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Back to School Nutrition

As school draws near, many parents wonder what they can do to help equip their child with all they need to succeed academically. There is no question that nutrition plays an important role in a child’s overall health, so what is the best way to ensure a child receives the nutrition they need to have adequate energy for a successful school day. The key is balance.
Some people may not be aware that in 2011 the food guide pyramid used for the past 20 years by the USDA to promote a balanced diet was replaced by the Food Guide Plate(1).

The somewhat cryptic pyramid was found to be less than helpful because the majority of the population found it too complicated to remember or too difficult to determine what portion sizes were. The new simplified graphic creates a visual that shows Fruits and Vegetables as 50% of the recommended plate with grains and protein making up the other 50%. A small circle outside the plate represents an 8oz. side of dairy. On the fruit and vegetable side, vegetables take up nearly 60% of the plate. So this visual recommendation is healthy in theory but the million dollar question; “How would your child respond to a plate that looks like this?” While it is important to teach your children to eat a variety of foods, many parents have experienced the particular difficulty that comes from convincing a child to eat vegetables.

A recent study in the July 2011 American Journal of clinical nutrition may hold the key to success. They demonstrated a 50%-73% increase in vegetable intake with simultaneous caloric reduction of 15-25% by simply pureeing vegetables and integrating them into the main entrée. (2) The beauty of this was that the children still ate their normal vegetables that were included in the meal without knowing they were receiving an additional dose.
So this school year, help your child feed to succeed by following the new simplified USDA Food Guide plate recommendations and for those who find it difficult to get their child to eat vegetables, use of non-confrontational techniques and nontraditional routes of delivery such as pureed or liquid forms of nutrition can create peace in the home and a healthy, well nourished, and happy child.

To Your Success,

David Rigby Nutritionist, MS (Member of American Society of Nutrition)

1. Food Guide Plate -

2. Am J ClinNutr. 2011 Jul 20. Hiding vegetables to reduce energy density: an effective strategy to increase children's vegetable intake and reduce energy intake.Spill MK, Birch LL, Roe LS, Rolls BJ. Source Departments of Nutritional Sciences and the Center for Childhood Obesity Research, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.

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