By Brenda H. May, R.D.

In this country, malnutrition caused by lack of food is not often seen, but may Americans suffer of malnutrition resulting from eating too many highly refined, over sugared, over salted, fat-laden foods.  It is important to consume adequate amounts of key nutrients.  Many manufactured, so-called fortified foods are only fortified with a limited number of vitamins and minerals, are lacking in fiber or roughage, and contain larger amount of fat, sugar, and salt then would be in naturally occurring foods.

I am convinced snacking is here to stay, so to assure a balanced consumption of both calories and nutrients, one needs to plan for snacking as well as mealtimes.  The Basic Four Food Groups Guide is a good general guide to follow.  Be sure to include foods from each group at each meal and make snacks from those groups too.  Too often the snacks of both children and adults are foods high in calories and low in nutrients – such as soft drinks, cola drinks, candy bars, fruit flavored drinks, sugar cookies, snack cakes, sweet rolls, ect.

Many children eat more food which comes pre-packaged and designed to eat on the run rather than carefully prepared planned meals and snacks.  This is not to say an occasional snack or meal like that cannot be had, but food habits which build good health are not naturally acquired; they must be learned.  Adults who work with children, parents, and teachers must set a good example and also give children opportunities to experience all kinds of foods from the raw state to finished products.  Examples:  peanuts/fresh made peanut butter; variety of seeds/a toasted seed mixture of sunflower, sesame, etc.,; homemade granola.

Treats for children at school parties, scout meetings, choir practices, and prizes for achievement should be given more thought and consideration by parents and teachers.  The foods children eat affect their growth, development, ability to learn, and general behavior.  Early experiences with food lay the foundation for live-long eating habits.  Here are some suggestions for nutritious snacks:

Beverages – Use fruit and vegetable juices rather than fruit drinks which are high in sugar and lower in vitamins.
Serve milk plain with bread, crackers, cereal, etc.  Mix in blender with banana or other fruit, orange juice, and ice for a healthy milkshake. Try heating milk with one tsp. vanilla extract (or other favorite extract flavor) plus 1 tsp. honey or molasses, and add a dash of cinnamon.

Frozen Snacks – For popsicles use new Pear/Grape Frozen Concentrate by Tree Top. Reconstitute, pour into popsicle molds.  Or use frozen orange juice reconstituted and mixed half and half with unsweetened pineapple juice.

Grain ProductsWhole wheat bread and crackers READ THE LABEL!  Make sure the first ingredient is whole wheat.  Try a variety of yeast breads and quick breads- whole wheat, rye, oatmeal, mixed grains, bran- plain or with dried fruit.  Try rye crisps, whole grain flat bread, and whole grain crackers.  Serve bread and crackers with cheese, peanut butter, and sliced bananas (with a dash of honey) and a glass of milk.

Dry Cereals – Choose unsweetened varieties.  For example:  spoon-sized shredded wheat, 100% bran, grape nuts, 40%ban, homemade granola, toasted wheat germ.  Serve plain or with milk.  Add dried fruit, nuts, and seeds.

Popcorn – Try using grated cheese (for example parmesan) instead of salt and butter.

Plain Cookies – Bake your own cookies, substituting ½ whole wheat flour for white flour, or use all whole wheat.  Try oatmeal, peanut butter, or molasses cookies.  Serve cookies with milk.

Nuts and Seeds – Pumpkin, sunflower, peanuts, pecans, walnuts, etc.  Mix with raisins. Do NOT give seeds or nuts to children under four.

Fresh Fruit Snacks – Slice or serve while: apples, apricots, bananas, berries, grapes, oranges, grapefruit sections, peaches, pears, plumbs, melon, pineapple, strawberries, etc.  Slices may be served with peanut butter, cottage cheese, yogurt, cream cheese, ricotta cheese.

Vegetable Snacks – Cut up fresh raw vegetables.  For example: celery, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, green pepper, green beans, green peas, cucumber strips, turnip sticks, zucchini.  Serve alone or with peanut butter, cottage cheese, cream cheese or ricotta.


Research suggests that a relationship exists between high sugar in-take and increased academic difficulties for learning disabled children.  For this reason, the Dyslexia Foundation urges you to consider these suggestions.






Ice Cream




All Sugar-Coated Cereals

Tang, Cokes other drinks sweetened with sugar)

How a family eats is determined by the person who buys the groceries.  Proper nutrition is important for every member of the family, especially for the learning disabled.

II. LEARN ALL YOU CAN ABOUT THE NUTRITIVE VALUE OF THE FOOD YOU BUY!  Become a label reader.  Don't fill your family full of "empty calories" (food that tastes good, but is of little or no nutritive value).

Plan menus that include plenty of these foods:


Fresh Vegetables






Fresh Fruit


III. REMEMBER:  Some foods do not appear as sugar; however, when digested, they cause the same side-effects:  poor concentration, a lack of motivation, and hyperactivity (or day-dreaming).

              These foods are:



Macaroni & Cheese




White bread (made with overly refined white flour)

              Intake of these foods should be limited.


Milk Group

Meat Group

3 or more glasses milk-children

2 or more servings of: meat, fish, poultry, eggs or cheese- with dry beans, peas, nuts, or peanut butter as alternates

4 or more glasses-teenagers

2 or more glasses-adults

3 or more glasses-pregnant women

4 or more glasses-nursing mothers

2 servings = 4 oz. lean meat



Breads and Cereals

Vegetables and Fruits

4 or more servings: Enriched or whole grain; added milk improves nutritional value.
1 slice = 1 serving

4 or more servings: include dark green or deep yellow vegetables or dark yellow fruit Vitamin A; citrus fruit, tomatoes, or for another good source of Vitamin C.
1/2 cup = 1 serving

This is the foundation for a good diet.  Use more of these and other foods as needed for growth, activity, desirable weight.  Teenagers, expectant and nursing mothers need more or larger servings of foods in these groups.

For children, expectant and nursing mothers, or adults getting little sunshine, include a good source of Vitamin D, such as Vitamin D milk, fish liver oils and exposure to direct sunshine.

Daily Menus:  This menu plan shows one way to include the four important food groups in a day's meals..




Main Dish from Meat Group

Cereal or egg or both

Potato    Other Vegetable

Toast or rolls and butter

Bread or roll and butter


Milk      Dessert



Lunch or Supper


Main Dish from Meat Group

Fruit, juice


milk, milkshake

Bread and butter

Vary menus to suit your taste.

Milk     Fruit


  In using dairy foods for their important calcium, count...

              8 ounces or 1/4 quart = 1 glass milk
              1 slice American Cheese = 3/4 glass milk
              1/2 cup creamed cottage cheese = 1/3 glass milk