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August means it’s back to school for many Magic Valley families, as well as the arrival of Kids Eat Right Month. This campaign, sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, hopes to inspire more parents, teachers and community leaders to take a serious look at the nutritional future of our children.

When it comes to children and nutrition, many people get overwhelmed with the battle between a healthy diet and a picky eater. And while reaching for convenience foods like pre-packaged sandwiches, chips, juices and fruit snacks can seem like a good idea, these options are almost always full of added sugar and empty calories. Instead, try focusing on real food that will provide children with the important energy, protein and fiber that their bodies need.

When fixing a meal or packing a lunchbox, don’t forget the protein and the produce. Protein is an important part of keeping children full and growing strong muscles, so adding an extra protein source such as yogurt or cheese is a good idea. Portable yogurt tubes are a popular option, but be mindful of choices with high sugar content. String cheese or a serving of nuts provide both protein and the healthy fats that assist in brain development.

Most children aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables, so don’t forget to add them to as many meals and snacks as possible. The best option is always fresh fruits and vegetables, but when that doesn’t work, a fruit cup packed in 100 percent juice (avoid those packed in syrup) or a squeeze pouch of unsweetened applesauce can be a good choice. Some pouches even contain servings of both fruits and vegetables.

Teachers and schools can also promote a healthy lifestyle by encouraging nutritious snacks and making physical activity a part of each school day. They might invite a registered dietitian to come speak to children about new and fun ways to eat better and exercise more. Some schools have even planted gardens where students learn not only about the growing process, but also take part in harvesting and preparing the fresh produce to be used for school snacks and lunches.

This school year, make it a goal to power your children with the knowledge and nutrition they need to succeed. Teaching the next generation to love and appreciate health, nutrition and their bodies is one of the greatest legacies we can leave behind.

Zucchini bread baked oatmeal

Ingredients

2 cups old fashioned oats or gluten-free oats

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 1/2 cups milk (I’ve used skim and almond, both work great)

1 large egg

3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly (or melted and cooled butter)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup grated zucchini

Candied pecans, optional

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8×8 square baking dish and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

3. In another medium bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, coconut oil (or butter) and vanilla.

4. Pour the milk mixture over the oats and stir until combined. Add in the zucchini and stir again. Pour oat mixture into prepared baking dish.

5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden and oatmeal is set. Let cool for 5 minutes. Spoon into bowls and serve with candied pecans, if desired.

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