Free Recipes! Back-to-School Nutrition Is Vital to Keeping Students Well

From packing your child’s lunch to stocking a college dorm, good nutrition is essential for students of all ages.

Geneva resident and dietician Mary Zupke (MS, RD, LDN) shares her best advice, and even a few of her scrumptious recipes, so we can all make this new school year healthy, delicious and fun!

Eating well can be difficult once the hectic schedules of the school set in. From extracurricular activities to athletics and homework, finding the time to eat well may seem impossible.

“It is important for kids to get healthy meals and snacks every day to ensure that they are getting the protein, minerals and vitamins needed for energy, brain function, physical growth, and overall health,” Zupke said.

And surprisingly, with just a little planning ahead, good nutrition is simple and easy to achieve.  

OK, so maybe eating right is not as simple as just eating an apple a day, but Zupke truly believes that planning ahead is crucial. Between sporting events and other activities, meal times are often interrupted, so how can students ensure they are getting enough vitamins?

Making sure healthy choices are easily found in the fridge for grab and go is tops on the list, Zupke explained. For example, for soccer carpools, “pretzels and bananas provide salt and potassium as electrolyte replacers in a rush,” Zupke said.

Frozen grapes are easy to pour into a plastic cup and take outside, and cut up fresh vegetables are perfect with lowfat salad dressing. “Add a yogurt for protein and, voila, healthy snack,” Zupke said.

Healthy snacking can be a good thing, but sometimes an actual meal on the go can be a bit more daunting. Zupke recommends being flexible and creative when it comes to planning for quick meals. It doesn’t have to be fast food or take-out.

“Lunch on the road could range from a hummus tortilla roll-up with chopped lettuce, tomato and peppers to a turkey pita with cucumber/carrot salad with a pear or orange of the side," she said.

And as for your child’s lunch, keep in mind that packaged foods are not the best option. “Whole Foods usually offer more vitamins, minerals and fiber,” Zupke said.

For college students (no, we did not forget about you), instead of relying on calling Pizza Hut or making Easy Mac, here are a few suggestions for keeping your dorm room well stocked for when you’re running to class or experiencing a case of the midnight munchies.

“On-the-run snacks for college students could consist of drinkable yogurt drink called kefir with a high fiber granola bar. Higher fiber means more-filling and longer-lasting. Popcorn also packs in the fiber, is a lowfat snack, and if you skip the butter, it’s a good way to reach the 25 grams of fiber you need each day,” Zupke said.

Finally, if you are like me and must satisfy your sweet tooth, but would prefer to avoid packing on the pounds, here’s what Zupke advises.

“Research is showing that a little dark chocolate can be beneficial in weight-loss efforts,” Zupke said. But that does not mean you can eat all of the chocolate you want.

“Portion control is key, and having a small amount may help satisfy your cravings. Fresh fruit smoothies are also a great option for squeezing in more vitamins.”

Zupke’s Tips to Keep in Mind as the School Year Begins:

1.) Make sure kids get protein at snack time and at meals.  Kids often rush through meals eating easily-accessible carbs such as chips or fries, or even drinking their calories by taking a soda or other sweetened drinks. Even finicky eaters may enjoy easy protein foods such as drinkable or squeezable yogurts, cheese (with crackers), Mexican vegetarian bean dip (with baked chips), peanut butter (with celery sticks or apples) and tuna (with flat bread).

Protein will help keep kids from having those sleepy blood-sugar dips during class as a result of a "french fries and and soda" lunch.

2.) Try to increase the fresh fruits and vegetables! The more fruits and veggies kids fit in each day, the higher the fiber content of their diet. Fiber helps with satiety, maintaining even blood sugar and ultimately weight control. Plus it takes a lot longer to eat an entire apple than drink a cup of apple juice. Soluble fiber (found in oats, nuts and beans) helps maintain a healthy heart.

3.) Eat the Rainbow. Variety in color and type of fruits and vegetables will help with providing the many "micro" nutrients in foods. For example, antioxidants in oranges, lemons and limes help reduce cancer risk and vitamin K in spinach helps keep us from bruising. More color, more nutrition.

HUNGRY?! Try one of Mrs. Zupke’s amazing recipes:

Artichoke Dip

  • 1-24 ounce container 1% cottage cheese
  • 1-15 oz can of artichokes
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • Dash of red pepper

Blend all ingredients in food processor.  Enjoy with baked tortilla chips.

Tortilla casserole

  • 1 pkg corn tortillas
  • 2 cups chihuahua cheese
  • 1-15 ounce can enchilada sauce
  • ½ package turkey sausage
  • 1-2 red, yellow or green peppers, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1-15oz can vegetarian low fat refried beans

Brown turkey sausage, drain fat and remove sausage from pan.  Sautee onion and peppers for 2-3 minutes. Add sausage and refried beans to warm. Begin layering casserole with enchilada sauce, add layer of tortillas, add half of the sausage/bean mixture, add cheese. Repeat. On top, layer tortillas, add enchilada sauce and cheese. Bake for 20 minutes until cheese melted and casserole warmed through.  Serve with rice.


Robert August 25, 2011 at 12:42 AM
Wait, did that say "on the go"?????? I mean, “Lunch on the road could range from a hummus tortilla roll-up with chopped lettuce, tomato and peppers to a turkey pita with cucumber/carrot salad with a pear or orange of the side,", that doesn't exactly sound like something I can make on the road. Perhaps I misinterpreted it, as this person doesn't seem THAT dumb.
Peter Langelaar August 25, 2011 at 05:26 AM
Commercial dark chocolate that you buy in the stores is indeed full of sugar and bad fats. There is a cutting edge, category creator dark chocolate that has all of the good and none of the bad in dark chocolate. Clinical papers are soon to be published on this 50 person one year weight loss/wellness system in which all 50 participants lost an average 44.6 pounds. Centered around the first high antioxidant protein meal replacement (one shake equals 100 cups of spinach!, this is a new approach to weight loss. The culprit to weight gain, and the inability to keep lost weight off, is free radicals. The high antioxidant diet counteract the free radicals and stop inflammation. You can find more information on a high antioxidant diet under the weight lose tab http://www.myxocai.nl and my blog http://www.thepowerofchocolate.org
Andrea Cladis August 26, 2011 at 05:36 AM
thanks for the tip! So, some chocolate just might be good to eat?!
Peter Langelaar August 28, 2011 at 06:34 AM
Yes Andrea i eat 30 gram a day from a special cacao that's raw and organic see this presentation from Prof. Rodger Corder that's clear http://www.fhf.org.uk/meetings/2007-12-11_corder.pdf if you want more info contact me at facebook http://www.facebook.com/Peter.Langelaar.1966 I can link you to a MD who wrote a book about chocolate based on study's have a nice day peter


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