FIT Talk With Tania  

Set your kids up to thrive at school with the foods they eat

Back to school nutrition

Parents, here's a few tips to help your child not only survive this year, but thrive right through it.

Just over a week of summer vacation is left before kids across B.C. slip on those new runners, fill up backpacks and pose at the front door for the token, "first day of school" photos.

As much as parents are often grateful for the return to regular routine around the house, it can be like herding cats in an effort to have everything set and ready to go in time for the big day.

No kids? Keep reading. The same principles apply to adults going to work.
With only one shopping weekend left, it's important to prioritize what your kid(s) will need to stay focused and on track, to learn and to contribute each day in class, regardless of age.

Although new clothes, gym shoes and hair cuts rank right up there, nothing helps your child function better in class than healthy, balanced nutrition.

With a background in special needs and behaviour intervention, there was a time when my kids were young that I worked in classrooms for close to 15 years, and I can tell you first-hand food makes a difference. What kids eat or don't eat or drink or don't drink before arriving at school, pretty much sets the mood for the morning. And the food that comes with them in the backpack (or doesn't) sets the direction for the day.

School, no matter the age of the student, can be an exciting, stressful, happy, sad and confusing – sometimes all at once. So anything you can do as a parent to set them up to feel good and do good, is good for them.

Here are a few tips and suggestions I've put together to help your child not only survive this year, but thrive right through it.

1. Breakfast is a must. Eating within that first hour of waking is important for everyone. For a growing body expected to sit still, focus, concentrate, learn, contribute and regurgitate information, it is essential. Breakfast, including a protein source (eggs, greek yogurt, protein smoothies) stabilizes blood sugar, meaning kids are better able to attend to the teacher. Protein protects and helps build muscle rather than storing fat, and will keep your child feeling satisfied until recess. A growly tummy only distracts from learning and causes frustration as the day progresses.

2. Ditch the packaged foods. Nutritional value in packaged foods, including things like juice boxes, yogurt tubes, fishy crackers, Ichiban noodles, is minimal at best. I highly doubt any parent would knowingly give their child several teaspoons of sugar, add dye, artificial ingredients, or douse their food with several times the recommended daily allowance of salt. At some point quality must prevail over convenience and we all know preservatives do not preserve health. If you want to know how much sugar is in an item, take the number of grams listed on the package and divide by four to get the teaspoon equivalent. Try it with a few items in your pantry. You'll be shocked.

3. Hydration is key. Invest in a cool water bottle and challenge your child to drink two or three (fills) per day. According to a study done several years ago in Edmonton, kids who had water bottles on their desks and drank regularly, increased their ability to concentrate and focus by 28%. And the water bottle means you're no longer spending money on flats of juice boxes.

4. Yogurt tubes are a cool idea, I must admit—and no spoon required. Genius! Why not make your own out of greek yogurt, you favourite fruit, stevia and zip-sicles, a very cool item I found a while back at Bed Bath and Beyond. Combine a tub or two of plain greek yogurt, a few drops of stevia to taste and some fresh or previously frozen fruit puree in a large Ziploc bag. Cut one corner and pipe your filling into the zip-sicles, refrigerate or freeze. You save money, your child consumes a much higher quality food without the junk. A win-win!

5. Lunchables are one of my least favourite of all packaged foods. I see the appeal 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, again, this is easily replicated in your kitchen. And yes, it is OK to add a treat now and again. Turkey pepperoni, cheese sticks, raw veggies, hard boiled eggs, fresh fruit are all great choices and having your child help to prepare it will ensure he or she eats the good stuff and not just the treat.

6. Pack extra. After making sure your child has enough balanced nutrition for each food break, adding an extra is often a good idea. An extra snack covers those times when your child suddenly has a growth spurt and seem to never stop eating or that last-minute play date or sports practice reschedule. Having that extra snack is also great for those times that you need to do a few errands on the way home. A car full of hangry kids is not fun.
So this year, set your alarm 15 minutes earlier and make a point of sitting down to breakfast as a family.

As you do your school grocery shop, I invite you to think outside the box (and the wrapper, and the packaging...). Choose one packaged food you can successfully replace in your kids' lunches this fall, adding another every few months until they're all gone.

We already know our kids will survive the year, why not set them up to thrive?

For nutrition tips, healthy hacks, recipes and more join 8 Weeks is All it Takes on Facebook

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More FIT Talk With Tania articles

About the Author

Nutritionist Tania Gustafson, owner of FIT Nutrition, has been active in the health and fitness industry since 1986 when she entered as a fitness instructor and trainer.

In 2011, Tania partnered with internationally renowned nutrition and fitness expert Mark Macdonald, and in 2017 officially earned the title of Master Nutrition Coach in conjunction with Venice Nutrition and the International Board of Nutrition and Fitness Coaches (IBNFC).

Tania is one of only five health professionals licensed and certified in Canada to deliver this proven, three-phase program of blood sugar stabilization, not dieting.Tania is committed to ending the dieting madness both locally and globally and educates her clients on how to increase health with age.

Tania is able to work with clients across Canada, the U.S. and U.K. to restore health and achieve their weight loss goals.Tania is a wife, mother of three adult children, global entrepreneur, speaker, workshop facilitator, writer, blogger, podcast host, travel junkie and self-proclaimed gym rat.

For more information and to book your complimentary health assessment go to www.fuelignitethrive.com. Check https://www.facebook.com/fuelignitethrive/  and https://www.facebook.com/groups/8weeksisallittakes/

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories