It’s been a week and students are back in the swing of a new school year! This year, make sure you give your kids a good start by paying special attention to what they eat. Here are a few helpful tips on a healthy, natural, back-to-school diet:
- Protein will keep your kids full for longer and help maintain their energy and focus throughout the day. Some good protein sources include lean chicken or turkey, fish, beans & lentils, eggs and nuts & seeds (if tolerated and permitted).
- Snacking is important but if a healthy snack isn’t easily accessible, they’ll have the junk food! Even in a snack, you should remember to include a protein. Some good snack ideas: an apple and some nut/seed butter for dipping (if tolerated and permitted), some vegetable sticks and hummus, rice crackers and bean-guacamole (recipe here).
- Fruit juice may have its health benefits but kids should still only have it in moderation. If you consider that a glass of orange juice has the equivalent of 4 oranges in it, a child who drinks 3 glasses of juice a day has had the equivalent of 12 oranges. I don’t know any kids who would eat a dozen oranges a day! With juice, you may be getting some good vitamins but you’re also having a lot of sugar without any of the fiber you’d get by eating the actual fruit. One glass a day (or try half a glass watered down) of natural, unsweetened fruit juice is more than enough, make the rest pure water.
- A varied diet is more likely to provide the right combinations of nutrients. Mixing different grains, beans, fruits and vegetables will help ensure your child is getting all the nutrients needed for a growing body. Try introducing a new vegetable or whole grain every month. Get your kids involved in choosing and preparing the food of the month!
- Balance your dinner plate: ¼ lean protein, ¼ whole grains, ½ vegetables (1 green, 1 of your choice), 2 tbsp good fats.
- Keep lunch balanced as well. This can be as simple as giving dinner leftovers for lunch! Sandwiches are ok on occasion but keep in mind that they tend to be heavy on carbs, low on protein, and very low on vegetables and good fats. If making a sandwich, use “homemade cold cuts” (e.g. thinly sliced leftover chicken breast) and add on a healthy vegetable and sprouts.
- Consult with a naturopathic doctor to help determine if your child has a sensitivity to certain foods. Wheat and dairy tend to be an issue for many children and can contribute to problems in behaviour, skin conditions and even asthma. An ND can help you identify food triggers, help you to manage them and determine if your child could benefit from nutritional supplements or other naturopathic therapies.
A special note on DHA:
Particularly important with the start of the new school year is to address brain function and development. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is a form of omega 3 fatty acid that is especially important for growing children as it contributes to proper brain development. In addition, it is the omega 3 found in highest concentration in the brain and continues to have a crucial role in cognitive function after brain development is complete. It acts both in communication between brain cells as well as an important structural component in the brain.
DHA is not easily produced in the human body and should therefore be obtained through dietary sources and supplementation, when needed. DHA is found primarily in algae and coldwater fish, particularly salmon, tuna, and sardines. To supplement these sources, numerous products can be found on the market, but choosing the right one is key. Consult with a naturopathic doctor to choose the right dietary and supplement sources of DHA for your child’s needs.