September 5, 2014

10 Healthy Back-to-School Food Tips from a ShopRite In-Store Registered Dietitian

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Last week my son and his friend had the chance to visit our favorite local ShopRite for a free kids nutrition education session offered by ShopRite’s in-store Registered Dietitian.


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To help customers live healthier lifestyles, ShopRite of Sewell, NJ now provides the free services of an in-store dietitian. The Registered Dietitian for my store is Samantha O’Toole. Ms. O’Toole received her Bachelor’s of Science from La Salle University, where she also completed her dietetic internship.

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As the new Retail Dietitian for the ShopRite of Sewell, Ms. O’Toole can guide customers on a range of issues, from learning how to shop and prepare healthy meals, to proper nutrition for specific health conditions and dietary needs. Ms. O’Toole hosts a series of in-store healthy cooking classes, provides tips on upgrading shopping lists and recipes with healthy alternatives, holds seminars on pantry makeovers, and even navigates the aisles with shoppers to decipher food labels and find ways to improve their diet.

For the kids nutrition session, Ms. O’Toole explained whole grains and how they are better for your body. The session began with a general education session and continued with visual learning activities, coloring sheets and a hands-on, healthy, snack making activity with the kids.

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Before leaving the nutrition class I asked Ms. O’Toole if she would be willing to share some back-to-school tips with our Potluck readers. Here is what she had to share as her Top 10 Healthy Back-to-School Food Tips:

1. Eat breakfast – It can’t be said enough, make sure your child eats a healthy breakfast every day. It has been proven that students concentrate better, solve problems more easily, and have fewer behavioral problems when they are sent to school with a full stomach. Not to mention the positive effect it has on their body weight. Kids who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight.

2. Plan lunch menus together – Just like schools have a lunch menu, you can create your own at home. Give your child a list of foods-including ones they love, and ones that you want them to eat. On a dry erase calendar have them write which foods they want on which day. This makes them more aware of different foods, and may make it more likely for them to eat their packed lunch knowing that they were involved.

3. Talk nutrition – Whenever you are preparing or cooking with you child talk about the nutrition of foods. You may not think they are interested, but they love hearing the relation between foods and how it is affecting their body. Examples include preparing a fruit salad while teaching them about vitamin c, what fruits and veggies have a high amount, and how it protects us from catching a cold.

4. Upgrade their sandwiches – Sandwiches are an easy lunch to pack and most kids are pleased with them. A sandwich can be really healthy, or unfortunately they can be loaded with sodium, fat and refined and processed ingredients. Some healthy spreads and add ons include: hummus, avocado, tomato, cucumber, sprouts, and crushed beans. Always make sure your bread or tortilla is %100 whole grain (always check the first ingredient on the list, never trust the front of the label!) Or you can get crazy and put all sandwich toppings in a romaine leaf to make lettuce wraps, they stay great in Tupperware.

5. Give food fun names – A study showed that elementary school students were more likely to try vegetables when they had a fun name attached to them such as “x-ray vision carrots” rather than the “veggie of the day”.

6. After school snacks – Kids are always hungry after school and they usually grab whatever they can see when they walk in the door. Always have portable fruit on the counter – apples, oranges, clementines, peaches, bananas. Keep trail mix and fresh popcorn in little baggies instead of the typical junk food snacks.

7. Dippers – Kids love to dip anything! Take advantage of this and always offer veggies with hummus, tahini, or cottage cheese. Put yogurt in a bowl and tell them it is a sweet fruit dip.

8. Get them involved – Kids are always more likely to try new foods when they have picked them out themselves. Take them to the grocery store and gather snacks for after school. Emphasize the nutrition of each food and what it will do for them (ex: give them energy for soccer practice). Make a homemade granola and have them choose the nuts, oatmeal and the dried fruit. Put it together when you get home and package into baggies.

9. Swap out sugar – If your kids drink juice, buy the large bottles and transfer them into a new bottle where you can dilute it with water. They may never notice!

10. All shapes and sizes – For younger kids you can cut sandwiches and fruits into shapes like stars and moons. If you are trying a new food like a whole wheat bread, they may be more likely to try it if it looks exciting.

About ShopRite’s Registered Dietitian Program:

As part of ShopRite’s Retail Dietitian team, Ms. O’Toole is one of more than eighty Registered Dietitians who service ShopRite stores in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland. Call your local ShopRite today to see if your store offers the services of a Registered Dietitian and take advantage of these incredible in-store services.