Back to School Nutrition Guide and Recipe round up
Aug 12, 2022
It’s that time of the year – the start of a brand-new school year for our kids!
As parents, it’s not unusual for our excitement to come with some level of anxiety in getting our kids
school ready. Whether it’s preparing our kids emotionally for the new adventure, shopping for non-toxic school supplies, or planning around daily schedules, things can get a little overwhelming, and if you are anything like me, nutrition is at the top of that list.
So I thought I’d share some tips on a few things we can do to fuel our kids throughout the day to help them learn better and thrive in school.
What are the basics?
I always consider their meals with these 5 things in mind:
- COMPLEX CARBS: This gives them energy - Whole grains like oats, millet, buckwheat, brown/wild rice, quinoa, teff, sorghum, whole wheat, barley
- CLEAN PROTEIN: This helps them grow and repair tissues - Organic soy products (tofu, edamame, tempeh, soy milk), legumes (chickpeas, lentils), quinoa, seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, chia), and if you eat meat: pastured raised eggs, wild-caught fish and chicken (I know it's easy, and kids like them, but don't consider cold cuts 'clean' - processed meat is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the IARC.
- HEALTHY FATS: This provides energy and is important for brain health too - Avocado, nuts and seeds, yogurt, wild-caught salmon, olives, or high-quality extra virgin olive oil.
- FIBER: This is important for a healthy microbiome, which then translates to a healthier immune system. Fiber also binds onto toxins and helps us eliminate them - Seasonal fruits and veggies (leafy, cruciferous, starchy & crunchy) that are easily accessible, easy to prep and pack
- DIVERSITY: Gut health is central to overall health and the first step to detoxing that I teach in my Detox Right course. One of the biggest and most important determinants of gut health is the diversity of plants we eat. So I try to look at what colors are on my kids' plates and incorporate as many colors from the rainbow as I can. Each color represents different polyphenols that feed our gut health and help us fight diseases.
A well-balanced breakfast can offer a great start to the day for your kids (and you too!). And the best thing is, it doesn’t need to be complicated. With a few simple ingredients and a little planning, you can have a yummy breakfast ready without needing to do much in the morning.
Here are some simple breakfast ideas to incorporate the good sources above:
- Overnight oats: This is one of my favorites - Prep this the night before and warm it up in the morning or serve it cold. You can play with countless flavor combinations to keep things fun. Here's what I normally do. For myself, I sometimes add in a scoop of protein powder to bump up the protein content. My kids don't need that.
- Chia pudding: Similar to overnight oats, flavor this with any fruits of choice or nuts/seeds combination. One of my favorites is a strawberry chia parfait. I have a recipe in my ebook.
- Fruits with yogurt/milk and granola: Granola can be store-bought or homemade. You
can also vary this with store-bought cereals. This is my favorite homemade granola recipe.
- Smoothies/smoothie bowls: The easiest way to incorporate all the different food
sources into a nutrient-dense easy breakfast. So many to choose from, but my ebook has my favorite one. If you are making it for breakfast, try to incorporate a good amount of protein in - either in the form of seeds (e.g. hemp) or protein powder. I use Vivolife in mine.
- Tofu scramble/omelet: This is a great way to incorporate vegetables into a protein-packed breakfast. (my recipe in my ebook)
- Avocado Toast with crispy chickpeas: Look for whole grain bread, or better yet, seeded or sprouted for extra goodness. We are gluten intolerant, and my favorite gluten-free bread is Young Kobras (affiliate code: platefulhealth 10% off). Another good one that is not sourdough is AWG.
- For extra protein, sprinkle some hemp seeds on your avo toast, or add eggs if you eat them.
You can also find make-ahead breakfast ideas from recipe blogs such as https://happykidskitchen.com/kid-friendly-make-ahead-breakfasts/
Thinking about what to pack in your kids’ lunch boxes can feel like a daunting task some days. I certainly feel the school lunch fatigue sometimes, so I usually batch-make patties at the weekend that I can warm up during the week for their lunches when I'm in a pinch (which is quite often #workingmom).
Here are some simple ideas on how to make nutritiously balanced meals with common ingredients you can find at home:
- Veggie & Fruit Platter with hummus: Use whatever fresh vegetables and fruits that are in season
or available at home. Bell peppers, cucumber, carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes,
jicama, snap peas, edamame, cauliflower, broccoli, radishes. Serve with guacamole or hummus, either store-bought or homemade.
