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Healthy back-to-school meal tips for children

Health experts recommend a healthy eating pattern with a variety of fruits and vegetables.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Success in school is more than just academics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says eating healthy is associated with better attendance rates and test scores. Research also shows healthy eating is important for proper growth and development for children. It can also help prevent various health problems.

When it comes to preparing back-to-school meals for your child, you should avoid empty calories from unhealthy foods. That includes soda, sugary fruit drinks, dairy desserts, pizza and more.

"If you can find ways not to give them a bunch of things that are prepackaged, that's going to help you tremendously,” said Chef N’Gai Dickerson with the American Heart Association. “Most of the food that children eat should go bad if you leave it out overnight. If you're giving them food that won't go bad if you leave it out overnight, there are some things that you might want to dial back on.”

Health experts recommend a healthy eating pattern with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Children should also eat whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and a variety of protein foods. Drinking water can also improve cognitive function in children, which is important for learning.

Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day. Studies show people who eat breakfast have higher intakes of dietary fiber, B vitamins, calcium, iron, and other nutrients. You should also monitor your child’s food portions and serving sizes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

"Make it easy for yourself,” Dickerson said. “Don't feel like you need to go and prepare meals every day. Try to cook in bulk. We have to be very nice to ourselves and make sure we are eating as clean as possible too.”

More healthy back-to-school meal tips can be found on the CDC website.

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