Nutrition for school kids is no longer just about mental development and performance, it’s about boosting their immunity to make sure they’re able to fight viral or bacterial infections. So, with schools starting again soon, it’s now more important than ever that children follow a healthy, nutritious diet.
Dr. Dana Al Hamwi, Clinical Dietitian, India Gate helps parents understand how best they can do this.
Breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day
Energy-packed healthy meals are the way forward, but the most important thing is to avoid high-processed foods right now, as they have a negative impact on the immune system.
A rich but healthy breakfast before your child leaves for school helps them tackle all the challenges of the day and you have full control over it. A well-balanced breakfast will kick start their metabolism and provide them with the much needed energy and focus. It also reduces the urge to reach for unhealthy snacks and helps maintain a healthy BMI.
To reap these benefits, you must make sure their breakfast has all the needed building blocks: from proteins to minerals and fibres, as well as carbs, ideally from fruits and vegetables.
While your child’s morning breakfast would usually include milk, eggs, whole wheat bread and fresh fruits, here are some beneficial inclusions you should make to their breakfast:
- Start the day by giving your little one a tablespoon of olive oil. Olive oil is very useful in providing the body with healthy Omega 9, essential fatty acids as well as Vitamin E to boost body immunity. While having it in its raw form may be difficult for children you can add it to their breakfast. Try giving them an egg fried in olive oil or add it to their pancake mix or baked beans.
- Make yogurt or preferably kefir a part of your child’s diet. The probiotics in yogurt and kefir will enhance their digestive system and body immunity. Add a teaspoon of Manuka honey and a little bit of cinnamon and turmeric for more benefits.
- Along with fresh fruits and vegetable it is essential to add seeds to your child’s meal. Seeds such as chia and flax are loaded with benefits. While the tiny seeds of chia are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, fibre and antioxidants which help improve brain function eyesight and focus, flax seeds help keep the nutrition balance in the body, appropriate. A glass of warm water along with soaked chia seeds is ideal in the morning. You can add chia seeds to their milk or even make them a delicious chia pudding for breakfast. Add ground flaxseed to their porridge and purees.
Making the most out of lunch
The lunch box you prepare for your child should also have plenty of super foods to help boost immunity. Some healthy lunch tips include:
- Quinoa is a go-to source of protein if you wish to avoid animal-based sources. It’s also a gluten-free substitute for wheat. You can have it as part of the main meal or a base for dessert. Unknown to many, besides salads, there are a number of dishes that can be prepared with Quinoa. From healthy wraps, tacos, and risottos to delicious biryanis, curries and baked dishes there are plenty of options.
- Also include beans and whole grains such as sprouted brown rice which are a good source of Zinc. Zinc helps reduce the duration of the common cold, and helps activate specific immune cells called T lymphocytes that regulate all other immune responses.
- Vegetable broth soup with veggies such as broccoli, celery, cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, onion and garlic helps improve the body defenses against viral infections. Serve it with basmati rice, legumes or sprouted brown rice. Sprouted Brown Rice has a high nutrition quotient value, is easy to cook and sweeter in taste. It also has phytochemicals (Ferulic acid, Phytic acids and Inositols) present in increased due to controlled germination process. Make sure to add turmeric to all dishes while cooking as it has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Serve a refreshing glass of laban with lunch. It’s a great source of vitamin D, calcium, and protein, and helps keep the healthy gut bacteria in balance.
While kids love snacking on quick bites, it is very important for parents to plan what exactly goes into their little one’s snack box. This can be quite tricky, as while you would love to steer away from cookies and fries this is exactly what your little one is looking forward to. The good news is, this is not a very difficult balance to strike. Here are some tips on how can ensure your child has a healthy snack, that too, of their choice.
- Energy bars and cookies: Homemade energy bars are always a good option. You can prepare them using quinoa, oats nuts, date and honey. Moreover, these bars are also a great option to suffice sugar cravings.
- Substitute Food: Do not stop your little ones from eating their favourite food, simply prepare the same dishes using healthier options like quinoa, sprouted brown rice etc. Opt for quinoa tortillas to prepare delicious wraps or quesadillas and add nuts and seeds to cookies.
- Make eating fun: Kids love to be in control of things. Involve your children in the cooking process. Let them plan their own snack and get involved in preparing it. This will encourage them to eat their snack and enjoy it too.
Don’t forget water exercise and sleep!
The final piece of the puzzle when it comes to strengthening the body and the immune system is sufficient water, exercise and sleep. Encourage them to drink water at regular intervals. While exercising at school may not be as simple as it used to be, make sure you plan some fun indoor activities, which include movement and exercise. Most importantly ensure your child gets sufficient sleep as this is the time the body recoups and repairs itself.