It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Have you seen that commercial? It drives me nuts. The kids are miserable and the father is skipping down the aisles of a business supply store with a gigantic smile on his face. Do our kids really feel that terrible about going back to school? And do we get that excited about the hectic school year?
Callum goes to school September of 2011 so I won’t know for another year, and that is just fine with me! If I’ve learned anything from parenting it’s that I eat my words eventually!
I knew some of my adoring fans readers would need some help getting ready for back to school so I enlisted the help of my friend Kim from Your Green Baby.
Kim prepared a great post with tips on how to fuel your children for school. Make sure you follow Kim on Twitter where you’ll find her tweeting great tips all day long! I’ve included some links to some of her recipes and some of my own.
Fuel for the Brain
Back to school season is here – yay!!!! Back to school means routine, regular bed times and the dreaded school lunch. As you get ready to embark on a new school year I offer up a challenge to you as a parent – take time this year to focus on feeding your child for optimum learning, fuel that brain with the right foods and sit back and watch as your child excels in school.
So just exactly how do you fuel the brain for optimum learning? Your child’s brain needs exactly what their body needs – a diet high in fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins and whole grains – in other words a well balanced real food diet.
Fueling the brain starts with breakfast. Breakfast means “breaking the fast”; the body has been without fuel all night long, breakfast is the time to refuel, to nourish and to kick start the body. It is the time to restore energy in the brain that was depleted overnight and an opportunity to fill up your child’s “tank” with the right fuel for a quality day of learning.
Studies show breakfast eaters achieve higher grades, pay better attention and participate more in classroom discussions, all great reasons to make sure your child enjoys a healthy breakfast.
What should you feed your child for breakfast? Here are a few ideas:
• Oatmeal with dried fruit topped with grated apple, cinnamon and a touch of maple syrup, and a slice of whole grain bread with nut butter
• Whole grain toast with egg and a side of fruit salad
• Smoothies – frozen berries, banana, water, hemp seeds, chia seeds, handful spinach, blend and you have breakfast in a cup, add a homemade muffin and you have a great start to the day
• Breakfast burritos – scrambled egg plus toppings of your child’s choice – avocado, tomatoes, sliced peppers, cheese, etc. Wrap in whole grain tortilla and enjoy!
• Homemade granola with milk of your choice topped with fresh fruit
• Pancakes – make on the weekend and freeze, in the morning pop them in the toaster, add fresh fruit and maple syrup and serve with a scrambled egg on the side
The brain has chemical messengers, known as neurotransmitters that send messages from one brain cell to another; eggs are a super breakfast food because they provide choline. Choline is a precursor for acetylcholine an important neurotransmitter involved in muscle control, memory and sustaining attention. Oatmeal is also a super breakfast food because it delivers a good mix of carbohydrates, protein and fibre. In one study oatmeal eaters did better on memory related tasks than the cereal eaters and the breakfast skippers.
So before your child heads out the door ensure they have fueled their body and brain for optimum learning with a balanced nutrient dense breakfast.
After sitting in class all morning tackling math problems, reading, and learning about science your child’s brain will be in a state of depletion, it will have used up its stores of glucose (carbohydrates are converted to glucose in the body and stored for energy. The human brain can only use glucose for energy.) It is necessary to provide a nutrient dense whole foods lunch to refuel the brain for afternoon energy and learning.
Lunch should consist of brain boosting glucose sources including:
• Fresh fruit
• Vegetables – raw, cooked, steamed
• Whole grains
As well as lean protein sources to slow the release of glucose which means sustained energy. Ideas include:
• Lean meats (skip deli meats, they contain nitrates which are known carcinogens – instead cooked extra meat at dinner to make sandwiches, wraps or to stuff in a pita)
• Nuts and seeds (if allowed)
• Nut butters (if allowed)
• Dairy (if tolerable)
• Bean dips
Make lunches the night before to reduce the morning craziness and allow your child to be involved with lunch preparations. Giving children a choice makes them feel like they have a little control and will increase the likelihood they will not only eat but enjoy their lunch.
Snacks are important too! Students are usually given a mid morning and mid afternoon break – these breaks are excellent opportunities to provide quality brain foods for your child.
Great snack ideas include:
• Homemade trail mix – low sugar cereal, nuts (if allowed), seeds, dried fruit, pretzels, etc. Dried fruit provides iron which is necessary for healthy brain tissue.
• Homemade muffins
• Homemade snack bars
• Fresh fruit
• Vegetables – cut up into bite size pieces for ease of eating
• Hummus and pita
No discussion of fueling the brain would be complete without discussing fat. The brain is 60% fat, it is the primary structural component of brain tissue. Fat has an influence on brain function and we must get it from our diet.
Omega 3 fatty acids, in particular DHA, are the main fat in the brain, but if levels in the diet are not adequate, the brain will use other fats in its place, unfortunately function can be impaired. DHA is found in cold water fish, fish oil and algae. If your child is not much of a fish eater, supplements can be found in liquids and capsules for fish oil and capsules for algae.
We do have the ability to make DHA from another omega 3 fatty acid, ALA found in flax seeds, flax oil, hemp seeds, hemp oil, chia seeds and walnuts. The conversion from ALA to DHA is not always effective in the body and unfortunately we have no way of knowing it if is or isn’t, so it therefore is best to get some DHA into your children for optimum brain function.
There are some foods that can cause brain drain, these include:
• Processed foods
• Foods high in sugar
• Fruit juices/drinks
• White bread
• Foods with additives, food colourings, sweeteners and hydrogenated fats
• Soft drinks
• High fructose corn syrup
• Foods with frostings
Avoid these foods in school lunches, better yet avoid them all together and choose to fuel your children with real food. Real food will fuel your child’s body for growth, development and health and will fuel the brain for optimum learning.
Good quality nutrition is essential to a good quality day at school. Feed your child well and watch as they enjoy, excel and achieve at school.
More back to school recipes:
You can also find this recipe and many more ‘slightly indulgent’ recipes at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free .