03 Sep Back To School Nutrition Tips
Just like that, September is here. The school year is upon us and I’ve got my fingers crossed that it will be a safe, healthy and in-person school year. After months of online learning, my three are eager to be back at school and see their teachers and classmates. Many kids (and parents) are anxious when school starts and this is completely normal. This year, anxiety levels will likely be higher for many of us as we navigate being back to in-person learning while staying Covid safe.
One of the ways we can help ease anxiety and back-to-school jitters is to ensure our kids are eating well-balanced meals and snacks to keep their blood sugar steady so they are happy, energized and feeling confident. Studies show that kids who consume high-fibre carbohydrates (low glycemic index foods) such as whole grains, fruits, veggies, seeds, beans and lentils are alert, happy and not as nervous. Consuming processed, low-fibre carbohydrates (high glycemic index foods) like white bread, sugary cereals, candy, chips, cookies and juice causes spikes in blood sugar which contributes to feelings of anxiety, irritability and moodiness can make it difficult to learn and focus. Foods that break down into sugar quickly require an intense response to bring blood sugars back to normal values and this response causes a shift in our regulatory hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, growth hormone and glucagon – when these shifts become frequent or excessive, focus and memory are compromised leading to increased feelings of anxiety and irritability. Studies have also shown that high sugar snacks, fried food and salt are associated with learning and behavioural problems. This doesn’t mean kids can not have treats, but it is important to balance meals with adequate protein and fibre to slow down sugar spikes. I’m including some breakfast, lunch and snack ideas that help to keep kids’ blood sugar levels steady so they can feel their best!
Recipe for Balanced Meals: Protein and High fibre carbohydrates to keep blood sugars stable and minimizes spikes as seen in the graph.
Think whole grains such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal and fruit as your high fibre carbohydrates. Always include a protein source such as eggs, milk, meat, poultry, cheese, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. The combination of protein and fibre helps reduce blood sugar spikes. If you find your kids get hungry often increase fibre and protein in their meals and snacks since these 2 nutrients keep you full the longest. For more kid-friendly snack ideas click here and check out these kids friendly shelf-stable snacks here
- Steel-cut oats with fruit, chia seeds and almonds
- Peanut butter toast
- Scrambled eggs with fruit
- High protein yogurt and fruit
- Fruit and veggie smoothie with hemp seeds and flax powder
- Whole grain pasta with veggies and meat sauce
- Chicken and vegetable noodle soup
- Turkey or chicken wraps and sandwiches
- Hummus and vegetable sandwiches
- Egg, tuna, and cheese sandwiches
- Veggie and bean quesadillas
- Fresh fruit and cheese cubes
- Yogurt and berries
- Cottage cheese
- Veggie sticks and hummus
- Air-popped popcorn
- Nut-free energy balls
- Whole grain baked goods such as muffins and cookies
- Whole-grain tortillas with guacamole
Regular milk and water should be your drinks of choice. A reusable water bottle with a straw lid makes it easier to stay hydrated while wearing masks. A high-fibre diet requires adequate water to help push fibre through the digestive system to prevent bloating. Making sure our kids are well hydrated can really help with their concentration and focus during the school day.