Yesterday we published Part 1 of our suggestions for supporting our children’s health as they return to school over the next couple of weeks and beyond.
Today, we are focusing on ideas for healthy meal options throughout the day – we have based these on the general principles we wrote about yesterday and included links to previous blogs that we have published with ideas for healthy breakfasts, lunches and snacks.
Start the day with a healthy filling meal that combines complex carbohydrates with some protein and fat. Ideas include overnight oats, porridge made with full-fat milk, boiled eggs and soldiers, poached eggs on toast, toast and nut butter. Add in some fruit and/or vegetables where you can – cherry tomatoes, berries, chunks of apple – and add nuts and seeds to increase the protein and fat content. Avoid sugary cereals, white bread, processed jams and sugar-laden cereal bars if possible.
Starting the day this way will help to ensure that your child (and you) stays full until lunchtime and does not start to flag in energy within an hour or so. This is important for children of all ages, as small children can meltdown mid-morning if they have not eaten a nutritious breakfast, and older children can be inclined to skip breakfast, preferring to get out of bed at the last minute, but are then starving (and unable to concentrate) by mid-morning.
You can find some nutritious breakfast ideas here.
Many schools have stopped providing hot lunches and children are required to take in their own lunch from home. The same principles apply here – it can be tempting and easy to give you child the same sandwich with crisps and a chocolate bar every day, but the best way to support their energy and brain health is to include complex carbs with protein and fats.
For young children, it is often easier to include a range of options in smaller portions – including fruit, vegetables, mini sandwiches and small pieces of chicken, ham or scotch eggs.
Teenagers can be more difficult as peer pressure plays a big part in what they will eat – giving them a wrap or pitta with the healthiest fillings you can is one of the easiest options here and try to vary it each day.
If hot meals are still available at your child’s school, teach them about the reasons for choosing some vegetables and the healthier options – they will have more energy and be less likely to get hungry (and of course support their health).
Read our blog on health lunch box options here.
It can be useful to provide snacks for older children who are more likely to be able to eat when they are hungry – again, it can be a challenge to find things they will eat, but high protein bars, fruit and wraps are usually ‘acceptable’ options.
Younger children are less likely to have a chance to eat snacks, although many schools do have a fruit break, so providing an additional snack can be eaten at this point in the day (again, add in some protein and/or fat if possible).
If they are not able to eat an additional snack during the day, be sure to have one ready when you pick them up at the end of the day to help alleviate any after-school slumps.
Find a list of healthy snack ideas here.
Eating together as a family in the evening can help to encourage children of all ages to eat a broader range of foods, prepare them for a good night’s sleep and ensure they don’t wake up hungry in the night or early the next morning. Again, balance is key – and this can also be the time to top up their vegetable intake for the day.