I can hardly believe summer is almost over. A new term is upon us, and to ensure your children start the new school term as healthy, happy kids we asked nutritionist Christine Bailey for some nutritional advice to prepare your children for the busy school days ahead.
It’s that time of year again. After the summer break it’s time to get your child ready for the new school term. But as well as the practicalities of school uniform, books and pens are you making sure your child gets the essential nutrients to help them function better and feel healthier?
Good nutrition is vital for a healthy brain. Without the essential nutrients it is unable to produce neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that are necessary for brain function. So focus on ensuring your child’s diet is rich in brain boosting foods to support their concentration, learning and mental energy.
Your first step should be to ditch the sugary, processed foods, additives and stimulants. Instead include plenty of lean protein with each meal (eggs, fish, lean meats, nuts, seeds), fruit, vegetables and slower releasing carbohydrates including starchy vegetables like sweet potato, pumpkin and butternut squash. This will supply key vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, magnesium, antioxidants and zinc as well as essential amino acids all necessary for brain function.
There are also a range of ‘smart’ nutrients which may help. Choline for example is needed to produce the neurotransmitter acetylcholine important for boosting memory. It also forms a vital part of nerve cells, cell walls and the sites on cells that receive brain chemicals. Found in egg yolks, pulses, grains, nuts, and fish such as sardines and available in lecithin granules, a useful brain supplement, which can be sprinkled over cereals or stir into soups and stews.
If your child is prone to anxiety or finds it difficult to unwind try a combination of calcium and magnesium – well known calming minerals. Make their evening meal rich in foods containing tryptophan which the body converts into serotonin. This has a mood enhancing, calming effect and can induce sleepiness. Good food sources include turkey, chicken, yogurt, milk, potato, banana and oats. For older children consider supplementing with theanine, this is a non essential amino acid known to promote a relaxed and restful state without diminishing alertness and in fact can aid concentration as well balancing mood and emotion.
60% of the brain is made up of fat and in particular the essential fatty acids. Research has shown that the essential fats omega 3 and omega 6 and their active components EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and gamma linolenic acid (GLA) can promote mental health, boost IQ and treat specific behavioural and learning disorders. As these essential fats cannot be made by the body they must be obtained from the diet. Oily fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel, sardines, herrings etc) are one of the best sources while walnuts, hemp, chia seed and flaxseed are useful vegetarian sources.
Children have high energy requirements relative to their size so it’s important to provide them with nutrient dense foods in small, regular amounts. Regular meals and healthy snacks will help keep blood sugar levels steady provide a constant source of glucose to the brain to aid concentration and prevent mood swings and energy dips. Ensure they are getting sufficient protein rich foods at each meal and snack. For snacks try oat cakes and nut butter or avocado, nuts, seeds, hummus, natural yogurt and a handful of berries. Alternatively make up a batch of healthy protein packed muffins which can also make wonderful additions to lunches. Try my recipe below for inspiration. If you want sometime easy for the children to make that is also healthy try the new UGG paleo bread and muffin mixes – brilliant healthy option – the chocolate chia muffins are particularly good http://christinebailey.co.uk/shop/ugg-chocolate-chia-muffins/
Most children don’t drink enough water – whether it’s because they simply forget during the day or dislike the taste. Crucial for maintaining energy levels, dehydration can lead to headaches, constipation, lethargy and poor concentration. Ditch the cans of carbonated drinks and encourage them to drink water – plain or fizzy to suit their tastes. You can add a splash of lemon to liven it up. Other options include plain coconut water, milk or milk alternatives like almond or coconut milk.
My gluten free cheesy muffin recipe below is a great hit with children and adults alike. If your child is allergic to dairy then you can use soya cheese instead or simply omit and toss in some sweetcorn instead. Ideal for lunches and after school snacks. You can find plenty more recipes in my numerous books including Top 100 Finger Food Recipes. If your children like to cook then bring them along to our hands on cookery days – our next one is 6th September where your children with your support will cook a two course meal – healthy and gluten and dairy free.
For bookings see www.christinebailey.co.uk. If you are concerned about your child’s diet then why not book in for a nutritional consultation with us too. See our website for details