As the summer holidays come to an end and the darker mornings and evenings set in, it’s a great opportunity for parents/carer to establish some new routines around nutrition to support concentration, focus and optimal immunity at the start of the new school term. With some planning and preparation factors such as a nutrient dense breakfast, quality packed lunch and blood sugar balancing after nursery snacks, you can help make the transition into the new academic year significantly easier for everyone. Share some of these top tips with your parents.
Breakfast like a king
Breakfast really is a must for everyone but most significantly for children, whose growing bodies and brains need constant refuelling of essential nutrients. Research about the importance of breakfast highlights children’s improved focus, concentration, cognition and overall behaviour. To maintain a stable mood and focus we need to choose foods that will support a gradual rise in blood sugar rather than provide a ‘quick spike’. This gradual rise will help to sustain our energy levels and concentration until the next mealtime. Not only does this impact on behaviour and learning, it also affects appetite, cravings for sweet foods and impacts on weight management. The key to blood sugar levels and a ‘healthy’ breakfast is including protein and fibre.
Some great well-balanced options include: wholegrain toast and eggs (scrambled or poached), mini frittatas with mushrooms and tomatoes, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, fresh fruit salad, natural Greek yoghurt and seeds, porridge oats with berries and seeds, home-made muesli/granola (including nuts, seeds, oats, quinoa flakes, coconut flakes, millet flakes, dried fruit and serve with yoghurt or milk with fresh berries or chopped apple) or home-made pancakes with yoghurt and berries or scrambled egg and mackerel.
Pack a healthy lunch
Whether you have opted for nursery dinners, packed lunch or a combination across the week it’s important to be aware of the food your child is consuming. If you have opted for nursery dinners, talk about menu choices with your child/children each day to support them to increase variety across their diet. Packed lunches like breakfast need to ensure blood sugar balance to sustain energy and concentration across the afternoon. Protein and fibre are again key.
Some great well-balanced options include: wholegrain carbohydrates such as bread or oat cakes, good quality protein (beef, cheese, cottage cheese, hummus, chicken, home-made mackerel pate, tuna with natural Greek yoghurt or falafel), vegetables (carrot, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, spinach) and fruit (strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, small apple, pear). Try to avoid processed and high sugar foods such as salami, pepperoni, ham, muesli bars, biscuits, cakes and sweetened yoghurt.
The nursery gate pickup is often the time of day when children can show signs of low energy and blood sugar. As children get older, they can balance this better and easily wait till they get home, but often when they are younger even the walk home can be draining. If you choose to take a snack to pickup, keep blood sugar balance in mind. Protein and slow release carbohydrates will help children regain energy gradually and can then see them through till tea-time.
Some great well-balanced options include: apple and cheese, grapes and mixed seeds, oat cakes with cottage cheese/cream cheese and a plum, hummus and vegetable sticks, berries or Greek natural yoghurt.
Helping parents give some thought to what their child eats and when can make a huge difference to the start of the new school year. These tips can also help support a good routine and alongside factors such as getting some daily fresh air, exercise and enough sleep, children will be better prepared this September.
About the author
The Food Teacher, Katharine Tate, has worked as a teacher and education consultant internationally in primary and secondary schools for over 20 years.
Qualified as a registered nutritional therapist, Katharine, combines her unique education and nutrition expertise to offer schools, organisations and families advice, education programmes, practical workshops, and individual/family clinical consultations. She has also published 2 books: ‘Heat-Free & Healthy’ and ‘No Kitchen Cookery for Primary Schools’.