut butter w/ apples & celery
Dried fruit
String cheese

Snacks for teens:
Unsalted nuts
Baked Oatmeal Squares*

Snacks for young athletes:
Cottage cheese and pineapple
Hardboiled eggs
Hummus and Zesty Pita Chips*
Protein Brownies*

*Recipes for starred items are available for free at


You have choices too. You can send lunch with your children, or teach them how to choose wisely at the school with these tips:

  1. Brown bag – having a full delicious lunch and snacks in a cooler bag is the ideal scenario, but it needs to be a fun and tasty experience so your child actually eats it. Talk with your child about what they like and don't like, and work together to make healthy choices that won't end up traded or in the trash.
  2. Cafeteria – ask if you can see to the weekly menu so you can go over all the choices with your child. Explaining the "why" will go a long way in empowering them to make healthy choices when they are on their own.

With these tips in mind, the greatest way to impact your child and teach them healthy eating habits is to lead by example and discuss challenges, cravings, falling off the wagon and celebrating wins together will support healthy eating as a genuine part of their life for your growing teen.

SOURCE Jen Arricale

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