Newswise — While parents prepare to send their children back to school, they need to remember that nutrition plays a huge role in academic success. Mary Pat Alfaro, M.S., R.D., clinical manager in the Division of Nutrition Therapy at Cincinnati Children’s, says multiple studies have shown that poor nutrition adversely effects school performance and overall achievement.

Alfaro says that the best way parents can help their children nutritionally is by making sure they have a healthy breakfast. She suggests that their breakfast consists of a variety of foods, especially high-fiber and nutrient-rich whole grains, fruits, and dairy products. This may include::

• Fiber rich and whole-grain cereals with low fat milk• Yogurt and berries• Toast, eggs and 100 percent fruit juice• Whole wheat bagels and cream cheese with low fat milk

Alfaro says parents need to make sure their children have a healthy lunch, too. Many studies have shown that children who eat healthy, balanced breakfasts and lunches aren’t just more alert throughout the day, they also earn better grades than those who don’t eat healthy.

Alfaro gives the following tips to parents on how to ensure healthy nutrition for their child:

• Use the Food Guide Pyramid. Include at least two servings from the bread group and one serving from each of the other food groups for a balanced meal. Remember to go easy on fats and sweets.

• Change is good. Beat boredom with different foods. Instead of regular bread every day, make sandwiches using pitas, bagels, English muffins, crackers or tortillas.

• Make it easy. Pack easy-to-eat fruit, such as grapes, apple wedges, strawberries or chunks of melon. Include a toothpick and a dipping sauce made of yogurt or peanut butter to make this healthy meal fun and easy.

• Be careful about what children drink. Even 100 percent juice is loaded with sugar. Encourage children to drink lowfat white milk, or plain or sugar-free flavored water. Children should avoid drinks containing added supplements like herbs and caffeine.

About Cincinnati Children’sCincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is one of just eight children’s hospitals named to the Honor Roll in U.S. News and World Report’s 2010-11 Best Children’s Hospitals. It is ranked #1 for digestive disorders and highly ranked for its expertise in pulmonology, cancer, neonatology, heart and heart surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, diabetes and endocrinology, orthopedics, kidney disorders and urology. Cincinnati Children’s is one of the top two recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health. It is internationally recognized for quality and transformation work by Leapfrog, The Joint Commission, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and by hospitals and health organizations it works with globally. Additional information can be found at

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