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Ways to keep kids full longer

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

Tips for filling their tummies

Now that school's back in session, your kids are back to a set eating schedule for most of the day. Keeping them full longer is important now so they can focus on their lessons and not their growling tummies. The super-foods they need are probably already sitting in your pantry. Here are a few guidelines for preparing breakfast and lunch.

Mom and daughter eating cereal

1Start in the supermarket.

When you're shopping, check the nutrition labels and look for foods that are low in calories per gram. These foods contain more water, which makes your brain keep them in the stomach longer while they're being digested.

2Focus on fiber.

Fiber-rich foods help prevent spikes and drops in your kids' blood-sugar levels and stimulate a hormone in your brain that makes you feel full. Try these fiber-filled favorites:

  • Whole-grain breads
  • Bran cereals
  • High-fiber fruits (apples, bananas, berries)
  • Raw high-fiber veggies (broccoli, carrots)
  • Beans, lentils and legumes
  • Dried fruits (raisins, apricots, figs, dates) 
  • Nuts (cashews, peanuts almonds)

Avoid refined carbohydrates, such as rice, white bread and pasta, which can cause those pesky blood-sugar fluctuations that could make your kids hungry a couple of hours after eating.

3Go for lean, mean protein.

Lean proteins are even more important than fiber-rich carbs in staying full longer. Make low-fat protein choices; excess saturated fat can actually trick your body into going into starvation red alert.

Skip the greasy sausage and bacon at breakfast and opt for turkey or chicken versions. Try an omelet with chicken chunks. For lunch, go with lean turkey, chicken breast or tuna instead of bologna.

4Skip the sugar.

If children eat nothing but sugary cereals for breakfast or get too much sugar in their lunchboxes, they'll probably be hungry (and distracted) during class. Sugar has the same effect as other refined carbohydrates: They cause peaks and valleys in blood-sugar levels, which make you hungry faster.

Given the option of finishing that healthy turkey sandwich or eating the chocolate snack cake, you know what kids will choose -- so instead of candy or sweets, pack dried or fresh fruit or yogurt. Avoid sugary drinks like juice packs and sodas. Opt instead for milk, water or sugar-free beverages.

5Hit up the healthy helpers.

A lot of the things you cook every morning for breakfast or already pack in your child's lunchbox are probably a great start. If you need more help, check out the recipes at ChefMom.

More back-to-school food ideas

Best after-school snacks for busy families
Ways to keep kids full longer
5 Tips to get kids cookin' in the kitchen

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