- DIY wraps or rolls: This is my version of "Lunchables", and honestly it's less work. Try
packing the wrap and the filling 'deconstructed' and let your kids make their own (it’s fun and they’re
more likely to eat it). You can use the vegetables that you’ve prepped for the platter
or leftovers from dinner. Besides bread or tortillas, you can also use nori sheets or
lettuce leaves. Serve it with a side of your kids’ favorite sauces/dressings. If you want to make wraps at home, Plantyou has a great 2 ingredient tortilla recipe here.
- Burger patties/bites: This is a great way to incorporate A LOT of fiber, veggies, protein and fat into one easy meal. I have a black bean and navy bean beans/ recipes in my ebook. I normally make a batch, freeze them, and warm them up in a toaster oven in the morning. This is usually served with a side of fruit.
- Pasta: I always make extra when we have pasta for dinner so that they can take it to school for lunch the next day. While most kids may not choose to eat certain vegetables on their own, you
can make it more palatable by adding vegetables into their favorite pasta dish.
Carrots, zucchini, peas, mushrooms, and leafy greens are some easy additions.
Also try using legumes-based pasta (edamame, chickpeas, lentils, peas) for added nutrients.
- Repurpose dinner leftovers. For example, when we have rice for dinner, I will make sushi for their school lunch the next day. When meal planning for the week, make some extra
food for dinner that you can easily pack for lunch the next day. Stir-fry noodles or
rice, pasta, soups, stews, or curries, make good leftovers. Cook once and eat twice
If you want to buy patties, these look good ingredients-wise (I've not tried them for taste). Hilary's is ok, but they changed the oil used in the ingredients to safflower/sunflower oil... absolutely fine for occasional lunches, but I wouldn't do it every day.
As I mentioned, I personally don't buy ham or processed meat, because they have been associated with an increased risk of colon cancer and are classified as a Class 1 carcinogen by WHO. If you eat meat, unprocessed is better - slices of chicken breast vs ham or salami.
Snacks aisles in stores can feel like a parent trap sometimes, with tons of kid-friendly looking
snacks and marketing ploys to get your kids' (and your) attention.
No doubt, snacks can be a great way to help fuel your kids in between meals, and my kids come home from school absolutely starving usually!
Here are some simple ideas and recipes for you to try:
- Fruit bagels/sandwiches: Bananas or apples sliced into round shapes spread with
nut/seed butter of choice and sprinkled with pumpkin, sunflower, or hempseeds.
- Energy bites/bars or pudding: These are easy and fun ways to serve proteins (e.g.,
black beans, cannellini beans, adzuki beans), healthy fats (e.g., nuts/seeds,
avocado) and fiber (oats, dates).
- Instead of Rice Krispies bars, make a healthier one with this recipe. Rice can be a source of arsenic, which does not concern me if it does not feature regularly in your diet. However, if it does, you may want to sub puffed rice here with puffed quinoa or millet instead - switch up the whole grains :).
- Baked goods: Homemade muffins, flourless brownies, socca (see my ebook), or scones are quick and easy ways to incorporate whole grains, veggies, or fruits like zucchini, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, berries, and nuts/seeds.
- My kids LOVE a cookie dough bar - make them ahead of time, refrigerate, and they can help themselves after school.
- Trail mix: Mix up your own with your kids’ favorite nuts or seeds, roasted chickpeas,
or edamame, chopped dried fruits and dark chocolate.
- Smoothies: Smoothies can be turned into quick snacks that you can keep cool in
stainless steel thermos.
- Stovetop popcorn drizzled with olive oil or nut butter.
- Store bought - let's be real here, although I attempt to provide home-made snacks for my kids, it is not always possible. Sometimes we are busy on the go, sometimes I'm just too busy and don't have the time. Here are some options I buy online or instore: Skout Organic bars and cookies (Affiliate code: platefulhealth for 20% off), Organic seaweed from Costco are just two examples.
Lastly, please give yourself grace and remember the 80/20 rule. Life is busy and hectic. And you are doing the best that you can. Nothing has to be perfect, just start by changing one lunch, or one small change at a time.
Confused by the internet and the conflicting views?
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