It is amazing how crazy the school year can be for parents and kids. As parents, we’re so busy preparing backpacks, getting school supplies, and making lunches that we can sometimes forget to take care of ourselves. It’s a stressful time that can lead to decreased immunity. The last thing we need is to get sick on top of it! Below are some helpful nutrition tips to guide you through the school year.
STOCK UP ON HEALTHY FOODS THAT LAST
When I am prepared, and that means always having plenty of healthy foods on-hand, my stress levels go down around planning meals. I fill my pantry with almonds, dried fruit, granola, canned veggies, popcorn, applesauce, tuna fish, whole wheat crackers, and peanut butter. These foods are loaded with nutrients and they have a long shelf life. They can be eaten as a snack, a meal, or thrown in the kids’ lunch boxes.
I always have frozen veggies, fruits and grilled meats in my freezer. There is nothing worse than getting home to cook a meal to find that the meat and/or veggies went bad. Frozen vegetables and fruits are flash frozen at peak perfection and have no added salt or sweeteners. They’re an inexpensive and easy way to get your daily serving of vitamins and minerals. Keep your multi vitamins near the coffee machine so you don’t forget them.
LUNCHBOX LESSON PLAN
Healthy lunches don’t just happen. You need the right foods at home in order to pack smart each day. Plan your child’s lunches each week, so that you can do all the shopping at once. Here are suggested ways to pack a nutritious lunch:
• 1 serving of lowfat or nonfat dairy
Dairy is important for bone health, provides protein and over 10 other vitamins and minerals.
• At least 1 serving of fruit/ vegetables or both
Produce adds fiber, potassium, folic acid and many other beneficial compounds to their diets and will help keep kids full.
• 1-2 grain serving(s)
Grains are the foundation of a healthy diet and will give children the energy they need to be active. They also help keep the brain sharp and focused throughout the day. I look for whole grain versions of my kids’ favorite foods.
• 1-2 ounces of lean protein
Protein provides nutrients like iron and zinc not generally found in other foods. It contains the building blocks for muscles, organs and helps keep the immune system strong.
GET MORE ZZZ’S
Research from the Journal of Lifestyle Medicine found that getting adequate sleep (6-8 hours per night) will help lower stress and therefore increase immunity. Set a bed time for kids as well yourself. This can be hard when the laundry needs to be done, dishes need to be cleaned up and put away, and bills needs to be paid, but you need your sleep!!
Lack of sleep can also lead to weight gain—in both children and adults. Often, your tired body will crave sugary foods to find a quick source of energy. These foods lack nutrients and can also decrease your immunity. If you are lacking sleep, consider starting your day with some B vitamins.
Gouin J. Chronic Stress, Immune Dysregulation, and Health.American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 2011;5:476-485.