Dietitian's Corner: 4 Health Traps to Avoid this School Year

A young female drinking a bottle of water while standing outside

Created by: Molly McBride, RD, LD, Kroger Corporate Dietitian

It's been a long, glorious summer of buttery corn on the cob, ice cream and funnel cake—but now that the school year is approaching, it's time to get smart about wellness. Here are 4 health traps to avoid—and easy ways to make this return to routine an opportunity for healthier habits for the whole family.

  • Health Trap #1: Mindless Sipping. Ever think about how many calories we consume each day that come from a straw or tin can? Most caloric beverages do not make us feel full for long and have little nutrient density. Plus, they're expensive! A+ alternative: Drink smart! Water, tea, and drinks made with fresh fruit (homemade smoothies or a spritz of fresh fruit in seltzer water) will take you to the head of the class.
  • Health Trap #2: The All-Beige Diet. It's typical for children—and many adults—to gravitate towards breaded and fried foods, potatoes and cheeses. While these “comfort” foods might be full of kid-appeal (and grown-up nostalgia), one thing they are lacking is nutritional value. A+ alternative: Explore the color wheel! Add tomatoes, greens, onions, squash, celery, carrots, radishes, and other vegetables to salads, soups, wraps, burgers, and stir-fry's to obtain more color, flavor, and nutrition. Vegetables have a high percentage of water, so these additions add minimal calories to your favorite meal or snack.
  • Health Trap #3: Being On a First-Name Basis with the Lunch Lady. Buying lunch at the cafeteria or from a vending machine—or worse, skipping lunch altogether and then tearing into a big bag of chips after class—is often the path of least resistance on frantic weekdays. But how are our kids to avoid Health Trap #2, the All-Beige Diet, when the most appealing items in the cafeteria line usually are, indeed, all beige? A+ alternative: Brown bag it. Think ahead and put some fresh fruit, favorite homemade leftovers, or a simple granola or protein bar in a lunchbox the night before school.
  • Health Trap #4: Sitting All Day. The summer may get a bad rap because of its high-calorie treats, but at least it usually involves physical activities like swimming, hiking and beach volleyball. Back-to-school often means back to sedentary behaviors (most of us don't study standing up)—but it doesn't have to! A+ alternative: Get physical! Walk to class carrying books or go for a road run instead of a pizza run during study breaks. Kids and adults alike should aim for at least 150 minutes per week of activities that elevate the heart rate.