Food is the fuel that our bodies use to function, think, play, and work.
Kids who eat well perform better in school because they are able to concentrate, focus, and learn during school hours as well as at home. If you find that your child's performance at school is slipping, grades are suffering or he or she is lacking the energy to get through the school day or complete homework, it could have something to do with your child's diet or lack of nutrition.
Here are some important foods and nutrients to help your child succeed in and out of the classroom:
Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, halibut, sardines and trout are some of the best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s (also found in walnuts, flaxseed, and Omega-3 enriched eggs) are crucial for your child's brain power as they help to maintain memory, focus and concentration as well as mood. They are also important for maintaining cardiovascular health and blood circulation. Make your child a tuna fish sandwich or melt, eggs for breakfast or salmon for dinner. Try to make sure you and your children are eating at least two servings of fatty fish per week or consider looking into an Omega-3 supplement.
Anti-oxidant-rich berries (such as blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries) will help to protect your child's brain from free-radical damage caused by toxins, chemicals and pollutants that we are all exposed to on a daily basis, as well as oxidative damage caused by stress. They also provide a source of slow-acting carbohydrate as well as fibre that will give your child a sustained form of energy during the day. Throw frozen berries in a smoothie, into oatmeal or on top of yogurt in the morning for breakfast. Or pack a baggy full of fresh berries and a container of greek yogurt as a dip for school.
Avocados are rich in mono-unsaturated fats, which help to maintain healthy blood flow, which in turn, helps to maintain a healthy brain. These soluble fibre-rich fruits help to sustain energy levels, and are also rich in folate, vitamins E and C and lutein, which promotes healthy vision. Add avocado to sandwiches, salads or smoothies. Or make pita chips and guacamole dip as a healthy after-school snack.
Eggs are one of the most versatile and nutritious foods that exist. Eggs are are great source of protein, which can help to keep your child fuller longer, sustaining their energy levels and allowing them to focus and concentrate for longer periods of time. They are also rich in Vitamin A and D and contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which both promote healthy vision. Make sure that your child eats the entire egg, not just the white, as most of the nutrition is found in the yolk. Serve eggs for breakfast in the form of an omelette, French toast or just good old eggs on toast!
I'm a huge fan of oatmeal for breakfast (or any meal for that matter). Oats are high in soluble fibre, which is a type of fibre that keeps your child fuller longer. They are also a source of B Vitamins, Vitamin E, Potassium and Zinc which help their bodies and brains function well. Contrary to sugary breakfast cereal, oatmeal doesn't spike (or crash) your child's blood sugar, but instead gives them a steady dose of energy all morning, especially when it is paired with protein (milk, yogurt and/or nuts and seeds). Choose either large-flake or steel cut oats, cook with milk in the microwave or on the stove and add your child's favourite nuts, seeds and fruit. Here are some oatmeal recipes that your kids will love.
Beans and lentils boast both carbohydrates (for energy) and protein (for satiety and sustained energy). They are a very economical and easy way to boost your child's health and brain power. High in protein and fibre, beans and lentils help to stabilize your child's blood sugar levels and sustain their focus and concentration throughout the day. Surprise your child with an yummy breakfast burrito (spread refried beans on a tortilla and top with eggs, cheese and salsa before wrapping it up) or pack some hummus in their lunch as a dip for veggies or pita wedges. Beans are also a great vegetarian addition to soups, salads and pasta dishes.
If you liked this article, you'll like 9 Ways Moms Can Boost Their Brain Power.
It is soup season and I'm loving it. Soup is warm and comforting, not to mention easy to prepare (especially when you have a slow-cooker) and makes for a balanced and nutritious meal all in one bowl. I've been a little bit obsessed with my slow-cooker these days, considering the fact that my life is quite busy with a toddler and a 4-month-old who doesn't like to sleep AT ALL during the day. So, being able to toss a bunch of ingredients into a machine that magically whips up an amazing meal makes sense for me (and likely for you too).
Soups are great from a health/nutrition perspective because they are HOT. Hot foods actually make us feel fuller sooner and for longer, therefore helping to control our appetites throughout the day. Lentils are also high in protein and fibre, adding to the satiety effect of this particular soup. Another benefit to this soup is that it calls for canned tomatoes. I know—canned tomatoes—big whoop. But really, canned tomatoes (and cooked tomatoes) are actually higher in a cancer-fighting antioxidant called Lycopene than fresh tomatoes (the high heat used in the canning process causes the Lycopene to be released).
So there you go—an easy, yummy and nutritious soup that will make you feel both physically satisfied and great about what you're serving your family. You can't go wrong!
Inspired by Eating Well Magazine's Slow-cooker Moroccan Lentil Soup.
