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Smart Starts for Back to School
It’s that time of year again, back to school and back to routines. We are creatures of habit and often crave routine, so the start of the school year is usually a time of year welcomed by families.
Routines to Try this Fall
Set a Regular Bedtime Routine
Having a bedtime routine will help promote good sleeping patterns and habits. We also know that sleep plays a critical role in helping children continue to grow, develop, and learn. You ultimately decide the type of bedtime routine works best for your family. Is it story sharing about your days, reading stories, colouring together? Make time to unwind together, this will help remind your child’s body that it needs to get into rest mode.
Aim to have a 30-45 minute unwind and bedtime routine this fall, a routine that you all enjoy and looking forward to. I suggest keeping the screens away during this time as they interfere with our natural sleep and wake clock and might make getting to sleep even more challenging for your little ones.
Create a Morning Ritual
Does it feel like a zoo in your house some mornings? Everyone rushing around to get to where they need to be? This school year try to reduce morning stress by setting aside some time be present together, perhaps over breakfast. Eat together, share something you are all hoping to achieve in that day and make the time to be present together (even if it’s just for 5-10 minutes).
Tips to Reduce Morning Stress
• Get your children up 10-15 minutes earlier, giving them time to slowly wake up and get settled into the new day. Parents, you might also enjoy getting up slightly earlier and having some you time, maybe that includes having a warm beverage uninterrupted, journaling, or simply setting up for the day ahead. Give a try and see how you feel.
• Pack lunches the night before (and get your child to help)
• Know what your breakfast plan is
Family Meal Prep
Getting your child involved in meal prep is a great way to spend time quality time with your child and establish healthy eating habits early in life. In fact, research shows that kids who are involved in preparing meals have more positive attitudes towards foods and might even be more willing to try them (yes, even more willing to try fruits and veggies). So, get in the kitchen together and pack lunches for the school day ahead. Your child can wash, cut, or help prep fruits, veggies, snacks or whatever else!
Packing healthy lunches and snacks for school can be challenging. Here are a few health lunch ideas to help fuel your child for the day, so they can learn, play, and feel their best!
1 cup chickpea pasta (for extra fibre)
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped (can also use some chicken here)
1 green onion, sliced
½ bell pepper, diced
1 stalk celery, sliced
2 tbsp. dill
1 tbsp. olive oil
½ tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Salt & pepper
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Option: change up any of the veggies to veggies your child likes. If they like
cucumbers and bell peppers, use those! You can also sub out the oil and vinegar for mayo if your child prefers a mayo based pasta salad.
1 whole grain pita, cut in half
3 oz. chicken breast
2 tbsp. guacamole
Sliced cherry tomatoes (or any veggie)
1 oz. cheese
Option: fill your child’s pita pocket with any of their favourite foods – get creative
Apple & Cheddar Sandwich:
2 slices of whole-grain toast
2 slices of natural cheddar
½ apple sliced thin
(roll and cut into pinwheels)
1 whole grain tortilla
3-5 slices of nitrate free turkey deli
1 oz. brie/swiss cheese
Think de-constructed and get creative! Use a compartmentalized lunch box and offer your child a variety of foods.
• Veggies (i.e., sliced cucumber)
• Fruit section (i.e., sliced strawberries)
• Protein section (i.e., hummus)
• Healthy fats (i.e., cubed cheese)
• Whole grains (i.e., favourite cracker)
• Treat (see treat ideas below)
Healthier ‘treat’ ideas
• Applesauce with ¼ cup granola
• Flavoured cream cheese sweetened with fruit or veggies for dipping
• Homemade trail mix (use dried fruit, cereals, and maybe even some popcorn)
• Chocolate dipped fruit (or use a low sugar chocolate pudding as a fruit dip)
• Dried fruit (mango strips, raisins, etc.).
• Coconut or apple chips
• Veggie based chips
• Granola bar (always look for 6 grams of sugar or less)
Option: make this a pizza roll up. Add pizza sauce, cheese, and any toppings your child likes, roll up and cut into pinwheels.
Does My Child Need Supplements?
In general, most nutrient needs can be met through a well balanced diet. A diet that regularly contains whole grains, fruits, veggies, healthy fats, and protein will provide your child with tons of nutrients to support their growth and development. Depending on your child and their likes/dislikes, regular diet, current health status, some supplements may be beneficial. Before starting any supplements, be sure to talk to your local dietitian/nutritionist or other health care provider.
Two Supplements to Consider
Omega-3 fatty acids must be obtained from the diet and cannot be produced by the body. One of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids is fish (not a common child favourite). DHA is an omega-3 known for its important role in cognitive development during childhood. Depending on your child’s regular diet, perhaps consider introducing a child friendly fish oil for some extra omega-3s.
There is a known link between gut health and immune function. Probiotics can be a great way to support your child’s gut and help build a healthy immune system for the school year ahead.
Angela Wallace is a registered dietitian nutritionist, family food expert, and certified personal trainer. She specializes in women’s health, with a focus on weight-loss and family nutrition. She uses a ‘non dieting approach’ with her ultimate goals being to help people find a balanced lifestyle and healthy relationship with food. www.eatrightfeelright.ca Feel free to connect with me: [email protected]