Back to school
The kids are back to school this week so that also means busy mornings trying to get them ready for school, fed and on their way with either a nutritious and filling breakfast or some good quality snacks.
That doesn’t mean, Michelin star lunchboxes but simple nutritious foods that will not only support their energy levels throughout the day but also will support their focus and brain health.
Here are some oft simple go to snacks and foods that are perfect for lunchboxes and snack times
Hummus, flatbread and veggies is probably my simple go to…easy to prep and easy to eat at school plus it’s packed with wonderful protein rich chickpeas, and wonderful vegetables for those all important phytonutrients…think tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, cauliflower, peppers, celery,
Pasta…okay so this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but hear me out! Pasta salads are a great option using leftover pasta, vegetables such as tomatoes, sweetcorn, peppers, spinach etc and dressed with a pesto sauce is a great lunchtime filler but try to make sure the pasta is wholegrain such as spelt or even a gluten free lentil/chickpea option.
Thai quinoa salad…and don’t worry this can be prepped the night before and used for lunch! Using my tahini Thai sauce (normally made with peanut butter but of course nuts are not allowed at school) so tahini works really well instead! Add in carrot, peppers, red cabbage, edamame beans, kale along with the spinach, and Thai tahini sauce and you have a wonderful protein and phytonutrient rich lunchtime meal.
Gyros are a great option…filled with either meat such as chicken, or a veggie option such as tempeh or mushrooms along with a tzatziki, or hummus, some vegetables in a wonderful wrap = a lunch that everyone will enjoy
Nachos are a great option…opting for corn tortillas and pack with some guacamole dip, a quick tomato salsa/pico de gallo, some crispy chickpeas or even some soft corn tortillas filled with mushrooms and peppers with guacamole for some tasty fajitas!
I always find prepping extra food the night before can make a big difference for time in the morning. Think about adding in lots of wonderful vegetables, a good quality complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, oats etc and good quality protein in the form of chickpeas, beans, quinoa, tempeh, or for a meat option, chicken or salmon.
With options like tuna sandwiches, keep this to one a week due to the high mercury levels found in tuna.
Try to incorporate vegetarian options as well as wholegrain, lots of colourful vegetables and fruit and keep it simple, fun and delicious.
This is where most parents decide to opt for the convenient chocolate bars, biscuits and crisp options which to be honest provides no nutritional value, doesn’t support energy levels and can actually cause drops in blood sugar levels…remember those times when you child comes out of school and they are just miserable, moody or emotional…this is normally down to drop in blood sugar levels which results in low energy and tiredness!
Here are some of our favourite school snack ideas
Trail mix- add in your favourite seeds, fried fruit and some dark chocolate can make a perfect snack with protein, fibre and of course wonderful chocolate.
Crispy chickpeas or fava beans- you can either make these, but I suggest buying them in packs and they are small, portable and a great protein rich snack for kids
Seaweed- this is probably my sons favourite snack. Packed with iodine, antioxidants and fibre, sea weed is a great snack although try to include other energy supporting snacks as well
Homemade sweet potato and beetroot crisps! These are easy to make and fun for the kids to prepare.
Fresh fruit- this is always a simple and easy option! Plus fresh fruit contains amazing minerals and nutrients as well as all that fibre
…but remember that the recommended 8 a day (yes 8) should be coming mainly from vegetables so think 5 veggies and 3 fruit a day.
I see many families in my clinic and the main thing I hear is “my child eats so much fruit so they eat really well!”
Yes eating fruit is amazing but at the end of the day, fruit is sugar, it’s in a better form than in processed bars and drinks as it comes with wonderful fibre but if children are eating loads of fruit and little vegetables that are eating a high sugar diet so always aim for more vegetables and a few of fruit and think variety not just apples and bananas!
Plain yoghurt with berries and chocolate chips- simple to make and the berries will give the yoghurt a sweet flavour without the need for sugar laden yoghurt pots
Banana bread- made using oat flour (for wholegrain goodness) and adding in grated courgette, Choc chips, berries, seeds can make for a great wholesome snack.
Baked doughnuts- we love to make baked doughnuts! They take around 30 minutes to make and plus you can freeze them in batches so perfect to add to lunchboxes in the morning. These are some of our favourite
Carrot cake flavour
Banana and blueberry
Date and tahini
Courgette and cacao
Energy balls- using dates, tahini, cinnamon, coconut and pumpkin seeds makes for a wonderful snack packed with protein and fibre
Chocolate berry drops- these are my favourite! Melt your favourite dark chocolate and add in berries, nuts, seeds, crispy chickpeas work well too and even some wholegrain puffed oats or rice and make spoonfuls onto a plate, allow to harden and enjoy.
Although convenience foods are a simple option, they provide little to no nutritional value! Crisps, chocolate bars, biscuits are going to cause blood sugar imbalances which will result in poor attention spans at school, low energy levels and even behavioural issues.
You know the saying “we are what we eat!” And if we are feeding children sugar laden foods and processed foods or hand sandwiches everyday, it’s not going to be providing the fuel that children need to concentrate, focus, and learn.
Think wholegrains, good quality protein whether that’s vegan or meat/fish, lots of wonderful vegetables and fruit and make snacks fun, tasty and nutritious.
One of the most important things is to start the day off right with a nutrient dense and nourishing breakfast…forget those sugar laden cereals which will only spike a child’s blood sugar levels which is then followed by a crash in energy levels! I’m talking wholegrains that will help to sustain their energy levels, improve concentration and help with focus.
Porridge is a great option but think creative, fun flavours, add in lots of wonderful veggies and fruit or top with amazing berries, sprinkle of dark chocolate, some nut butter but avoid adding honey or maple syrup or any type of sugar, if you want it sweeter add in some dried fruits but what you want to do is keep it as natural as possible.
Pancakes are a great breakfast for busy mornings as you can make a batch at the weekend and freeze some for defrost for the mornings. Make them colourful by adding in vegetables that the kids will have no idea is in them.
Protein rich breakfasts such as yoghurt with low sugar granola is a great option, if you eat eggs, then they are a great option paired with Wholegrain bread, avocado etc.
if the kids really want a cereal then definitely check out my homemade coco pops and cereal recipes…fun to make and absolutely delicious.
Granola bars are a good option if you make them yourself, some store bought ones are again packed with sugar and pack any good nutritional content.
If you opt for a smoothie, then definitely add in some wholegrain oats which will help to support blood sugar levels, keep fruit to a minimum and add lots of vegetables in.
I hear many parents say that they don’t worry as their child eats lots of fruit, but at the end of the day it’s still sugar and too much of fruit rather than veg isn’t the best idea! Aim for more vegetables than fruit, keep the fruit to 3 a day and 5 vegetables a day which is easy when you start to sneak it into breakfast lunch and dinner.
Remember it’s about being creative, just check out my Instagram page to see how I add in lots of wonderful vegetables and colours to our meals and I promise you I dong spend hours slaving over a hob or oven…I simply don’t have the time.