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Helping our kids back to school – Part 1

It’s that time of year again – our children are heading back to school and as parents, we are preparing for the change in routine, buying all the relevant equipment and clothing, and helping our children to manage the emotions they are experiencing around the change. Some children will be excited at the thought of seeing their friends and favourite teachers again, whilst others may be a little more anxious at the prospect of being back in a classroom and losing the freedom of the summer holidays.

As parents and carers, many of us are on the lookout for ways to help manage our day-to-day lives, so the schedule runs smoothly and our children are happy and have the relevant tools and skills to help manage their emotions.

In the second part of this two-part blog series, we will provide ideas for healthy eating throughout the school day, including ideas for breakfast, lunch and after-school snacks. In part one, we are going to focus on some nutrition and lifestyle tips for helping to keep our children healthy, both emotionally and physically, through the change they will be experiencing over the coming weeks and months. 

‘Eating healthily’ is key to supporting health and we have included a number of recommendations here relating to supporting your child’s eating habits and nutritional intake. We are however, becoming increasingly aware of the importance of our thoughts and mindset in relation to our health, and this also applies to our children – if they feel happy and relaxed, have a positive, resilient mindset, good lifestyle habits and adequate emotional support, they are more likely to thrive in the face of challenges, including going back to school.

Here are out top 10 tips to help your children flourish – both at home and at school:

  1. Provide them with lots of ‘good’ calories as opposed to what have been termed ’empty’ calories. This refers to nutrient dense foods, rather than processed and sugary snacks, and includes both macronutrients (protein, fats and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients).
  1. Fat is particularly important for children to support their developing brain (fat is the key nutrient found in our brain), and is often not considered when planning meals and snacks. Fat is also needed for us to absorb the vital fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) and foods containing fat often also contain these vitamins. Including healthy fats with every meal and snack can help and foods to consider include real butter, red meat, nuts and nut butters, seeds, oily fish, avocados and eggs.
  1. Make sure all foods are based on complex carbohydrates and not simple sugars. Sustaining energy throughout the day requires foods that release energy slowly and including complex carbohydrates with healthy fats and protein with every meal and snack is key. Sugary foods and snacks (such as cereals, chocolate, sweets, crisps and cereal bars) might give us a quick energy boost, but that will be followed by a rapid dip in energy and the need for more sugar to bring our energy back up. Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest and thus release energy more slowly and, when eating with protein and fats, this digestion is slowed down further, thus supporting energy for longer – vital for children who are often ‘on the go’ all day.
  1. Adequate water intake is essential – children should be drinking all day long, as even mild dehydration can lead to tiredness, lack of energy, low mood and an inability to concentrate. Make sure your child has access to lots of water throughout the school day. If they absolutely refuse to drink water, speak with their teacher and ensure they have highly diluted juice available for them to drinnk at all times.
  1. Developing bodies and minds require a good night’s sleep every night and particularly before a day at school. 5-8-year-olds need around 10-12 hours per night, 9-12-year-olds need 9-12 hours and teenagers need 8-10 hours per night. Quality sleep is best achieved with a familiar routine and bedtime pattern that may include bathing, reading (or being read to), a cool and comfortable bed and no additional light or noise sources from TVs or game consoles. Keep all electronic devices out of the bedroom at night to avoid temptation and exposure to unnecessary light.
  1. Talking and listening to our children as often as possible can help them know that they are not alone and that their fears and worries will be considered and not seen as silly or irrelevant. The journey to and from school can be a good time to do this, although often children decide to open up at bedtime, to delay the inevitable switching off of the light and the time they get to spend with you. Including 10 minutes of ‘chat time’ just before bed can be a great way of helping them to unload their worries and to lead to a better night’s sleep for everyone.
  1. As adults, many of us seek out stress management techniques to help us deal with our daily demands, but we might not consider the stress that our children experience and strategies that might help them to cope better. Exercise, sleep and a healthy diet all help and it might also be worth considering specific stress-reducing techniques – ideas include children’s yoga, meditation, deep breathing, playing indoors and outdoors and allowing them to run, shout, be boisterous and laugh wherever and whenever possible (and particularly in the first hour after school).
  1. Daily exercise is crucial for children of all ages and identifying as many different ways as possible to include movement and activity in your child’s day can help them to sleep better, eat better and feel better generally. It can be easier to get young children outside running around than it is for teenagers and we might need to get creative to encourage older children to move – we might even have to get involved ourselves, which isn’t a bad thing for helping to manage our own stress levels.
  1. Linked to points 7 and 8, getting our children outside for 30-60 minutes a day can have an hugely positive impact on both their immunity and their mood. Going to the park or out into the garden straight from school is a great option, but while the nights are still light, going for a walk or a bike ride after dinner/tea could also be an option or playing a ball game in the garden. If you have access to a trampoline, all the better!
  1. Finally, as a manufacturer of friendly bacteria, it would be remiss of us not to mention how important our gut is to our health and how closely it is linked to our brain and mood. We have all experienced some kind of gut feeling related to anxiety, trepidation or excitement and some children might even experience tummy aches and/or diarrhoea in the morning before school or at the end of the school day. Supporting their gut function relies upon all the elements listed already – a healthy diet, hydration, sleep, stress management, exercise and time outdoors – and this can be further supported by serving up lots of vegetables and some fruit for fibre and helping to balance the microbiome by adding friendly bacteria to their diet (via fermented and pickled foods) or in supplement form.

Want to know more?

ProVen Probiotics aim to provide the best support for both you and your health. If you wish to know more about gut health and staying healthy please do not hesitate to call us on 01639 825107 or alternatively, learn more via our blogs or in-depth ProVen research.

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