The Fall weather has definitely creeped up on us and so has back to school / back to work for many of you! With more relaxed restrictions over the summer and the world navigating a new sense of “normal”, Back to School / back to work can be definitely bring a heightened anxiety for the children, teachers, parents and a lot of our clients. While there are still lots of unknown with the global pandemic, supporting each other in our community will help ease the transition into the new school year.
These tips will help you take a step back and prioritize your family’s well being whenever you can – good nutrition and good self-care will help you cope with this school year better, mentally and physically. Whether you have decided to keep your children home for remote learning or sending them back to school this year, September is still a great reminder and opportunity for all of us to get back into a regular routine after the Summer!
Registered Dietitians across BC are here to help you check off nutrition as part of your family’s well-being game plan and we are answering the most commonly asked questions on back to school nutrition.
Start the day with a healthy breakfast:
Having a balanced breakfast before heading off to school can help jump start the day by providing your body with the much needed energy to get through the early mornings! Having enough time to eat breakfast is especially important this year as kids may have a shorter than usual lunch break with the staggered break times and extra safety protocols.
Here is a few of our favorite breakfast ideas:
What if your child just won't eat in the mornings?
It can be hard to get your kids out of bed in the morning, they may not have much time or appetite in the mornings to eat breakfast, especially if they have been used to getting up later in the Summer. Encourage earlier bedtimes and earlier wake times in the mornings can be helpful to not feel rushed!
Let them choose 1 or 2 foods to eat if they can’t stomach a full breakfast, pack the rest as a morning snack for them to have during recess time. Having something consistently in their bellies morning after morning can help re-establish hunger cues and make it easier for them to eat in the mornings.
How can kids get excited about eating at school?
Pack ready to eat Lunches:
Your best bet to make it easy and simple for the kids to eat is to pack a ready-to-eat lunch! Schools are encouraging, if not requiring litter-less lunch to minimize cross contact with dealing with the food wrappers this year so get rid of those packaging at home!
Some helpful tips for the school year:
- Remove all food packaging and wrappers
- Use a reusable lunch box container
- Cold lunch combos for the win, easily hit up all the food groups suggested here(Fruits & Veggies, Protein Foods, Whole Grains):
- Boiled eggs + banana + bell pepper strips + crackers + hummus
- Cheese quesadilla + cucumbers + sugar snap peas + Greek yogurt
- Turn your leftover into a salad or sandwich filling – egg, tuna, or chicken salad (tip: pack a deconstructed sandwich to avoid soggy sandwiches)Bento-Style Lunch Box byWhitney Hussain, RD
- Use a thermos for hot lunches
- Tip: pre-fill the thermos with boiling water and let sit for at least 5 minutes before putting the food in to keep food warm until lunch time
- Nut-free alternatives (if school requires)
- Utensils for eating – check out these cute little food picks*
- Reusable water bottle
*affiliated links at amazon – As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you
What if my child barely touches his lunch?
Refuel after school :
Most kids (AND adults frankly) are starving after school and/or work, this is such a great opportunity to refuel and offer nutritious food options (it’s a great time to get more fruits and veggies in when everyone is actually hungry!). Maybe your child didn’t each much at lunch AND also because they are unwinding mentally and physically after a long day at school.
Here are some of our favorite pick me up snacks:
- Trail mix
- Carrot Lentils Energy Bites
- Fruits and veggie platter with your favorite dip – like this beautiful beet hummus
Keep weeknight dinners simple:
Meal planning, cooking in bulk and using up your leftovers during the weekdays can make all the difference instead of opening the fridge and wondering “what’s for dinner?” every night. Save the new recipes and fancy dinners for the weekends.
Here are a few easy dinner recipes to get you started:
- Kale Frittata by Chow Down Nutrition (who says you can’t have breakfast for dinner?)
- Fast Easy (Gluten Free) Shrimp Penne by Jess Nourishes
- Sheet Pan Honey Garlic Chicken by Jenn Messina
If you’re needing a little help, don’t know where to start and/or have special dietary needs that have got you puzzled, make sure you reach out and book an individual consultation or an individualized meal planning session with one of our dietitians!
How can I support my child beyond the lunch box?
Build a Healthy Relationship with Food and Practice Body Positivity at Home
The National Eating Disorders Association are recording a significant rise in eating disorders amongst children and teens, this pandemic period especially hit our kids hard with less than ever social opportunities and with support and resources filling up to their max capacity. Although we think of nutrition as what we serve on the plate, it’s important to have regular conversations with your children to discuss and build a healthy relationship with food and practice body positivity at home. Abby, one of our BC Dietitians, has a great resource list for those looking for support around this topic.
If you or any of your loved one is struggling with an eating disorder or are displaying signs of disordered eating, it is important to reach out to a professional such as a registered dietitian who has experience in eating disorders.
What do you love to serve in your kid's lunchbox?
We would love to hear about you and your kids’ favorite lunches in the comments below! Regardless of how you prepare for your back to school season, what’s most important is that you take the time to take care of your wellness. BC Dietitians are here to support you throughout your nutrition goals and wellness journey.
- Amy Chow. Owner and founder of Chow Down Nutrition
- Abby Hsiao: ED Resources (accessed August 28, 2021). Available from: https://www.abbyhsiaord.com/resources
- Annie Tsang: Greek Yogurt Parfait (accessed August 28, 2021). Available from: https://nutritionwell.ca/blog/greek-yogurt-parfait/
- Crystal Higgins: Shelf Stable Snacks (accessed September 8, 2020). Available from: http://crystalhiggins.com/shelf-stable-snacks/
- Crystal Higgins: Strawberry Coconut Chia Pudding (accessed September 8, 2020). Available from: http://crystalhiggins.com/strawberry-coconut-chia-seed-pudding/
- Chow Down Nutrition: Kale Frittata (accessed September 8, 2020). Available from: https://chowdownnutrition.com/recipes/kale-frittata/
- Clare Douglas. UBC Food, Nutrition and Health Student. 2020
- Fueling with Food: High-Fiber Bran Muffins (accessed September 8, 2020). Available from: https://fuelingwithfood.com/recipe/high-fibre-bran-muffins/
- Jenn Messina: Chocolate Almond Dream Shake (accessed September 8, 2020). Available from: https://www.jennmessina.com/chocolate-almond-dream-shake
- Jenn Messina: Sheet Pan Honey Garlic Chicken (accessed September 8, 2020). Available from: https://www.jennmessina.com/sheet-pan-honey-garlic-chicken
- Jess Nourishes: Fast Easy (Gluten Free) Shrimp Penne (accessed September 8, 2020). Available from: https://www.jessnourishes.com/site/mains
- Katheryn Iu. UBC RD(T). Dietitian with Temporary Registration. 2021
- Nutrition Well: Prepped for Success (accessed September 7, 2020). Available from: http://www.nutritionwell.ca
- Whitney Hussain: Zesty Chipotle Tofu Burrito Bowls (accessed August 28, 2021). Available from: https://whitneyhussain.com/2017/05/29/zesty-chipotle-tofu-burrito-bowls/