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Eating right for late summer & back to school

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As the days grow shorter and the to-do list gets longer, taking care of yourself by eating right remains a constant. In order to take care of everyone else’s needs, it’s important to take care of yourself first. Eating right is a great place to start.  

Here is a quick guide to get into a good routine.

Start the day off with a good breakfast!

First thing in the morning, get up and have a glass of water. Then have a breakfast that includes some protein, whole grain and fruit. Eggs are a quick and easy way to get protein, or go for Greek yogurt, peanut butter or low-fat cottage cheese. Protein helps us stay fuller longer. Add a whole grain, low-sugar cereal, whole grain toast or English muffin. The fiber in whole grain foods helps regulate digestion, aids in blood sugar control and sticks with us longer than refined grains. Then have a half cup of 100% juice, or a piece of fresh fruit, or add berries or banana slices to your cereal. Fresh or frozen fruit adds fiber, vitamins and minerals. My go-to breakfast is bran flakes with banana slices and an egg over easy, plus some OJ and hot tea. 

Take the time for lunch, no matter how busy your day is.

Don’t be a martyr. You still have to have energy for the rest of the day. I tend to have leftovers for lunch. I put them in small reheat-and-go containers that I can quickly put in my lunch bag. Other ideas for lunch are a mixed green salad with a variety of vegetables, like cucumber, carrots, tomatoes and peppers. Add some grilled chicken slices, hard-boiled eggs or sliced deli ham or turkey for some protein. Use a reduced fat or vinaigrette dressing and whole wheat crackers for crunch.  Homemade soup and sandwiches are also great for lunches.  A broth-based soup like vegetable and a few slices of lean deli meat on whole wheat bread is a quick and simple fix for most. 

Dinner should include a variety of things.

Try to fill a 9” dinner plate half-full of non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, green beans, spinach, tomatoes, lettuce), then have ¼ plate of a lean source of protein, either animal- or plant-based. Stay away from the fried stuff. Add ¼ plate of grains/starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn, peas or beans like kidney, black and pinto fit here). Finally, include a calorie-free beverage and/or serving of low-fat or fat-free dairy, a fruit and viola! — a complete and satisfying meal. 

Find additional helpful online resources at eatright.org/for-kids and MyPlate.gov.

Submitted by Gayle Jennings, RDN, BC-ADM, CDCES, LDN
Director of Nutrition and Diabetes Education
SIU Center for Family Medicine, Springfield, IL 
Aug. 2022

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