The educational landscape is in a mode of constant change, adapting and re-framing itself as new issues arise to the public conscious. Whether it’s curriculum-related, involves a dress code or new regulation regarding technology, schools are constantly required to keep up with trends and address them in a timely manner.
With so many things in constant flux, it’s nice to remember that some things stay static, yet retain the same importance they’ve always held – chief among them being the importance of good, nutritious meals.
To mark this year’s National School Safety Week, October 17-23, the Canada Safety Council wants to remind Canadians of all ages and every walk of life that a child’s development, engagement and energy levels are directly impacted by the foods they consume.
Developing healthy eating habits can be a struggle. In this day of convenience, picky eaters and instant gratification, it’s often deemed easier to pack processed foods and ready-to-eat meals for a child’s lunch. Packaging and advertising often come into play too, and for a parent or guardian who wants to make sure their child is eating their lunch, this is obviously better than nothing.
However, this comes with a distinct disadvantage. By their nature, processed foods are often stripped of their nutrients and are typically high in fat and carbohydrates. The body uses the sugar consumed as energy and, upon depletion, suffers a sugar crash. This can lead to a list of negative effects including lethargy, difficulty concentrating, headaches and light-headedness – all of which can directly impede a child’s ability to learn.
As a concerned parent or guardian, here are some tips to ensure you’re building positive eating habits in your children from a young age that leave them energized, well-fed and ready to take on the day:
- Use natural, healthy foods whenever possible. This includes vegetables, fruit, legumes, fresh meat and any food that can be grown or raised. Because these foods are not processed or filled with preservatives, the nutritional value remains and your child will benefit from the full range of nutrients and vitamins in the food. The body breaks these complex foods down slower, which results in a steadier stream of energy throughout the day.
- Involve your child in the meal-planning process. Healthy food isn’t helpful if the child is a picky eater and refuses to eat what they’re given. Make sure they’re able to choose what they want, within limits. To improve the likelihood of a satisfied child, let them help you prepare the meal. There’s a sense of pride and accomplishment for a child when they contribute, as well as an appreciation of the effort level required.
- Invest in a good thermal container or two. A meal loses much of its appeal if it’s meant to be served hot but is lukewarm by the time lunchtime rolls around.
- If your child’s school offers cafeteria-style meals, request the nutritional facts from the school. This will keep you in the know and allow you to supplement your child’s meal from home as appropriate.
- Sometimes, there’s just not enough time to prepare a whole healthy meal. Plan ahead for these times by stocking up on healthy grab-and-go food options, including yogurt, pita pockets, hard-boiled eggs, small packets of dried fruit, fruit cups and dinner leftovers.
Your child looks to you for guidance on many subjects, and healthy eating is one of the most important life-long habits you can instill from an early age. Set your child up for success by introducing healthy, vitamin-rich food into their diets and watch as they harness this energy into more attentive and active learning.