With the first day of school just around the corner, preparing to send your children back to school can be a daunting task. Kids need more than new school supplies to achieve academic success.
Have you considered, “What can I feed my kids this year to help fuel their active minds and bodies?”
Eating a nutritious breakfast every morning, along with a healthy lunch and snacks throughout the day helps keep your child healthy and ready to learn. Here are some basic nutrition tips to help your children work to their full learning potential this school year.
Tip #1—Start the day with a nutritious breakfast
Did you know that the word breakfast really refers to “break” the “fast”? By the time children wake up to get ready for school, most of them have not had anything to eat for 8 to 12 hours. No wonder breakfast is called the most important meal of the day!
Studies show that children who skip breakfast are more sluggish, are less attentive and have less energy for morning activities compared with classmates who eat breakfast.
Eating breakfast is associated with greater school attendance, improved memory, better test grades and improved class behaviour. The morning can be a busy time but with a little planning, you can still make time for a healthy start to the day.
In a special article to The Globe and Mail, entitled, “What your kids should eat to do well in school“, Toronto-based dietitian, Leslie Beck, offers some suggestions.
“Breakfast foods like cereal, toast, waffles, fruit, milk and yogurt elevate the blood glucose levels, which supplies the brain with the fuel it needs to power morning activities.” When it comes to breakfast, not all choices help increase a child’s potential for learning.
In a study of elementary-school children, those who ate oatmeal for breakfast scored much better on certain memory tests than kids who were given a low-fibre, refined cereal or no breakfast at all. According to a summary statement from the American Society of Nutrition, “oat-, barley-, or psyllium-based cereals can help lower cholesterol concentrations, and high-fiber, wheat-based cereals can improve bowel function.
Oatmeal has a low glycemic index, which means it’s digested slowly, providing a more sustained source of energy. Beck recommends “lower glycemic breakfast foods, which include large flake and steel-cut oats, grainy breads, high-fibre cereals, granola, nuts, yogurt, milk, unflavoured soy beverages, apples, oranges, grapefruit, pears and berries”.
You can add berries to oatmeal, cold breakfast cereal, yogurt and smoothies. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries contain anthocyanins, which are antioxidants thought to prevent the damaging effects of oxidative stress on brain function. Beck offers great recipe ideas for healthy muffins and breakast cereal makeovers.
Save time and energy in the morning rush by shopping and preparing for breakfast essentials in advance. Choosing the right foods not only contributes to a balanced breakfast but helps provide the nutrients your children need to start off their day.
Make breakfast healthy, fast and fun with these simple ideas from Katie Quinn, Journalist and Food Enthusiast on the Today show. Banana Yogurt Pop or French Toast in a Mug are sure to please.
Tip #2—Pack a healthy lunch
With most schools operating on the balanced school day, sending a proper lunch for your child can be a challenge. The Brant County Health Unit has an excellent resource to help. “One Month of Mini-Meals” provides parents with 40 mini-meal ideas based on a variety of healthy options from Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide.
Packing healthy choices for two nutrition breaks that includes at least three of the four food groups will ensure that children receive optimum nutrition to help them thrive during the balanced school day.
Why not get your kids involved in planning their own mini-lunches? This is one of the best ways to ensure that kids will actually eat it! For something new and fun, try these healthy bento box lunch ideas from Parenting.
Tip #3—Choose snacks wisely
Nutritious snacks help keep children fuelled and satisfied between meals. They help provide a steady stream of glucose to the brain.
Try to plan snacks that are lower in fat, sugar and salt. For healthy snack options, aim for at least two of the four food groups.
Patricia Bannan, Los Angelos-based dietitian, shares her tips for back-to-school nutrition with Fox News.
“On the days that you are least busy, chop fruits and veggies to have them ready to go when you need them. Add a healthy dipping sauce like Greek yogurt or hummus to make them even more kid- friendly.” Research shows kids are more like to eat fruits and veggies when they are cut up.
Registered Dietitian, Leslie Beck, offers more suggestions.
“Afternoon snacks are needed to energize after school activities and homework. Low glycemic snacks include whole-grain crackers and part-skim cheese, trail mix with nuts and dried fruit, baby carrots and hummus, fruit and yogurt, and smoothies made with milk or soy milk and fruit.”
Tip #4—Keep your children properly hydrated
The importance of children staying well-hydrated cannot be overstated. Proper hydration helps stave off fatigue and keeps the levels of concentration going strong.
Patricia Bannan of Fox News advises that we “skip the sugary energy drinks and sodas and give kids a water bottle instead.” To make plain water more appealing to kids, Bannan suggests “adding some citrus slices and berries, or a bit of 100 percent fruit juice to the water.”
For more back-to-school nutrition tips, check out these great breakfast, lunch and snack ideas from Metro and get ready to see your children thrive this school year!