blog Aug 28, 2015

Just ten more days of summer vacation left before kids across B.C. slip on those new runners, don backpacks and pose for those precious "first day of school" photos.  And as much as parents are usually grateful for the return of a regular routine around the house, for some, it can be quite a task getting everything ready to go in time for the big day. 

With only two shopping weekends left, it's important to prioritize what your child will need to stay focused and on track for learning and contributing each day in class.  Although new clothes, gym shoes and hair cuts do rank right up there, nothing helps your child function better in class every day like good, balanced nutrition.  Using both my knowledge as a Nutritionist as well as Education Assistant having worked with children in classrooms on a daily basis for over ten years, I've put together a few suggestions to help your child not only survive this year, but thrive right through it.

Breakfast is a must.  Eating first thing in the morning is important for everyone but for a growing body expected to sit still, focus, concentrate, learn, contribute and regurgitate information, it is essential. And to expand on that, breakfast including a good protein source (eggs, greek yogurt, protein smoothies) helps blood sugar levels stay in check, build lean muscle and will keep your child feeling satisfied until recess.  Let's face it, a child of any age is easily distracted by any number of things, why allow hunger to be one of them?

Ditch the packaged foods.  I realize this is not going to win me any popularity contests, however the nutritional value in packaged foods, including popular items like juice boxes, yogurt tubes and lunchables, is minimal at best.  Investing in a cool water bottle and challenging your child to drink two or three of them per day actually increases your child's ability to concentrate and focus by almost 30 percent.  Not to mention the fact that you are now saving money on your groceries by not having to purchase the flats of juice boxes.  Yogurt tubes are a cool idea I must admit, and no spoon required - genius!  Why not make your own out of greek yogurt, fruit, honey and zip-sicles (a very cool new item I found this summer available at Bed Bath and Beyond!).  Combine a tub or two of plain greek yogurt, a drizzle of honey to taste and some fresh or frozen fruit puree in a large Ziploc bag, cut one corner, pipe your filling into the zip-sicles and refrigerate or freeze. Not only will you save money, your child will be consuming a much higher quality food with no additives, colours or preservatives.  A win/win!  Lunchables, one of my least favourite of all packaged foods.  I see the appeal for both parents and kids having everything all in one container and there's even a treat.  I give it an A+ for product marketing, but nutritionally it's an F. The good news is that again, this is easily replicated at home in your own kitchen using healthy, delicious, single ingredient foods.  And yes, it is ok to add a treat.  Turkey pepperoni, cheese sticks, raw veggies, hardboiled eggs, fresh fruit are all great choices and having your child help to prepare it will ensure he eats the good stuff and not just the treat.

It's always better to have extra.  After making sure your child has enough balanced nutrition for each food break, including one more thing is sometimes a good idea.  Sending an extra snack for your child covers those times when he or she suddenly has a growth spurt and seem to never stop eating.  It's also great to save for after school.  How many times has your child been invited over to a friend's house right after school?  Not every parent will provide snacks for the extra kids that show up so it's always best to have something on hand. Having that extra snack is also great for those times that you need to do a few errands on the way home.  Having a car full of hungry, cranky kids is no fun for anyone! 

So this year, set your alarm clocks fifteen minutes earlier and make a point of sitting down to breakfast as a family.  And as you walk the aisles of your favourite grocery store this weekend and next, I invite you to think outside the box (and the wrapper, and the packaging...) and choose one packaged food that you can successfully replace in your kids' lunches this year.  We already know our kids will survive the year, why not set them up to thrive?

Subscribe and Watch Tania's FREE 15 Minute Training Video