Back to school nutrition

Back to school nutrition
This week marks the start of the school term which for most people also means planning school lunches. Research shows eating a healthy diet is key to a child’s development, school performance and overall health. With the morning routine about to get a little busier preparation is key to packing a nutritious and delicious lunch, your kids will love. 
Below are several nutrition tips to help keep your kids properly fuelled and show just how easy it is to prepare a quality lunch, without taking a lot of extra time out of your day. 

Prep meals to save time

Write a list and shop for breakfast and lunch essentials in advance. The saying ‘Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail’ rings true here, it is much easier to have a plan and know what you are going to pack the night before. Research shows kids are more like to eat fruits and veggies when they are cut up. On the days you are least busy, chop fruits and veggies to have them ready to go for when you need them. Add a healthy dipping sauce like Greek yoghurt or Hummus to make them even more kid-friendly. It’s also a good idea to have grab-and-go produce like cherry tomatoes, apples, bananas, baby carrots, and grapes washed and ready to go on the kitchen counter. For extra staying power, couple them with protein foods you have bought in advance like cheese, pumpkin seeds, or peanut butter. 

Focus on Quality Carbs

Studies show that school-aged kids perform better on tests and have improved concentration when they eat a balanced breakfast. When making your kids’ meals, be sure to include whole grains or enriched grains that are low in added sugars like bread and cereals (aim for less than 10 grams of sugar per serving of cereal). Quality carbs from grain-based foods and fruit are nutrient-rich and provide the brain with a steady supply of energy to facilitate learning. An example of a balanced breakfast for kids is eggs, toast and fruit. To beat the morning rush, have hard-boiled eggs pre-made and a fruit salad in the fridge. 

Pack “clean” ingredient snacks

Whilst it would be great to have the time to cook everything homemade for your kids, the reality is sometimes you need to buy packaged foods for convenience. Unfortunately, packaged snacks that appeal to kids’ taste buds are often loaded with sugar, artificial colourings and preservatives. Find a few healthy staple snacks you know your kids like and have them on hand when hunger hits. Be sure to read the ingredient list to see how much sugar is in the product, not just the marketing wording on the front of the package as they can often be misleading. 

Include omega-3 fats for heart, brain and eye health

Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) are important throughout all stages of life—research shows they help maintain a healthy heart, positively impact brain function and cognitive development, and play a key role in eye health and visual development. The best sources are from fatty fish like salmon and tuna but can also be found in fortified juices or milk. 

Keep your kids properly hydrated 

It’s extremely important for kids to stay well hydrated to prevent fatigue and keep concentration levels going strong. Proper hydration can also help them maintain a healthy weight as dehydration often masks itself as hunger and can cause children (and adults) to overeat. Skip the sugary energy drinks and sodas and give your kids a water bottle instead. If your kids get bored with plain water, add some slices of citrus, berries, or a bit of 100 per cent fruit juice to the water. 
Using these back-to-school nutrition tips, you can set the tone for the school term and support not only your children’s health, happiness and success but the whole families too! 
Wishing all kids (and parents) a wonderful first week back to school! 

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