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Erin Nitschke

The fall season is here. Leaves are changing, buses are running at early hours, children marching off to school – backpacks loaded to the max. The start of a new school year means our children are about to take steps toward advancing their knowledge and skills. But to do that, we have to remember to keep them fueled with the right nutrients. Among the freshly sharpened pencils and binders of looseleaf paper, let’s remember to supply our kids with healthy and brain-friendly snacks.

Learning requires a significant amount of energy. The brain needs fuel to operate at its maximum capacity. Kids who are well-fed with nutrient-dense foods and provided opportunities to move throughout the day are better prepared to learn and retain information. Think about it from an adult perspective. When we are tired, hungry, or stressed, our own productivity becomes compromised and absenteeism rates begin to soar. The same is true for children. In reality, they are tiny versions of us who have the same basic needs.

Before sending your little ones off to school, prepare some healthy snack items to fuel their school performance. Use the weekends (or other available time) to organize snack-sized portions that are easily packed and stored.

Nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, or pistachios) paired with unsweetened dried fruit or unsweetened freeze-dried fruit offers a source of healthy fats, fiber, and good carbs, and protein.

Roasted chickpeas paired with string cheese is a great combo of protein, fiber and calcium.

Fresh whole fruits are excellent options for ensuring your child receives a balanced intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

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Natural peanut butter with whole grain crackers is high in fiber and healthy fats.

Baked sweet potato chips are crunchy, sweet, and packed full of nutrients.

Air-popped popcorn is high in fiber. Pair it with nuts or other protein source.

Check with your local school for any published snack guidelines or restrictions. If your child’s classroom does not offer a source of refrigeration, pack snacks in a soft-sided cubby or locker-sized insulated cooler. This offers you the opportunity to include yogurt and other perishable options.

Snack smart to be smart.

For other healthy snack ideas, visit Eatright.org, the USDA and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

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Erin Nitschke is a health and human performance educator, NSCA-CPT and ACE Health Coach who lives in Sheridan. She can be reached at erinmd03@gmail.com.

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