Feeding your child healthy food is always important, but with the advent of a new school year nutrition becomes even more crucial—a healthy breakfast and lunch will give your child the energy and focus they need to succeed in the classroom. Here’s what you need to know.
Breakfast: why bother?
The dictum that breakfast is the most important meal of the day has been repeated so many times we tend to take it for granted—but we shouldn’t.
Missing breakfast can make a child’s mood and energy drop by mid-morning, making them feel tired, irritable and unable to concentrate in the classroom.
Having breakfast can also affect weight. Those who don’t eat breakfast tend to eat unhealthy snacks or overeat at lunch because they’re too hungry. Breakfast also jump-starts the body’s metabolism in the morning so it can start burning calories.
A recent study by public health experts at Cardiff University of 5,000 nine to 11 year olds from more than 100 primary schools examined the link between pupil’s breakfast quality and consumption, and their subsequent attainment in Key Stage 2 Teacher Assessments six to 18 months later. The results found that children who ate regular, good quality breakfasts achieved higher academic outcomes.
A balanced and nutritious breakfast means choosing foods high in complex carbohydrates, proteins and fibre, with little to no added sugar. These will include fresh fruit and vegetables (avoid canned fruit as the syrup it comes in is often high in sugar), whole grain foods including brown bread, rice and cereals (check the label carefully to ensure the latter isn’t high in added sugar), dairy, meat, fish, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds.
See also: Childhood Immunisations
What’s for lunch?
Preparing a nutritious lunch for your child is just as important as a good breakfast, for similar reasons. According to the NHS, a packed lunch should contain the following:
Starchy foods like bread, potatoes, rice, pasta and other grains
Protein, such as meat, fish, eggs and beans
Dairy products like cheese or yoghurt
Vegetables, salad or a portion of fruit
It can be hard to create interesting packed lunches everyday for you child, particularly if they are fussy eaters. Include as much variety as possible—try pitta bread or wraps instead of sandwiches. For vegetable refuseniks, try chopping up raw vegetables such as carrots and peppers and pair them with hummus to dip in, and replace chocolate with fruit for dessert (but avoid dried fruit as this can be high in sugar). When it comes to snacks, unsalted nuts and seeds will provide plenty of energy.
Did You Know?
According to statistics from Public Health England for 2014/15, 19.1% of children in Year 6 (aged 10 to 11) were obese and a further 14.2% were overweight.
Of children in reception (aged 4 to 5), 9.1% were obese and another 12.8% were overweight.
This means a third of 10 to 11 year olds and over a fifth of 4 to 5 year olds were overweight or obese.
See also: Weighty Issues for Our Children
Read more on Celebrity Angels with a range of articles to help keep your child healthy.