Back to School - Focus on Nutrition!

Back to school (& work for many) typically means life suddenly gets busier and more chaotic. Families wake up earlier to rush and get ready for class, then there’s taking the kids to sports, music lessons, and sometimes appointments, overseeing long hours of studying, grocery and school supply shopping… Time disappears.

And along with time slipping through our fingers, so can healthy eating habits. It’s sometimes difficult to find the time to prepare healthy breakfasts and snacks, pack lunches and then make a balanced dinner that everyone will enjoy (and consume!).

However, healthy, balanced eating should be a priority for all of us, no matter what else is going on in life. With a little planning and self-discipline, keeping on-track can be easy. The trick is to get into the habit from the start – it’s always easier to keep up a good habit than to try to break and replace an old (possibly bad) one.

The reasons for ensuring that our children gain & maintain healthy eating habits are ample. Here are just a few of them:

  • Learning & Mental processing: it’s now universally known that children who don’t have proper meals (esp noticeable w/ breakfast) have reduced concentration and ability to focus in school.

  • Energy: Keeping active and alert requires adequate caloric intake - of the healthy kind! When kids are hungry/deprived of the right nutrients they wont be able to keep up in class, recess, at sporting activities, etc.

  • Growth and Development: children and teens grow quickly (obvious in how quickly they need new clothing!). Their bones, organs, brain, skin, blood vessels, etc all need adequate nutrition. Without the proper building blocks, these essential structures will form poorly or not at all.

  • Preventing Obesity: Obesity and Diabetes are rampant in our culture. According to the American Pediatrics Association, obesity is the Most Common medical condition of children today: approximately 26% of Canadian children ages 2-17 years old are currently overweight or obese.

  • If this trend continues, we can expect that in 20 years, 70% of the 30-40 year olds in Canada to be overweight or obese vs. 57% who are currently overweight or obese.

  • Psychological Health: Improper nutrition severely affects mental health:

  • The brain & nervous system is almost completely made up of fatty-acids – without adequate amounts of the appropriate fats, it cannot properly develop, function or be maintained!

  • The brain also needs appropriate amounts of glucose to function properly – however excess sugar can promote hyperactivity. Nutritional meals and intake of healthy complex carbohydrates can help prevent this imbalance.

Need a couple of suggestions to get you off on the right foot this school year? Just a couple of ideas may include:

  • Breakfast options:

  • Oatmeal/Granola with nut mylk and fruit

  • Whole Grain Pancakes with fruit

  • Homemade berry-bran muffins

  • Smoothie (fruit, yoghurt, oats, hemp or chia, a handful of spinach)

  • *Perfect for those in a hurry – can be made and refrigerated the night before!

  • Packed in a Lunch:

  • Nori Rolls (nori stuffed with rice & vegis)

  • Quinoa salad (quinoa, diced vegis, herbs)

  • Whole Wheat Wraps (with lettuce/sprouts, shreaded chicken, vegis, guacamole & salsa)

  • Homemade mini-pizzas

  • Leftover soup/chili/stew in a thermos

  • Hard Boiled Eggs

  • Backpack & After-School Snacks:

  • Hummus with sliced vegis (carrots, peppers, etc)

  • Fruit with almond butter

  • Trail Mix (mix dried fruit, coconut, hemp hearts, cacao nibs. nuts, etc)

  • Banana &/or Zucchini bread

  • Greek yoghurt sprinkled with granola

  • Homemade energy balls/granola bars

Key points to consider when packing lunches:

  • Balance:

  • Make sure meals & snacks include protein, complex carbohydrates (vegis, whole grains), and healthy fat. Together they ensure we're getting all of what we need to make it through hectic days with energy.

  • Preferences:

  • Ensure that what you pack is something your kids will enjoy – there’s no point in packing what will end up in the trash in favour of a take-out meal!

  • Get them involved! Letting your kids help pack their lunches ensures their input is there along with yours.

  • Variety:

  • Keep them interested and excited about meals. Anything, even something tasty, gets boring after a few days in a row. Mix it up!

  • Be ingredient savvy:

  • When shopping, read labels and avoid ingredients you don’t recognize. Processed cheese is a perfect example of a food that really… isn’t a food. Fake foods do not count as healthy eating, and often are detrimental (containing chemicals, dyes, excess sugar and fat, etc…)

  • Keep em' hydrated:

  • Pack a water bottle in their school bags. Dehydration slows mental and physical activity, and it also can promote reaching for the vending machine.

  • Include a treat:

  • Make it a healthy one! You know your kids will want one, and it’s far better for them to eat 1 or 2 homemade cookies than a chocolate bar or bag of chips!

  • Do what you can the night before.

  • One more thing off the list! Getting ready ahead of time gives everyone more time for a sit-down, relaxed breakfast, makes grabbing the prepared lunch bag easier and ensures you’re ready for the day!

If you’d like some healthy recipe ideas, check out:

  • My other blog posts at


In Health,

Dr Katarine Holewa

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