It’s that time of year again! Children, but mostly parents, are bustling around and trying to get back into the swing of a full time school schedule. As parents, we want to care for our children and give them the best chance at success in their classes and much of that has to do with our child’s health and nutrition. We need to make sure they are getting enough rest, exercise, and most of all, the best brain foods.
Back to School Nutrition Basics
- Vitamins- Giving your child a daily vitamin will ensure they get the daily recommended vitamins and minerals they need to thrive even when they don’t get the best balanced diet. The most important vitamins for growing children are vitamins A, C, and D, calcium and iron. Of course, it would be best for them to get it through their diet, but sometimes that can be difficult and it’s best to be sure by providing them with a daily vitamin.
- Hydration- Dehydrated children have much less concentration and attention span. They will feel fatigue and won’t be at their best. Providing your child with their own water bottle for school that they can carry around in their backpack will greatly increase their water consumption and cut down on dehydration.
- Less Processed Foods- Children like processed foods because they taste good and are usually loaded with sugar or fat. Educating your child on the dangers of processed foods can help cut down on their consumption of it but the most effective way would be to keep these foods out of the house and their availability to your child. Avoid anything that comes in a bag or box as these are usually full of preservatives and additives but the best way to ensure you are giving your child “real” foods is by reading the label and checking the ingredients.
- Brain Fuel- Doctors are now pushing for children to get their daily dose of healthy fats, or Omega 3 fatty acids. These fats aid in the child’s brain development, eyesight, a healthy heart. The best sources are from fatty fish like salmon and tuna but can also be found in fortified juices or milk.
Back to School Breakfasts
Mornings are a hard time. Everyone is tired and rushing so they aren’t late and many times a healthy breakfast is the last thing on the list of priorities. This is not good, however, as many doctors agree that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The best way to ensure that everyone in the house gets a healthy breakfast before they start their day is by preparing the night before. Having healthy grab and go breakfasts like whole grain muffins, cut fruits, breakfast sandwiches, and hard boiled eggs ready in the fridge will ensure that time constraints are not an excuse to skip breakfast.
Back to School Lunches
Many schools offer lunches in the cafeteria. This would obviously make it easy on parents to make sure their child has lunch but do you know what is being served? Take a look at the menu with your child and make sure they know which would be the healthiest choice. Most school districts have adopted regulations for how nutritious their lunches are.
If you prepare your child’s lunch, studies show that fruits and vegetables that are cut up are more appetising to children. Adding a healthy dip like hummus or Greek yogurt with spices for vegetables will make them even more appetising. Tuna sandwiches will give your child a brain boost but avoid processed white bread.
Sometimes we can fall into the trap of making what we think would be a delicious lunch with great healthy choices but our children had no input into what was included in their lunch. We could think that we gave our child a delicious healthy lunch, but they end up buying sweets from the vending machine, eating half of their friends cookies, and eating one thing from your lovingly packed lunch and leaving the rest to rot in their locker. How can this be avoided? Allow your child to help you pack their lunch, or at least decide what goes into their lunch bag, while, of course, only offering healthy options. This will increase the chances that they will be happy with their lunch and not look for food in unhealthy places.
Back to School Snacks
Children like to snack, especially after school. Snacking can be very detrimental to the health of our children so it is essential that we offer the right kind of snacks and at the right time. Snacking too close to dinner time may spoil their dinner so offering snacks as soon as children arrive home is the best timing.
Snacking is the best time to allow your child a treat but this is when to teach your child moderation. If you are going to offer your child homemade chocolate chip cookies, don’t place the entire plate in front of them, instead hand them a couple and put the rest away.
Healthy snack ideas are fruit smoothies, natural peanut butter with apple slices, trail mix, and cheese sticks.
The Importance of Family Dinner
Family meals are a great way for the family to get away from all the stress outside the home and sit down together to relax, laugh, talk and show affection for one another. No distractions should be around to ruin the moment. Televisions and cell phones should be turned off. Viewing family meals as a priority will help develop the habit. Children who eat together as a family feel cared for. They get a warm emotional security from living in a loving family environment that takes the time to put everything else aside and have a delicious healthy meal together on a regular basis. It may be difficult to prepare a meal at a time that everyone can take part in but the effort will definitely be worth it.
Family meals will also allow you to prepare a healthy and balanced meal for the whole family. This will cut down on the amount of processed foods and high sodium and fat content in the meals eaten outside the home. Making a habit of doing this as often as possible will also set a custom for your child as well. They will grow up and pass this healthy tradition onto their families.
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