Back to School – How to Implement Healthy Eating During the School Year

Now that you and your kids been practicing the ways to keep your blood sugar balanced, and avoiding foods allergens, all summer, are you wondering how to keep it up during the school year? 

I suggest working together with your kids, teaching them about how their bodies work and what their bodies need to feel their best.  This is not only a great way to help them to have a great day at school…it will also create healthy habits for their future and decrease stress for you. 

So just as you do back-to-school shopping for supplies and clothes, I’ve put together information and lists to help with your back-to-school grocery shopping!  

Let’s Start with Blood Sugar Balance:

As you might imagine, children, just as adults, feel and learn better when they eat small “meals,” always including protein, every 3-4 hours.  

If I could change the definition of “snack” and “meal,” I would combine the two!  I would make a meal the size of a snack and with the protein content of a meal.  

Most times when we think of a snack, it is rather carbohydrate filled (popcorn, chips, and fruit for example). The same goes for “breakfast” (cereal, toast, juice, waffles).

High carbohydrate foods are sure to raise the blood sugar and then be followed by a drop in blood sugar (decreased focus, irritability, and fatigue).  

Wouldn’t it be better to eat in a way that maintains your blood sugar as stable as possible throughout the day?  Then you will not only feel your best, but also be most efficient at whatever it is you do (this goes for kids too!).

This is why it is so important for kids to eat a protein-rich breakfast before they head off to school, and to include protein at both snack and lunch time.

Ella goes to school with her snacks, water and lunch every day – that way I know that she has gluten-free, dairy-free. sugar-free and protein-filled options.  

Back-to-school grocery list:
Examples of what I put in Ella’s school bag (lunch and snack)

  • Turkey roll: 2 slices of Applegate farms turkey rolled and wrapped in a paper towel, on an ice pack in her lunch bag (for snack and lunch)
  • Turkey jerky: 1 preservative free, natural turkey jerky
  • Hard boiled egg, on an ice pack
  • Organic corn tortilla chips and/or Blue diamond hazelnut rice crackers
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Hummus in a small container
  • Grapes, carrots, or apple slices (show your child how to eat these with protein, not alone)
  • Gluten-free Pretzels
  • Apple sauce in squeeze packages

Many classrooms do not allow nuts when a student in the room is allergic (IgE allergen), so I save nuts and nut butter (Ella loves almond butter) for breakfast and snacks later in the day.

Be sure to pick up small ice packs!

Talk About Meal Planning and Protein With Your Kids!

I find that it helps to explain all this to Ella.  I talk with her about making sure she gets something to eat about every 3 hours, and to look for the protein in what she is eating. 

We talk about her school schedule and figure out when her snack and lunch times will be, as well as what she would like to eat when she arrives home after school (which is a perfect time for you to eat too!). 

Actually, Ella and I talk about protein all the time!  ”Where is the protein?” and “What has protein in it?” Chicken, turkey, fish, beef, eggs, nuts, almond butter, sunflower seeds, hummus, lentils, beans, and quinoa for example.  

What to do when it has been more then 4 hours since the last meal?

When you notice that your child’s focus and/or mood start to go awry, think protein!  This goes for adults too!  I generally ask Ella first – “what would you like to eat?” 

If her blood sugar has already dropped, it can be difficult for her to know what she wants to eat, so I go straight to a slice of turkey or a few pieces of grilled chicken (heated from the fridge or freezer and sprinkled with sea salt).  Within minutes of eating, she feels better.

No Such Thing as a Juice Deficiency!

While it can seem like a simple way to get fruit into your child, it usually turns out to increase their carbohydrate intake, create blood sugar fluctuations (when sugar is added) as well as cravings for sweets, and fill their belly with something other then protein.

I believe the frequent consumption of juice is leading to the astronomical increase in the number of children and adults who drink sugar-filled beverages daily, as well as obesity in both children and adults. If you would like ot learn more, click here to read a report on the negative impact of sugar-sweetened beverages on children’s health (2009).

My recommendation is to drink filtered water instead.  

Your children will be able to get all their nutrients without juice, and they will likely have an improved mood (once they get used to the change).  Ella’s favorite fruit, by the way, is frozen, organic blueberries, straight from the freezer, which is perfect in the afternoon/evening after she has had some protein.

To be ready to send your child to school with water, check out this helpful article about how to choose a water bottle, The least toxin is a BPA-free, stainless steel water bottle, available at Target and online.

How About a Protein Shake for Kids? 

Yes, yes!  Some kids love a smoothie – Ella has a great time making them for her dad and me.  The trick is to think of how to make a smoothie or shake without dairy!  

Companies are now getting very creative and coming out with rice or hemp protein shakes that taste great – check out Vega’s Shake and Go Smoothie available at Whole Foods.  

You can use this as a chance for your child to do an experiment in the kitchen and figure out how to flavor their shake the way they like it.  

Ideas for what could go in a shake include: 

Start with a protein powder base like The Stress Remedy Shake (ok for kids too!) or InflammaCore (banana, orange or cherry flavor) – all available in my online store

Then add any of the following:

  • Cocoa powder
  • Stevia, liquid comes in various flavors
  • that company…
  • Proberry, berry extract
  • Flax oil
  • Cashew or almond butter
  • Ice
  • Frozen organic berries
  • 1/2 banana

Which reminds me, if you don’t already have one of the quick blenders (Bullet or Rocket), that can come with cups that can easily be washed in the dish washer, this is a must!  $25-35 at Target or Amazon.  

A Note About Sleep:

Another thing to talk through with your kids (at any age) is sleep – sort of like a story problem!  “What time would they need to go to sleep in order to get 10 hours of sleep (see # hours based on age below)?” 

If they need to get up at 7 am, they would need to go to sleep by 9 pm. So what time do they need to start getting ready for bed in order to make sure they have time for brushing, flossing, mouth rinse, and reading (x 20-30 minutes) before 9?  

  • 3 – 6 years of age: 10 – 12 hours of sleep per day
  • 7 – 12 years of age: 10 – 11 hours of sleep per day
  • 12 – 18 years of age: 8 – 9 hours of sleep per day

Ok, I think that does it!  

You are ready for your back-to-school grocery shopping trip.  It will make your life easier, decrease your stress and help your child/children get the most out of their day too. While it may seem like an extra investment of time to start – I think you will find that it pays off in the end.  

Happy first day of school!

Dr. Doni

DONIELLE WILSON is a natural health expert and Naturopathic Doctor with a private practice in New York City, Port Jefferson, NY, and Connecticut. She specializes in showing women and their loved ones how to achieve their wellness goals by finally getting the answers they’ve been looking for to their most perplexing health challenges. To learn more about Dr. Doni and her unique approach to achieving health naturally, please visit Dr. Doni today.