Backpacks, pencils, paper, glue, lunch bags, school clothes. Familiar supplies? Back to school season sends parents into a shopping frenzy to prepare their child for a new school year – a time of learning and growth, both physically and mentally. Most schools send home a check list to help parents properly supply their children with all he or she will need for the upcoming year. But, there is something missing from these lists – healthy food. Healthy food stimulates brain function and improves its ability to think, focus, and memorize. It also improves the immune system and minimizes illness. Healthy food is the most important supply your child will need to succeed.
Because school food is not up to the standards that should be set for the future of America, we parents need to step in and fill in the gaps. School lunch food is essentially fast food with “guidelines.” For example, a single lunch cannot contain more that 30 percent of calories from fat and no more that 10 percent from saturated fat. However, there are NO standards for “trans fats,” which cause cell deterioration and dysfunction. Plus, the body (especially brain) NEEDS fat…just the right kind. American school food simply does not supply the right kind of fats.
Another example is that they must offer a single serving of fruit. Unfortunately, cling peaches with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) an “acceptable” serving of fruit. Yikes!!! Fresh fruit is sometimes “offered.” However, if your child is addicted to sugar (which most are) and is offered a “choice” of cling peaches or a fresh apple, they will likely choose the sugar-infused peaches. When children are exclusively offered fresh fruit and vegetables and no processed foods, they will eventually eat them. Try it at home!
The bottom line is, school food is highly processed and offers little natural nutritional value and many detriments, including synthetic dyes and preservatives. So, what can a parent do? Well, the number one thing you can do to improve your child’s overall health is to feed your child healthy food at home. First, start him/her off with a healthy breakfast. Please do your child a favor and don’t believe what the commercials say about sugary cereals and bars being a “healthy way to start off the day.” There is a lot of deceptive marketing in the food industry and breakfast foods are probably the worst culprits. Stick to “whole” foods like oatmeal, creamed rice, fruit, vegetables, nuts/seeds and eggs. Vegetable-infused juices made of 100% juice are a real energy booster, too! Of course, they are best made fresh. If you have a juicer already, dust off the cob-webs and try using it again. Once you get the hang of it, it only takes about 5 minutes in the morning to make fresh juice and clean up. It’s a great way to start the day!
Be sure your child has ample quality protein in the morning. Protein provides the amino acids the brain needs to function properly. If your child eats oatmeal or cereal in the morning, add ground flax or chia seeds, nuts or other seeds, like pepitas or pumpkin seeds. Or give them a boiled egg on the side. Protein bars or shakes can be fine, too, as long as they don’t contain chemicals.
If eating baked goods, be sure they are whole grain (ingredients must say the word “grain” to be whole grain). Cereal should also be made from whole grain and absent of preservatives or refined sugar, both which can disrupt brain function. Regarding sugar, keep in mind that one “teaspoon” of sugar equals about “five grams”. Therefore, if you would like to know how many teaspoons your breakfast contains, divide the number of grams by five (example: 18g of sugar (18÷5) = 3.6 teaspoons). Shoot for no more than 20g processed sugar a day…the less the better.
TIPS to Ensure Your Child has a Successful Day at School:
Well-Rested – This will be different for every child. Most children between Kindergarten and sixth grade need about 10 hours of sleep, while preschoolers need 10-12 hours and Junior High and High School kids need between 8-9 hours. Some children, however, require more than the norm and some don’t need as much. It’s important for you, as a parent, to know what your child needs to perform at his or her best.
Healthy Breakfast– NEVER skip breakfast! Get your child up early enough so that he/she can eat a proper meal. Worse case – send him/her to school with a quality protein bar.
Healthy Snacks – School days are long. Pack some whole grain crackers, baby carrots, sugar snap peas, nuts/seeds or a piece of fruit to keep them satisfied and energized between meals.
Healthy Lunch – Not everyone has time to make their child lunch daily. Teach him/her to do it! Be sure to set guidelines, like “no sweets”, and have them pack fruit or a cup of natural applesauce for dessert.
Love – Every child needs to know he/she is loved. Be sure to hug and give your child love every day!
For more information about proper nutrition or other areas of health and wellness, please contact Gina Van Luven at (435) 565-2062 or go to www.YOUniqueNutrition.com for more information.