In many US cities, this is the first week of school for elementary, middle, and high school kids. One topic I didn’t hear President Obama remind school children of yesterday during his speech was to eat more healthfully because it allows developing brains to function optimally and helps kids with improved concentration during class-time and homework time.
An article titled, Brain Boosting Foods for Kids (on sheknows.com) spells it out perfectly, “Food is fuel – and for growing kids getting the right type of fuel for their bodies can make the difference between waking up with energy and getting through a sluggish day at school. There’s an entire menu of brain rich foods that can help improve your child’s performance at school, increase their memory and help them focus.”
Before your kids leave the house, start them out with a good breakfast so they don’t have a mid-morning crash. The article referenced above offers some great choices:
- breakfast burritos, which include whole wheat tortillas, eggs, and refried beans (whole black or pinto beans work just as well)
- whole grain waffles with a strip of turkey bacon or lean turkey sausage (organic soy sausage is tasty too)
- oatmeal with cinnamon, pecans, brown sugar (I prefer honey and kids might go for almonds more readily)
- eggs (I like them scrambled on whole wheat toast)
So what about lunch? My advice is do NOT rely on the school lunch program. From what I can tell, it’s the same unhealthy, low quality, high sodium, and low nutrient-packed food we ate when I was a kid. Click here for an example of a school lunch menu from East Baton Rouge Parish School System in Baton Rouge, LA that received a grade F from HealthySchoolLunches.org. Omaha Public Schools in Nebraska received an A, Click here to view their weekly menu. While I applaud the Omaha School District’s effort to use whole grain sandwich bread and buns instead of white, refined versions; the rest of the menu could easily be full of high fructose corn syrup and other fake, filler-type ingredients. It’s hard to tell because they don’t specify exactly what’s in items like cereal, yogurt, graham crackers, pizza pockets, sherbet, etc.
Instead, teach your kids to pack their own lunch with delicious, healthy, brain-rich foods. That’s right, I said, “teach YOUR kids to pack their OWN lunch.” I started packing my own lunch in first grade. Did I like it? No, I did not. Was it a good idea? Did I learn something about what constitutes a satisfying, nutritious meal? You betcha. I did the same thing with my kids. And they moaned and groaned just as much as I did when I was their age and I cared (what they thought) just as much as my mom did. Too bad so sad.
I always made sure to have the right (organic) foods on hand and they got to decide what they wanted to eat. We didn’t have packaged chips, cookies, snack packs, fruit snacks, lunch-ables, and the like. We had whole grain bread, lean meats, real peanut butter, jam made with 100% fruit, whole fruits and and vegetables, string cheese, and home-made cookies. For a beverage, they drank W-A-T-E-R (and sometimes milk).
Below is my Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe (adapted from my sister Kelly’s energy bars, which are in the recipe section of The Denim Diet):
NOTE: you can make these into cookies or bars…I’m lazy and bars are quicker and easier to prepare. Use local, certified organic ingredients if possible.
1 one-fourth cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon expeller-pressed organic canola oil
one-fourth cup toasted wheat germ
one-fourth cup whole wheat flour
one-fourth cup flaxseed meal
one-fourth cup amber agave nectar or raw honey
1 large egg white
2 tablespoons plain nonfat yogurt
2 teaspoons unsulphured dark molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
one-half teaspoon sea salt
one-third cup dark chocolate chips
one-fourth cup raisins and/or chopped dried apples or apricots (optional)
one-fourth cup sunflower seeds (optional)
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Brush an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan with canola oil. combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine wet ingredients in a separate, smaller bowl. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture until thoroughly combined. Spread the mixture in the prepared pan and press down firmly and evenly using an oiled rubber spatula. Bake in the center of the oven for 18 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven, let cool completely, and cut into bars to serve.
Yes, it takes a little extra time to have your kids bring a lunch from home and for you to make them (they can help!) home-made cookies, but…
A) your adorable children are worth it,
B) their excellent report cards will make you so proud, and
C) their smiling, happy faces and healthy little bodies will warm your heart like nothing else can.
And for you more science-minded folks (I’m not one of you)…here is a link to Dr. Michael Petit, a General Physician, discussing brain function and how it relates to the ratio of Omega 3s and Omega 6s in our diet.
Blog by TV Wardrobe Stylist Kami Gray of THE DENIM DIET: 16 Simple Habits to Get You Into Your Dream Pair of Jeans (New World Library) Available Everywhere! Visit Kami’s Blog at: http://blog.kamigray.com/
(Photo courtesy of susanshealthygourmet.com)