Once your child is at school, they begin to have more opportunities to make their own decisions about what to eat. There is an increase in requirements for energy and protein at this age because they are growing quickly and becoming more active so providing a healthy, well-balanced, varied diet is important.
Children’s meals need to include a variety of foods in order to meet their nutritional needs and activity levels.
Why breakfast is important for your child
Mornings can be a big run around and as a parent getting everyone ready for school as well as sitting down to eat breakfast. But the first meal of the day is very important for schoolchildren and should not be missed. Studies have repeatedly shown that children who eat breakfast have far higher vitamin, mineral and fibre intakes and are better nourished, which helps them to focus in the classroom.
The best breakfasts for children are rich in slow-release energy from wheat-based cereal, granary bread, porridge, nuts and fruit. . It’s best to choose an unsweetened, simple, whole-wheat or oat-based cereal, which you can add fruit to for sweetness, or some honey/maple syrup.
Why lunch is important for your child
When we look back at our school days, they might not seem like they were long days, but in the moment the child feels it as a long day with high energy demands, both physically and mentally. Often at this time that hunger strikes, moods dip and the ability to concentrate wanes. Eating too much at this time or a lunch that is high in fat or sugar can leave children sleepy and struggle through the second half of the day.
For ideas check our lunchbox ideas blog. There is life beyond the quick and easy sandwich! Try;
- Rye crackers or rice crackers with little pots of hummus or guacamole
- Tortilla wraps with cheese, beans
- Chicken laden with mixed salad leaves.
If your child enjoys soup a little flask of soup can be great. Regardless, the food must be low on salt (can cause dehydration), fat and sugar (can cause lethargy).
Finally, hydration, ensure your child is drinking enough water as a dehydrated child is far more likely to be a tired and less focused one. Fizzy drinks should be for special occasions, as they act as a source of ‘empty calories’ and of course as our dentists always say “may lead to tooth decay”.
Dealing with tiredness
If you notice that your child is tired all the time, there might be a simple solution. Ensure they are getting enough exercise; exercise produces endorphins which lifts mood, improves metabolism and improves sleep as well. Lack of sleep is an obvious cause of fatigue, so check that the evening routine is not to blame. Anaemia also causes children to be constantly tired, pale and possible headache complaints. (consult your GP if this is suspected) Anaemia can come about due to a lack of iron in ones diet (can be sourced from meats, leafy veg and more), or a lack of Vitamin C (can be sourced from such as tomato, broccoli or pepper) which helps the body absorb Iron from the food sources.
Why fruit and fibre are important for your child’s diet
Imagine its exam season, a high stress level time, often this stress can be manifested in the gut and the child may complain of tummy ache – sound familiar? This can be a reason for constipation, dehydration and more, which can be resolved with the addition of fibre. Fibre has a property such that it needs plenty of water to help and stimulate the gut to move it through. Therefore if you choose wholegrains, oats, quinoa, plenty of fruits and vegetables, lentils and beans the fiber needs can be met.
Why calcium is important for your child
We’ve all heard about the milk hype and how calcium is important for the development and maintenance of bones and teeth, but there is more – calcium is also important for nerve function, muscle contractions and even heart function. Getting enough calcium accompanied with vitamin D is very important.
Dairy products like milk, cheese and yoghurt are the major sources of calcium in a modern diet.
If a child can’t have dairy products then you will need to obtain calcium from a non-dairy source such as: leafy green vegetables; wholegrain cereals and breads; canned fish (eaten with bones); legumes (e.g. kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils); calcium-fortified soy products; and calcium-fortified breakfast cereals and juice.