As the back to school routine approaches, fueling our children for a day of intellectual, social, physical and emotional growth shouldn’t be overlooked. Our bodies receive energy from the foods we eat, therefore the quality of our dietary consumption goes a long way to determining the quality of our day. This is important for adults and equally important for children who are still maturing and growing.
Here are a few tips to help get the new school year off to a nutritious start:
Plan a meal schedule - breakfast, lunch, and dinner and maybe even snacks
Before the stress of the work week begins plan out a meal schedule for the upcoming week. The more detailed the better, but at the very least writing down a breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu will free up your mind to think about other things. The beauty of a written meal plan is that you are thinking about it when you are not under pressure to produce a meal for your family, and it is a written record that can be re-used as often as you like. Start by just listing out foods for each meal, then you can pick items for each meal of the day off your master list. Once you get accustomed to planning your meal schedule, you might even want to start planning out snacks, as well.
Planning meals in advance is a great way to make the next two tips a bit easier to follow.
Make healthy breakfast choices - cereal is not enough to fuel the start of a day
It has been said the skipping breakfast is like trying to start a car without the key. It is easy to drop a packaged pastry and a juice box on the table, but that is not the type of fuel that will kick start the energy systems your child will draw on until lunch. Make sure that you child’s breakfast has plenty of protein, fruits/vegetables, and some healthy fats and very, very, little sugar to start their day of on the right track.
Now that you have his or her metabolism churning from a nutritious breakfast, staying fueled throughout the day means an equally nutritious lunch is a must.
Pack nutritious lunches - Make sure there protein in their lunch. Limit processed carbs. Include healthy fats. Minimize sugar. Water to drink.
Like breakfast, lunch is also very important. Think of lunch as putting gas in the car for the 2nd half of a long trip. Your child will likely be facing energy depletion and a decrease in focus by the time lunch rolls around. It is imperative that the food he or she eats for lunch adequately support brain and physical activity for the remainder of the school day. Lunch should include foods high in protein like lunch meat, tuna, and natural peanut butter (less processed sugars), carbohydrates (2 slices of bread will suffice for processed food) like fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats like avocado, bacon bits, olive oil (dressing for salad). When packing a lunch consider sugar as an enemy, therefore, water is the best drink to provide with a meal. Carbonated drinks, sports drinks, and juice pouches are often provided out of convenience, but they are packed with sugar and excessive use will make it harder for children to stay attentive as the day progresses. Lunch is fuel for the 2nd half of the day!
Of course, every child is different and circumstances like allergies, food aversions, and any number of other issues can make meal time a challenge. Although there will likely be obstacles to overcome as you move towards healthy energy supplying food choices, one thing is certain...the quality of the food a child eats will effect his or her ability to reach optimum levels of growth and development.
If you have any questions about planning meals or healthy food choices, I am happy to help. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.