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Back To School Nutrition Tips
Back to school is all about getting everyone back into a routine. Routine of wake/sleep, chores, homework and a pattern of eating regular meals. I crave the normalcy and routine of school time to get through the working week once again looking forward to the weekends.
But, don’t forget that going back to school is very emotional for the whole family.
Some parents look forward to getting the kids out of their hair. Some parents are watching their children grow older and feeling nostalgic. Gosh, they grow up so fast!
Now that they are back to school, let’s talk about school meals.
How healthy is school food and what can I do to improve my child’s nutrition at school?
In this article we will answer these questions:
- What is a healthy diet?
- What is expected from schools, according to the UK Government?
- What can I do to improve my child’s nutrition at school?
- What can I do at home to influence my child’s nutrition?
- How can I manage expectations for myself and my family regarding nutrition?
- Now what? Inspired action!
1) What is a healthy diet?
A healthy and balance diet is one that helps a person to maintain and/or improve overall health. It’s always good to check-in and see how your child is doing.
Here are 5 questions to ask yourself to see if nutrition is working for your child:
- Is my child thriving?
- How is my child’s digestion?
- What is their energy level like?
- What is my child’s mood throughout the course of the day?
- How’s the health of my child’s teeth and gums?
2) What is expected from schools according to the UK Government?
According to the UK Government website, food served in some schools and academies in England must provide:
- high-quality meat, poultry or oily fish
- fruit and vegetables
- bread, other cereals and potatoes
There can’t be:
- drinks with added sugar, crisps, chocolate or sweets in school meals and vending machines
- more than 2 portions of deep-fried, battered or breaded food a week
3) What can I do to improve my child’s nutrition at school?
Once you check-in with your child and you feel that the school is not providing adequate nutrition to support your little one, here's how you can take action.
In a supportive way, write about your expectations and disappoitment with school meals. Perhaps nutrition is something that was overlooked at the school. It migh also be that the low quality lunch menus are part of a larger problem happening at the school. It's always great to stay curious and open to what the issue could be. Be prepared to offer your time to help.
Join Nutritional Advocate Groups or Create Your Own
It’s difficult to challenge a whole system on your own. Parents and communities working together make change happen. Get together, align and advocate for better nutrition.
Support Educational Activities - Food Growing School
Get your school to be a food growing school like these in London. Kids who learn how to grow real living food appreciate it more and then get curious about why it’s so important to their health.
4) What can I do at home to influence my child's nutrition?
Your Own Nutritional Education - The what and the how!
We, as parents and care givers, need to know what nutrition does for the body AND be able to shop, prep and cook in nutritious AND TASTY way.
Here are 2 great free resources online to help you get started.
- Focuses on cooking skills
- Growing your own food (or setting up a growing club at school)
- Delicious easy recipes
- And how to teach ages 3-16 year olds about nutrition
- Tips on what food groups to eat
- Food tips
- Digestive health information
Lead by Example: Be present with your children during meals
Typically children are only eating lunch and snacks at school. Sometimes breakfast. That gives you the chance to mae a difference during the time they are present with you.
Here are a few ideas:
- Take one meal that you want to focus onand improve it by adding another fruit or vegetable to the plate. Even if it is a chopped carrot or pepper or a bunch of berries for dessert... you’ve added in! Great job!
- Be present for one meal a day. TVs and screens off. That means everyone! Everyone sits at the table or gathers in one room for atleast 30 minutes while you eat, connect and be conscious of the act of eating. They will hate it at first. Stick with it, it gets better with time. (If every day is too much, try one meal a week to start off with.)
- When planning meals, ask yourself, “where is the vegetable?” I feel that we as a culture overly focus on the meat, cheese and starch. It’s very easy to do that for example with pasta and meatballs, sausage rolls, sandwiches with meat and cheese, pizza, etc. These all taste great, but there isn’t a veg in sight. So… where is the vegetable? When I don’t know, as in the case of my signature spaghetti bolognese, I add in a few pieces of steamed broccoli. My kid hated it first, now he just accepts it as part of that awsome meal.
Grow Your Own Food
Growing your own food at home empowers the whole family!
Have you heard about the Juice Plus+ Tower Garden?
There’s something magical about going back to our roots as “farmers” and starting with the a seed to create a fruit or vegetable. It is a process that needs a bit of patience,but it is quite satisfying when it’s timeto harvest your own tomatoes, basil and salad leaves so that you can make your own salad or pesto!
5) How can I manage expectations for myself and my family regarding nutrition?
Societal pressures can be overwhelming. Plus we want to get our lives picture perfect for social media.
Here are tips to reduce the stress around proper nutrition:
- Take a moment to “set right” the expectations around good nutrition.
- Remind yourself that there is no such thing as eating “perfectly.” It is always changing based on the individual needs and activities of you and your children. Pizza and pasta have their place
- Focus on what small changes you can make throughout the day to:
- Add in one more fruit or vegetable.
- Add in a glass of water, tea, juice or milk.
- Switch out the amount of fried foods and replace with baked or grilled.
- Upgrade sweets by adding in healthier options with a sweet taste.
- Take it One Simple Change at a time!
6) Now what? Inspired action :-)
As a health coach, I want to get you out of overwhelm and into inspired action.
Ask yourself these questions to discover how to get yourself moving forward.
- What information from this article made you feel curious?
- What stood out as important to you?
- Where can you get help or advice?
- What could be one small thing you could try today?
Good luck and I am rooting for you!