After reading one of my fellow YMC Blogger's posts on how her preschooler refuses to eat her lunch, I thought I'd "reply" by writing a post with some ideas. Gurpreet Randev, much like many parents of young kids, has tried everything from colorful finger foods to pin-worthy fancy food skewers. But her daughter continues to come home from school with an untouched lunch bag. Gurpreet is at the end of her rope when it comes to school lunches, and her daughter is only one month into preschool. I know she's not alone, and I know that many parents, like her, have read countless blog posts and articles on picky eating and "how to get your child to eat more." As a parent of a preschooler myself, I can imagine the frustration that Gurpreet is feeling, so I hope that some of these (somewhat unconventional) tips will help her and other parents who feel the same pain.
When given the chance, young children love to help plan and prepare meals. When children have a say in what they eat, they feel a sense of control. This, in turn, increases the chances of them eating it. Give your children two to three options for each component of their lunch. For example, ask "Would you like to have a plum or peach for your fruit?" or "Would you like a pita or a tortilla wrap for your sandwich?" When you and your child have decided what will go into his lunch, put everything out on the counter or table and get your child to help assemble it and/or pack it into his lunch bag. Handing over a little bit of control will give your child a confidence boost and a sense of pride in having a hand in his meal.
I couldn't figure out why my three-year-old son stopped wanting to eat his peanut butter and banana sandwiches (he usually loved them) until I asked him if he'd prefer the banana on the side of his sandwich. He said yes and happily gobbled up his lunch. Many preschoolers or young school-aged kids go through a phase where they do not like their food to touch. This is normal and will pass eventually. Even though your children may be refusing to eat their macaroni and cheese with peas mixed in, they may happily eat it if you take the peas out and put them on the side. Try deconstructing their sandwiches or putting all of their pizza ingredients into separate components in a container (meat, grated cheese, cut-up veggies, and mini pitas).
Your child may go on a certain food "strike" where they refuse to eat a food or combination of foods. This is totally normal and is usually nothing to worry about. But it's important to have an open dialog about food choices and preferences so that you can keep up with these "food phases" (and not assume that your child will eat the previous go-to choice). Young kids can be finicky with food (as illustrated in my previous point) and although it's not ok to be a "short-order cook," it's important that your child feels as though they have a say in what they eat. Ask your child why they are no longer wanting to eat a food—you may be surprised at what you find out. Perhaps it is the color or texture that is turning them off. Maybe the banana that you send in the morning ends up being brown and mushy by the time lunch roles around. Let them know that it's OK to not want to eat a certain food and that they can try something new or a different variation of an old favourite.
This seems silly, but in younger kids, lack of manual dexterity could actually be one of the reasons why they come home with unopened containers of food. Practice opening baggies and containers at home before you send them full of food to school.
Kids love finger foods. Try making lunch into a "bento box" by buying a cool container with several compartments and putting snack-like foods (that together form a healthy balanced meal) with lots of different colors, textures, and shapes. Include colorful veggies and fruits (of your child's choosing) with tasty dips, protein choices such as cut-up meats, hardboiled eggs, chickpeas, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, and then whole grain foods such as breads, homemade muffins, crackers, etc. Again, involve your child in choosing what she wants to have in her bento box, even if it is an unusual combination of foods.
If you, like many parents, are spending hours scouring Pinterest for Martha Stewart-worthy lunch ideas, you may be going a bit overboard on the creative side of things. Kids aren't as high maintenance as we may think. Your kids will not appreciate the bunny-shaped sandwich or star-shaped cheese slices as much as your think they will. It's important to offer a variety of foods at lunch (three to five different foods in various colors and shapes) for nutrition purposes but also to prevent school lunch boredom, however this doesn't have to take hours on end. Instead of cutting your child's sandwich into four squares, one day cut it into triangles. Instead of offering cheddar cheese, offer mozzarella one day. Instead of giving carrots and celery, offer cucumber and baby tomatoes. Instead of an egg salad sandwich, offer a sliced hard boiled egg and whole grain crackers. Switching it up—even a little bit—will pique your child's interest and encourage them to nibble a bit more than they otherwise would.
It is HARD not to put the pressure on your children when they refuse to eat a meal, but here's the thing: when you put the pressure on, it will likely turn them off of it even more. So my suggestion is to back off (I mean that in the nicest way possible). Toddlers and kids were born intuitive eaters, and it's important to nurture that intuition as long as you possibly can. By pressuring your children, you are actually encouraging them to NOT follow their internal hunger/fullness cues. This is the opposite of what you want to do. As Ellyn Satter's Division of Responsibility outlines, our responsibility as the parent is to ensure your child is offered a healthy, tasty, balanced meal three times a day and healthy snacks in between most meals. It’s your children’s responsibility to decide whether they eat and how much. As long as you are holding up your end of the deal and your child is growing well and not falling off the growth curve, he or she is likely meeting their caloric requirements by the end of the week (even if they eat very little in one meal or even in one day). Try your best to grit your teeth and bite your tongue when you see your carefully crafted lunch come home uneaten and know that it won't be like this forever. It's a phase not unlike other challenging phases that our darlings go through.
I post daily tips, resources, and answers to tricky questions about nutrition for families over on my Facebook Page, so feel free to check it out!