As the lazy days of summer come to an end, it is time to prepare for evenings full of homework help, meal preparations, extracurricular activities and early bedtimes. As parents we all want our children to succeed academically while living healthy and active lives. This involves establishing a healthy routine with things like feeding them the right foods, making sure they get enough sleep while also keeping them involved in activities they enjoy. Grocery shopping for one person is one thing, but trying to feed a whole family while trying to eat a well-balanced diet is quite the challenge. So here are some tips for all you parents to ensure your children live the best possible lives while striving to reach all their goals.
- Plan your recipes out the week before. This avoids stressing about what foods to prepare on a daily basis
- Grocery shop at the beginning of the week and pre-cut all fruits and veggies into sealed containers
- Reduce your children’s exposure to pesticides. When you are grocery-shopping keep the “clean fifteen” and “dirty dozen” lists handy by downloading the app on your phone
- When making dinner aim to make double so it can last the next day for lunches
- As convenient premade lunches and snacks are they often provide very little nutrition, so avoid this as much as possible
- Eating for a healthy brain includes: keeping blood sugar levels balanced, eating the rainbow while limiting refined sugars and processed foods
- Breakfast - Start their day off with a low Glycemic index, high fibre, healthy fat and high protein meal. This allows for sustained release of glucose to the brain allowing children to stay mentally and physically active throughout the day.
- Protein Options – Eggs, meat, hemp hearts, nut butter, chia seeds, raw nuts and seeds, beans
- Fibre Options – flax seeds, fruits, whole grain toast
- Healthy Fat Options – Fish oil, coconut oil, avocado
- Here is an example of a well-balanced breakfast: Eggs + Fruit + Whole grain toast with nut butter OR
- Smoothies are another great breakfast option. Add some frozen berries, chia seeds, flax seeds, nuts and spinach for a full balanced breakfast!
- Pack their lunches full of healthy snacks like raw veggies and hummus and some fruit. These are the top immune boosting foods that are high in phytonutrients and important for brain health.
- Make sure to include iron-rich foods like meats, eggs and spinach. Iron deficiency has been associated with poor cognition and lower attention span and fatigue.
Sleep is necessary for our little one’s bodies to regenerate, repair and grow. School-aged children need about 10-12 hours of sleep a day. Growth hormone is secreted while we sleep and this can affect mood, energy and appetite. Here are some ways to optimize their quality of sleep:
- Establish a routine with the same bedtime every night. Kids need a well-established routine that is being enforced every day.
- Ban all electronics before bed. This allows melatonin to be released and reduces mental stimulation before bed.
- Spend about 20 mins with them before bed. This makes them feels safe and loved allowing them to fall asleep quicker.
- Omega 3 fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are hard to get enough of even if you eat fish, so supplementing with a good quality fish oil is important for brain health, skin, health and mood. Fish oil can boost the immune system and improve concentration/focus in kids
- Vitamin D. Living in Canada we do not get enough Vitamin D on a daily basis. It is super important for hormones, bones, skin health and a healthy immune system
Generally, kids that eat well and sleep well FEEL well. Follow the tips above to have a great and productive school year ahead!
Written by: Dr. Saira Kassam, ND | 2016