It’s that time of year again, when the combination of trying to get kids out the door for school and keeping nutrition in check seems a bit overwhelming. While prepackaged, convenient and prep-free food options may seem enticing, they provide little to no nutrients. Your child’s nutrition is a huge determining factor of how well he or she stays focused and alert throughout the school day. Below, are my top five recommendations on how to ensure your child is properly fueled and ready to learn this school year.
1. Choose whole-foods for breakfast.
This doesn’t necessarily mean make a huge breakfast meal every morning. Rather, have easy grab-and-go pre-prepped items on hand, like egg cups, hard-boiled eggs, almond flour sausage balls, or even as simple as a cheese stick and berries. These protein and healthy fat-packed options provide much more brain fuel than the traditional (convenient, but not nutritious) frozen waffle, granola bar, or Pop-Tart.
2. Pack healthy snack options.
Once again, keeping it whole-foods based is key. Snacks that are highly processed or high in carbohydrates can negatively affect energy, spiking the blood sugar and causing an energy dip soon after. Snacks like celery with natural peanut butter, cottage cheese, turkey and cheese roll up, salted nuts and seeds, or a variety of veggies and hummus are great options.
3. Pack lunches.
Compared to most cafeteria lunches, home-packed lunches can be much more nutrient-dense. Whether it’s leftovers from dinner or a homemade version of a lunchable, you can keep it simple and easy as well as wholesome and healthy. When preparing lunches, aim to make half of the lunch a variety of non-starchy vegetables to load up on vitamins and minerals. Add in some lower sugar fruit, a good protein and healthy fat source and you’re good to go. Minimizing processed foods and high carbohydrate foods in lunches keeps the mind sharp and helps prevent any after-lunch fatigue.
4. Stay hydrated.
Hydration is vital to physical and mental well-being. Staying hydrated keeps the body energized and functioning properly. Poor hydration can result in a lack focus and learning. As you pick out school supplies, make it fun and have your child pick out his or her own water bottle to carry at school.
5. Cut out night time snacking.
Late night snacking or after dinner treats can negatively affect quality of sleep. Close the kitchen two to three hours before bedtime. This gives time for digestion and starts the process of preparing the body for a restful night sleep.