Back to School Fuel: Menus That Make the Grade

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When it comes to getting your kids ready to head back to class, getting into a routine can really help them make the grade.

Newswatch 16's Ryan Leckey teamed up with pros at Weis Markets near Danville.

Registered dietitians Kathryn Long and Emily Renninger offered tips to help your little ones make that brain gain.

Experts say children who eat nutritious meals for breakfast and lunch have improved memory, better attention spans, better classroom behavior, improved performance in problem-solving, better test scores, improved mood and fewer school absences.

Weis Markets' dietitians offered the following ideas on how to get creative when it comes to getting students ready for back to school time.   Also below, creative recipe ideas for breakfast and lunch along with food allergy facts courtesy of Weis Markets.

Getting Back into the Routine

Children go from a relaxed summer schedule to being expected to get up, dressed, and out the door quickly on school days. Create a regular routine so kids can handle these changes with less stress.

In the two weeks leading up to the start of the school year:

  • Have kids go to bed 10 minutes earlier each night until they reach their normal school night bedtime.
  • Begin to match mealtimes (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) to when meals will be eaten during the school year.
  • Pick out outfits for the first week of school so there are no disputes during busy mornings.
  • Get lunchbox supplies ready including reusable containers, ice packs, napkins, etc.
  • Practice getting up, getting ready and eating breakfast by the time you will need to get out the door on school days.
  • Arrange play dates with friends your kids may not have seen over the summer to re-establish connections and decrease the first day of school nerves.

 When school starts:

  • Make a morning checklist for each child so they know what they need to do each morning. Hang it on the wall in their bedroom.
    • Get dressed
    • Brush teeth
    • Brush hair
    • Eat breakfast
    • Put lunch in the lunchbox with an ice pack
    • Gather anything for after-school activities
  • Celebrate success and set up a reward system! Each morning your child completes their checklist without being reminded, they earn a star. After 10 stars they get to pick out a small toy, take a trip to the movie theater, etc.


Skipping breakfast can make kids feel tired, restless, or irritable. Choosing breakfast foods that are rich in whole grains, fiber, and protein while low in added sugar may boost kids' attention span, concentration, and memory.

Here are some ideas for healthy on-the-go breakfasts:

Bento Boxes

  • For fun and perfectly-portioned, kid-friendly meals, pack lunches bento-style! Bento, or ‘boxed lunches,’ originated in Japan and have become a popular sensation among children as well as adults.
  • With a variety of colors, shapes, textures and finger foods, bento boxes are sure to please even the pickiest of eaters.
  • If you don’t have a divided reusable container, simply use muffin cups to create different sections and separate the ingredients.
  • For a healthy, balanced lunch, include a food from each food group + a little treat.

The Produce for Kids Foundation

The Produce for Kids Foundation has over 70 healthy lunchbox ideas for children. Click here to check them out.

Here are a few examples from the Produce for Better Kids Foundation:

How to Make Bento Boxes Work

  • Prep as much as you can on Sunday, including cutting up fruits and veggies.
  • Mornings can be hectic so pack kid’s lunches the night before.
  • Have a lunch prep drawer or storage container where you keep everything you need to pack lunches, including cookie cutters, reusable muffin cups, skewers, little storage containers, baggies, spoon, forks, etc.
  • Make it fun and get the kids involved in the planning. They may have seen something a friend had packed for lunch and want to give it a try themselves.

Lunchbox Food Safety

  • Use an insulated lunch box.
  • Include a frozen ice pack to keep cold foods cold.
  • Keep hot foods hot in a thermos.
  • Toss any leftovers at the end of the day. We hate to throw food away but better safe than sorry.
  • Include an individually packaged hand wipe so kids can ‘wash up’ before eating.
  • Wash the inside of lunchboxes regularly in case anything leaked.

Lunchbox Love

Throw in a little lunchbox love to let your kids know you’re thinking about them. Include a thoughtful note, words of encouragement, or even a fun trivia question. A sweet message can go a long way to brighten your little one’s day. Click here for some printable lunchbox notes and trivia questions from Produce for Kids.

Lunchbox Recipe Ideas

Food Allergies

According to FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education):

  • 9 million children under the age of 18 have a food allergy. That’s 1 in 13 children or roughly two in every classroom.
  • More than 15% of school-aged children with food allergies have had a reaction in school.
  • Even trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction in some people with food allergies. Although ingestion is the primary cause of severe reactions, in some cases, skin contact or breathing in a food protein (e.g., steam from cooking shellfish) can cause symptoms.|
  • The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports that the prevalence of food allergy in children increased by 50% between 1997 and 2011.
  • Between 1997 and 2008, the prevalence of peanut or tree nut allergy appears to have more than tripled in U.S. children.
  • About 30% of children with food allergies are allergic to more than one food.
  • About 40% of children with food allergies have experienced a severe allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis.
  • Eight major food allergens – milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and crustacean shellfish – are responsible for most of the serious food allergy reactions in the United States. Allergy to sesame is an emerging concern.

A child with a food allergy is twice as likely to be bullied.

FARE’s Be a PAL (Protect A Life™) program helps children learn how to be a good friend to kids with food allergies.  Posters, handouts, presentations and activity sheets can be found on their website.

Peanut Butter Alternatives

Organic SunButter is made of roasted sunflower seeds.

  • It’s peanut free, tree nut free, soy free, gluten free, dairy free, egg free, and sesame free.
  • It contains no hydrogenated oil or added sugar or salt.
  • SunButter is available in all Weis stores. You can find it in the regular peanut butter section.

 WowButter is made from soy.

  • It’s peanut free, tree nut free, gluten free, egg free and dairy free.


Definition of food allergy: A food allergy is a medical condition in which exposure to a food triggers a harmful immune response. The immune response called an allergic reaction occurs because the immune system attacks proteins in the food that are normally harmless. The proteins that trigger the reaction are called allergens.

Why are food allergies increasing: The rise in food allergy mirrors the increase in other allergic conditions, namely atopic dermatitis (eczema), asthma, and allergic rhinitis (hay fever). The increase in these conditions undoubtedly stems from a complicated interplay between a person’s genetic makeup (genotype) and their interaction with the environment (phenotype). The risk of having a food allergy significantly increases if a first-degree relative has a food allergy. Beyond genetics, numerous environmental influences may also play a role. Of all the factors studied to date, the two reasons most supported by research for the increase in food allergy are the timing of food introduction and the hygiene hypothesis. The hygiene hypothesis postulates that improved hygiene results in less exposure to microbes, which then leads to an increase in allergic conditions.


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