Remember the days of Lunchables, Fruit by the Foot and Dunkaroos? While those may have been some highlights from many childhood memories, these are some school foods that can stay in the past. When we think about nutrition for kids, it’s important to remember that keeping it simple will keep you sane (especially if you have a picky eater)!
Proper nutrition for kids, especially on those long school days is essential for both their physical and mental health!
If you are looking for some tips on back to school nutrition for kids, here are 6 ideas for you to add into your day:
1. Reduce sugar intake.
When I say this, I don’t mean that treats are completely off the table. However, cake, cookies, high-sugar granola bars, pastries, juices, etc. should all stay out of your child’s lunch box most days.
The reason? When we consume foods high in sugar (particularly refined sugar), our blood sugar spikes and drops. During those spikes, children may have more energy and feel anxious, or need physical activity, making them seem disruptive. When there is a drop, they may feel more moody, tired, or can’t concentrate.
2. Choose complex carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates include foods like oats, sprouted grain toast, fruit (with the peel), and starchy vegetables (among others). These types of carbohydrates are higher in fibre, which helps the sugar to release more slowly. In turn, this helps to prevent that blood sugar spike and crash that we can see with refined sugars.
Some of my favourite ways to include complex carbohydrates in children’s school snacks are:
3. Start at breakfast!
The key to keeping children energized and focused during the day truly starts at breakfast! It’s time to skip the sugary cereal, and choose whole grains and protein, which will keep them satiated until their first recess.
Some of my favourites include:
- Chia pudding with full-fat (unflavoured) greek yogurt and berries
- 1 hardboiled egg and 1 piece of sprouted grain toast
- ¼ cup of oats, cooked with 1 egg with cinnamon and almond milk.
When you start with proper nutrition for kids at breakfast, it will set them up for a day of success (and maybe keep them in a great mood when you show up to take them home)!
4. Help them love vegetables!
I hate to break it to you, but sometimes, children can be picky eaters, and vegetables tend to get the brunt of the dislike. However, for many children, it’s all about presentation in the end.
For those truly picky eaters, try:
- Making a “green monster smoothie” with spinach, yogurt, a banana, and some hemp seeds. The different coloured smoothies can make it more fun!
- Get them to help you make dips for their vegetables, like hummus, guacamole or tzatziki sauce
- Re-introduce vegetables occasionally, and in different ways. Did they hate roasted carrots? Try them in soups.
One thing to not do? Reward them with a “treat” like a cookie when they do eat their vegetables.
5. Get your kids in the kitchen.
Eating healthy starts by showing kids how they can make their own healthy snacks and meals, and getting them excited about it! Rather than letting them spend a rainy Sunday watching television shows, get them to help you meal prep in the kitchen (where appropriate). If they’re too young to handle a knife, give them jobs like ripping up lettuce leaves, washing veggies, whisking eggs, or mixing some homemade granola.
6. Make it easy for them to choose healthy snacks.
You probably know the feeling. Getting home from a long work-day feeling hungry and opening the fridge to… nothing. You reach for the bag of chips to snack on while you get dinner ready, and by the time you get to the good part, you’re not really hungry anymore.
When you stock your fridge with easy to grab, healthy snacks like pre-cut veggies, homemade energy balls, and cleaned fruit, helps your children to choose nutritious foods, easily. This will also ensure they’re not too full on “junk food” when dinner time does come.