Written by Denise Tam, Holistic Nutritionist
We’re happy to see our children go back to school, not just for our own schedules but for the benefit of their learning and growth too. Children are meant to be playing and learning with other kids, and have personal interactions. No virtual classroom can ever replace this. In almost all studies looking at the correlation between nutrition and learning it is clear that better food builds better bodies and brains. Real food provides our bodies with the fuel it needs to grow, develop, think and repair. Good nutrition has shown a positive impact on students’ academic performance and should be an integral part of their learning and growth.
It is our duty to give our children the environment and health they need to excel in life. Just like how you would prepare for school by adjusting sleep times, purchasing supplies, buying new clothes, and including some structure back into the day, adequate and proper nutrition also needs some foreplanning.
Here are our top back to school nutrition tips.
Eat for Energy
The start of school means longer days that demand more from all of us. Starting right is as important as ending well.
In nutrition it means, eating a nutritious breakfast that should include the key macronutrients of protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates to keep your child full until lunch. Don’t count on snacks at school to be nutritious, unless you are packing them.
- 70% healthy protein like eggs, cottage cheese or nut butters
- 20% carbhoydrates like vegetables, fruits and some whole grains
- 10% healthy fats like avocados or the oils from nuts and seeds or Udo’s Omega DHA oil drizzled into the meal.
Breakfast could look something like:
- Baked frittata* with a green juice or smoothie.
- Overnight oats with fruits, nuts and nut butter.
- Avocado toast with scrambled egg and half an apple.
- Chia pudding with homemade hemp milk (for extra protein, see recipe below) topped with fruits
*Frittata is essentially baked egg and vegetables (spinach and mushrooms are often ones that are favoured with kids). You can choose to include cheese to provide more protein if your child has a big appetite in the morning.
Ending the day well means eating foods to assist in better sleep and to be well nourished.
Breakfast and dinner are the meals you can control the most, so it’s important to maximize nutrition in both of these meals but particularly for evening meals you want to find that right balance because you don’t want your child to overeat making it more difficult for them to fall asleep and also to wake up the next morning.
Limit over drinking liquid right before bedtime and any stimulating foods like spices and sweets that may keep them up.
Eat to Nourish
“Nutritional deficiencies in zinc, B vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids and protein have been shown to affect the cognitive development of children. There is also evidence to suggest that diets with high amounts of trans and saturated fats can have a negative impact on cognition. This will harm the ability of students to learn at a pace necessary for school success."¹ (Journal of School Health)
60% of our brains are made up of omega 3 fatty acids, EPA & DHA, that our bodies cannot produce which means we need to obtain adequate levels solely from our food. Foods high in omega 3 include fatty fish, grass fed beef, organic eggs and some nuts and seed oils like flax and ahi-flower.
Because it’s difficult to obtain enough omega 3 oil from our food alone, we believe Udo’s Omega 369 Oil should always be included in our meal as our foundational oil supplement. Adding them to your child’s day can positively benefit mood, attention, focus, metabolism, energy and the immune system.You can easily add in a few tsps of Udos Oil to our kids favourite Peanut Butter Smoothie that’s full of protein, collagen and fibre.
Vitamin B, magnesium and zinc
These nutrients are often depleted with stress so it may be wise to include a children’s multivitamin to ensure levels are adequate. We like Salus’, Kindervital because it is easily absorbed, made from plants, all natural and most of all, because kids simply love the taste and there’s no fussing around trying to get them to drink it.
During periods of stress or seasonal changes where our immune systems need to be stronger, we also recommend adding extra Vitamin C, Vitamin D and zinc. Pure Encapsulations has these in gummy form that are a favourite with children. Check out the Zinc Gummies that provides 12mg of zinc per gummy and free from artificial colouring and refined sugar.
In the end, you don’t need to be overly concerned about the portions of macro nutrients , just focus on wholesome meals and afternoon snacks. This website has lots of ideas and recipes for kid friendly meals and snacks for your to start testing (perhaps even as an end of summer activity!)
Eat to Protect
Starting the school year is stressful on both parents and children so it is important to keep your immune system particularly strong and guarded.
Ensure your kids drink plenty of water by sending them off with 1-2 water bottles. Add in a splash of fresh lemon or lime juice for flavour and digestion or add a drop or two of these easy ginger drops to guard against bacteria.
Since 80% of our immune system cells is located in our gut, the balance of good and bad bacteria can easily become imbalanced from the added stress, improper diet and just by being surrounded by so much more bacteria daily. The Udo’s Choice age specific probiotics are always in our back to school routine as well as Sambu Guard, an elderberry, echinacea and vitamin c juice that both kids and moms absolutely love.
Read more about the research on children’s probiotics
Being school ready is a family affair, it’s not just for kids, but for parents alike. Healthy moms and dads means they can better care for their child, so don’t forget to practice some of these yourself. Planning is the first step to success.
Further reading: Why Setting Goals will set you up for Success.