Getting the school supplies and clothing your child needs is not all that is needed to get them ready to succeed. The fuel in your car (or the bus) is important to transport them to school, but even more important than just getting them there is the food fuel you put into them that will shape their internal readiness and ability to take in all they are learning with ease.
There was a saying on the wall of the elementary school I attended that read, “You are what you eat from your head to your feet.” I can see that sign today as clearly as I did way back then. It is as true today as it was then.
Here are 7 tips to help you to send your child to school ready to learn, grow and succeed.
- Breakfast: Encourage your child to start their day with a balanced breakfast. A nutritious breakfast provides the energy and focus they need for learning. Include clean proteins (range free eggs, chicken, beef, fish, and turkey are a few examples), healthy fats (avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil), and vegetables (raw or cooked). If you want to elevate the breakfast, make some scrambled eggs with vegetables, and serve it in a Grain Free Mama’s Crepe. Another great idea is to make a breakfast pizza with Grain Free Mama’s Pizza Crust. Avoid pork, which invokes an inflammatory response. Grain flours (both gluten and non-gluten) as well as corn rice and sugar cane also invoke an inflammatory response. Inflammation spreads all though the body, including our brains and results in foggy thinking, headaches, and sleepiness, all of which are counterproductive to learning. So, avoid sugary cereals and grains like the plague, as these ingredients are grasses (Edible grasses) which cause blood sugar spikes and then corresponding drops. You don’t want your child to crash mentally before he/she/they make it to lunch. When this happens, their learning is strained or non-existent.
- Packed Lunches: Prepare packed lunches that are both appealing and nutritious. Include a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, proteins (like grilled chicken, turkey, or beans) in grain free wraps, and a healthy snack like grain free crackers or nuts, dried fruit, and sliced veggies with hummus. Curries are fabulous in a wrap or crepe. Also, using Sunflower seed butter and a sugar free jam are delicious and a healthy spin on a child’s favorite. (If using Grain Free Mama’s Crepe Mix, remember to vent the bag or container, as these mixes like to breathe. Try to involve your child in choosing and making their lunch to make it more enjoyable for them. This includes having them ‘help’ to do the shopping. The more they get to select and touch, the more likely they are to want to eat it.
- Colorful Meals: The act of eating involves all five senses; seeing, touching, smelling, hearing (the crunch, etc.) and tasting. Prepare colorful and appealing meals that offer a variety of nutrients. Make healthy eating an exciting adventure and maximize how good you feel, and so do they, when you eat colorful appealing meals. Eating habits are actually ‘caught, not ‘taught’. Children see right through the old ‘do as I say and not as I do’ trick. How you eat, which influences how patient, kind, and fun you are, is what they will actually learn about eating.
- Smart Snacking: Choose snacks that provide sustained energy and nutrition. Small amounts of fruits (fresh or dried), nuts (if you do not have a problem with molds or a nut allergy), seeds, and even a squeeze container of applesauce are good choices. Avoid any processed snacks high in added sugars and unhealthy fats. If your child is hungry after school give them something to eat. My own children were hungry every 2-4 hours. Let them eat. If they eat too much and aren’t as hungry as you would like for dinner, then ask them to eat just a little less next time. The healthiest way to learn to listen to our bodies is through the act of eating. Ideally, we should all have a small amount to eat every 3-4 hours to keep our flow of energy steady. I believe in teaching our children the art of eating when we are hungry, stopping when we are satisfied (not full) and if we get stuffed to know we ate too much. Then we can eat less next time and learn.
- Hydration is Key: Often we mistake thirst for hunger. Not having access to water throughout the day at school doesn’t help. Staying hydrated is crucial for concentration and overall well-being. Encourage your child to drink water throughout the day. Provide a reusable water bottle that they can easily refill at school. Eliminate sugary drinks like sodas as much as you can and limit juices, as they can lead to energy crashes and affect their ability to focus.
- Involvement in Meal Planning: Involve your kids in meal planning and preparation. Take them grocery shopping and let them choose fruits, vegetables, and other healthy options. Implement a meal a week that they choose and prepare to start them early on how to and the fun of cooking for themselves. Involvement can increase their interest in nutritious foods and help them understand the importance of making healthy choices.
- Engaged Mealtime: When you sit down for mealtime or snack time, make it a time to talk to each other, away from distractions like screens. This helps them pay attention to what they are eating, so they can pick up on the cue that their body has had enough when whatever they are eating isn’t as tasty (This is a skill that can only be developed by paying attention to taste response while eating. It is a fun skill to learn if you make it into a game.) It also helps to prevent overeating. Use mealtime as an opportunity to talk and connect, fostering a positive relationship with food.
If you are a bit overwhelmed with the above list, perhaps joining our A Place At The Table Global Community can offer you the support and encouragement to learn, connect and grow your confidence. Nourish Your Mind, Transform Your Plate. Learn to choose foods that elevate your health/wellbeing. One of the offerings inside this community is the Kid’s Table where there is Just For Kids, a space designed to teach and engage your children. For you, there is Parent’s Talk, a place for you to connect with other parents to share wisdom, struggles and to encourage each other.
Remember that setting a good example is essential. If your child sees you making healthy food choices and prioritizing nutritious meals, they are more likely to follow suit. Additionally, involve them in meal planning and preparation to empower them to make their own healthy choices as they grow. When you are old you will not regret making the time to enjoy eating and conversing with your children. Make time for them now and they will make time for you later.
Lastly, it’s important to consult with your child’s pediatrician or a registered dietitian if you have questions or specific dietary concerns, or if your child has any food sensitivities or allergies.