Smart Nutrition for Academic Success

Sara Dow is a ACE Certified Weight Management and Fitness Nutrition Specialist. She is also a ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Small Group Trainer at the Y. Twice a month, her blog posts will feature nutrition education, a healthy recipe she has tried and loves, and tips to help you achieve your health goals, as well as answers centered around a nutrition question from a Y member.

Give your kids a healthy start as they head back to school with these smart nutrition strategies!

Prioritize Breakfast: research shows that kids who eat breakfast perform better in school with higher test scores and fewer behavioral issues.   

  • For a quick and healthy breakfast, enjoy whole grain cereal with less than 10 grams of sugar, low-fat milk, a piece of fruit, and yogurt.

Provide Variety:  diverse options help ensure kids get the nutrients they need from each food group.  Mix up lunch with these wrap variations.

  • Spread a whole-grain tortilla with mustard, hummus, or pesto. Fill with grilled chicken salad or assorted lean meats. Add cheese, tomato, sliced onion, avocado, and shredded Romaine lettuce.  
  • For a Mexican theme, fill with guacamole, salsa, black beans, grilled chicken (optional), and brown rice.

Wrap in foil and pack in an insulated lunchbox. 

Prep Smart Snacks: pack a healthy lunch side or after-school snack.

  • Fruit cup (packaged in water or juice) or fresh fruit.
  • Applesauce (no sugar added).
  • Nuts (if age and allergy appropriate). ALDI carries 100-calorie single-serve almond packets, which offer convenience and portion control.
  • Raw veggies such as carrot sticks, sugar snap peas, colorful snacking bell peppers, or celery sticks.
  • Cheese sticks — available in 2% sharp cheddar or part skim-milk mozzarella.
  • Individually wrapped snack bars with three or more grams of fiber, less than 10 grams of sugar, and no more than 1 gram of saturated fat. (KIND and Fiber One bars are a favorite in my house).
  • Yogurt with less than 10-12 grams of sugar per serving. Better yet, opt for plain and add honey or fruit.

Partner with your child: kids are more likely to accept healthy options if involved in the planning and preparation.  Invite them to select from a list of healthy foods and encourage them to pack their own lunch.

Check out for more back-to-school nutrition tips and news for kids of every age.

About Sara Dow

Hi, I’m Sara and I am passionate about helping people improve their quality of life through the knowledge and practice of good nutrition.  

In 2018, I was inspired by the YMCA community to go back to school and pursue my dream of becoming a registered dietitian. I am now in my senior year, double majoring in Nutrition and Dietetics at Kansas State University.  I am excited to share with you what I am learning. 


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