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1+2+3=Fueling Your Student

Author: be well™ with Big Y® Registered Dietitian Team

Sticking to the basics gets the grade every time

Back-to-school time is the prime time to encourage healthful eating habits for all family members, not just your favorite student! Here are a few tried-and-true ways to meet nutrition needs with ease:

Build by Food Groups

Through ages 2 to 90+, meals should offer a variety of options from at least 4 to 5 different Food Groups for an array of nutrients. Include servings from the Fruit, Vegetables, Grains, Proteins and Dairy Groups when you’re prepping meals and 2 to 3 of these Food Groups at snack time.

  • Grains provide fiber, B vitamins, such as folate and niacin and minerals like iron and selenium, in addition to the essential brain fuel: carbohydrates.
  • Fruits and Vegetables keep your body going with carbohydrates, water, antioxidant-acting plant compounds called phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and fiber.
  • Proteins and Dairy foods provide essential minerals and vitamins, in addition to the building block for hormones, enzymes and tissues in the body: protein.
  • Although they are not given Food Group status by the USDA Dietary Guidelines, oils play an important role in meals and your child’s nutrition status. Fats help the body absorb certain vitamins, produce hormones, regulate body temperature, insulate organs, lubricate joints and moisturize skin. Focus on fats provided by liquid oils such as olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds and seafood most often for their heart healthfulness.

Keep it Simple

When it comes to meeting your child’s nutrition needs, simple works every time.
Below are a few combination ideas to spark your mindset in time for the first week of school.

Mix & Match

Grains: Whole Grain Crackers
Fruit: Mandarin Oranges
Vegetable: Broccoli Florets
Protein: Turkey Cubes
Dairy: Cheddar Cheese
Oils: Vinaigrette Dressing for Dipping


Deconstructed Pizza


Grains: Whole Grain Pita, cut into wedges
Fruit: Apple Slices
Vegetable: Cucumber Spears
Protein: Sunflower Seed Butter
Dairy: Shredded Mozzarella
Oils: Olive oil in Marinara Sauce


Fishy Roll Ups

Grains: Whole Wheat Wrap
Fruit: Grapes
Vegetable: Salad made of Romaine Lettuce, Shredded Carrots and Green Pepper Slices
Protein: Tuna Salad
Dairy: Yogurt
Oils: Vinaigrette Dressing for Salad

For more Food Group ideas and meal inspirations, visit ChooseMyPlate.gov
to learn more about meeting your child’s nutrition needs through food.

Published 9/1/2021