It's back-to-school time, and whether that means Zooming in from the kitchen table or riding the bus to school, parents and kids alike are transitioning into new routines.If your house is like mine during the summer, this is also a time for closing down the 24-hour snack buffet and being more intentional about meal planning. Even in a virtual school environment, having a schedule that includes times for snacks and lunch is an important part of a balanced lifestyle and building healthy eating habits. Now, I may be a Health Advisor, but I'll be honest: asking me for advice on how to get picky children to eat vegetables is a waste of time; mine seem to live on pizza, grilled cheese, cereal, and fruit. But I don’t want it to be that way.
Food affects the way our brains function, and our ability to focus, sustain attention, and make good decisions is linked in part to how we fuel our brains with food. I am not going to be much help when my kids get to more advanced levels of math homework, so I really need them to be as prepared to learn as possible. I do my best to equip them with breakfast and lunch that will help, not hinder, their school day.
After all, what kids eat now affects brain function beyond their school years. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine report that a poor diet has been linked directly to heart attack and stroke, as well as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and inflammation, all of which can have a negative impact on brain function and performance.So, no pressure, moms and dads. It’s just the entire fate of your child’s intellect and future health resting in that little lunch sack. But that’s okay; we’ve got this! Giving our kids a nutritional boost is all about making sure their meals contain the A-B-Cs.
A = All-Natural.
If our goal is to fuel our kids’ brains with nourishment, we should provide them with the best we have access to! Wholesome eating has become much more convenient with the availability of healthier versions of foods that appeal to kids. It's never been easier to find healthier versions of the foods kids love. When you need something quick to toss in a lunch bag, check the list of ingredients and look for words that you recognize as food and opt for products that contain less sugar, no artificial sweeteners, and have a good dose of protein and fiber.
B = Balanced.
When advice rolls around that we should be feeding our children as they do in France, I joke that my children are practically dual citizens: most of their meals consist of bread, fruit, and cheese! It’s not an altogether bad combination, since the most satisfying and nourishing meals are those which contain a balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Protein and fat can come in the form of lean meats, low-fat cheese, eggs, hummus, and yogurt. Nuts are also a great source of protein and fat, but usually not permitted in schools due to common allergies. Whole-grain starches like bread, rice, and crackers are commonly considered to be our obvious choices for carbs, but fruit and vegetables are also carbohydrates. We need a little bit of each to have a balanced meal.
C = Colorful.
If you look in your lunchbox and see a lot of beige, liven things up with color. Sometimes it is fun to have a goal of eating each color of the rainbow during the day (popsicles do not count) or aiming for five servings of fruits or vegetables. There are so many creative ways to prepare vegetables that some people’s children really enjoy. Not mine, but we’ll get there. For now, I’m thrilled to buy as many berries as are in season!Of course, the foundation of these healthy meals is on the habits we have for mealtimes. Food is a brain and energy booster, but only when portions are appropriate, hunger signals are respected, and it is not used as a reward or incentive.I hope you have a great start to the school year, whether you are raising children or watching the school buses roll by. You’ll race to the head of the class when you remember your A-B-Cs.Click HERE to learn more about the Wellview services available to you. We can’t wait to work with you!
– HEATHER FUSELIER, CHWC, CFP, TTS
Health Advisor | Email Heather