The back to school ads are popping up again and you know what that means, time to start thinking about getting the kiddos ready to go. A big part of school readiness is properly filling up your kids’ tanks.
I’ve once again teamed up with my girls Katie & Megan of Prescribe Nutrition and brought them here today with their best stuff on how to feed your kids’ brains as well as a few yummy recipes.
Nutrition and the minds of your kids.
Along with everything else on the back-to-school list (new clothes, notebooks, pens, pencils, calculators and so on), what else do you need to properly prep for the school year? How about the best and smartest fuel for each and every day? If you’ve read any of our past posts here (9 tips for creating a health nut for example), you know that we see food as fuel. Like vroooom … fuel.
Did you know that the human brain is over 70% fat? So in order to function correctly, we might need what? Fat. The good kind of course. That healthy balance of omega’s, unsaturated and even some healthy saturated fats (hello coconut). Our brains also need amino acids which are the very building blocks of protein. That is how our neurotransmitters (the brain’s chemical messengers) transmit.
With no healthy fats or amino acids on deck, it’s going to be really tough to think, concentrate and retain information. Can you think of a time as an adult where you just felt … blah? Did it have anything to do with what you put in your body? Think snack chips, dips, maybe a soda. Sound familiar? It does for me. We’ve all been there. Then what do you want to do after that? If you’re like me, I just want to lie down.
There’s nothing wrong with a day like that, every once in a while. But what if that is a daily occurrence for your kids? Sugar, creamy dairy and crunchy snack, they tend to love this stuff, right? So consider how you feel you’ve been living off the fast and easy food for a little stint, and then how they may feel- only their bodies are tiny, growing and running a mile a minute compared to ours. Feeling like that would sure make sitting in a classroom pretty challenging, huh?
We want them to learn, grow and thrive in school.
Each year 17,000 new products hit our grocery shelves. 17,000 new products vying for your food dollar. – Michael Pollan.
Unfortunately those 17,000 new products are doing less good then we might hope. Incidence rates of almost everything are on the rise – especially things like ADD, ADHD and mood and behavior challenges. This because food that is highly processed interferes with the brains ability for proper cognition. One of our favorite ethos: “The more alive your foods are, the more alive you will feel. The more alive your kiddos will feel!
Ever wonder why we all love those foods so much? In fact, it’s not by mistake. Interestingly enough there are actually addictive principles in some of our most popular foods. If the body doesn’t properly break down those foods, compounds are developed that sit in opiate receptors (you heard that right – opiates) in the brain. This is just one of the reasons we want more and more (in addition to additives and preservatives that are meant to enhance flavor). This is also why many kids and adults alike react behaviorally to food.
Have you observed your kids mood or behavior change after a meal or snack? BINGO. That’s the elements of food at work. How about a really colorful and nutritious breakfast and then the kids just run, play and laugh for hours on end? BINGO. That’s food at work too. GREAT work.
So what else is important to have in the nutritional picture for our healthy learners? Well surely vitamins, mineral and antioxidants, because they turn on all the switches, just like keys to the locks. A very great friend, physician and nutrition expert always uses the analogy of gauges. Like gas gauges – get it? Fuel. Our goal in feeding children should be to fill up their nutrient gauges.
Here’s how to fill up the tanks so your best gals and guys get the most out of their education:
1) Start the day off right. Think protein! Protein has those amino acids they need for healthy neurotransmitters. Bright fruits or vegetables will provide antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and energy dense carbohydrates. A nutrient packed smoothie or a fun egg scramble where you can get in some greens (yes greens in the am!). Here’s a favorite smoothie at PN we feature in the upcoming Kids Rule program.
- 2 cups spinach (or your favorite dark leafy green – spinach tends to be most mild tasting)
- ½ avocado
- ⅔ cup almond, coconut or rice milk
- ⅓ cup ice water
- 1-2 tablespoons almond butter or sunbutter
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 2 dates, pitted
- *Protein powder (optional)
Other fun breakfast recipes you can look forward to during the Kids Rule program – homemade pop tarts (you heard it), sunbutter granola, chocolate zucchini muffins and more and MORE!
2) Mini fuel stops during the day. Let them in on filling up their tanks! Explain the need for great, powerful snacks in between meals. When kids have a better understanding of how the body works, they will better appreciate the power of foods, just like you and I.
Makes 1 1/2 cups
- One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
- 1 ⅕ teaspoons cinnamon
- 2-3 teaspoons coconut palm sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 450 F. Toss chickpeas with melted oil, cinnamon and sugar until evenly coated. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, shaking pan occasionally, until chickpeas are golden and crunchy, 30-40 minutes depending on your oven. Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.
More great snack ideas during Kids Rule – carrot, sweet potato and parsnip french fries (with a great homemade ketchup!), protein power bars, trail mixes, hummus, and more.
3) End the day the same way you started. After a long day in school, running around, sports, activities, etc., it’s important to recharge. Dinner gives their bodies that replenishment it needs. How about a bunch of great ways to create a healthy DIY taco bar!?
Healthy DIY Taco Bar
- Ground organic turkey or chicken sauteed with a touch of coconut oil, sea salt, pepper and a dash of garlic powder and cumin
- Sauteed mushrooms, sweet potato, and/or eggplant (simple – sea salt and oil of choice)
- Spaghetti squash
- Jicama salad
- Roasted cauliflower puree
- Vegetarian refried beans – black or pinto
- Fresh corn mixed with diced summer squash – saute for sweeter flavor
- Fresh pico de gallo salsa (store-bought or homemade)
- Spinach guacamole
- Dairy-free cheese (we always reach for Daiya brand)
4) Hydration is fuel too. Water is the most important element each body needs and far too often kids gets less of it then they need.
So there you go – good stuff right?! If this kind of education seems up your alley, Katie and Megan have created a program that fully supports you and your kids on the journey to better overall health – for the long haul.