Last week, I was asked by the vice principal of my children’s school to do a nutrition workshop for parents during the kindergarten “meet & greet.” I am very excited to be part of a movement towards eating well from a young age. As a holistic nutritionist, I strongly believe that nutrition plays such a key role in having a healthy mind, body spirit. Being a mother, a volunteer at Sick Kids Hospital & having supply taught at the elementary level, cultivating healthy eating habits for children is my passion. My goal is to educate, empower and inspire others.
For many children and parents, entering kindergarten is a period of transition. It symbolizes new beginnings. Since we are all different, some children (and parents alike) may experience separation anxiety, nervousness and/or excitement. Whatever emotions do occur, they will ultimately affect the digestive system. This in turn may impact:
The desire to eat
The ability to absorb vitamins & minerals
The ability to concentrate
TIPS TO EASE INTO THE TRANSITION OF KINDERGARTEN:
Although some parents seemed eager to finally “be free” of not having any children at home with them during the day, others were concerned about how to manage the new transition. In my experience, a little planning, knowledge and tips went a long way. Here is what I suggest:
Get your children started on a by getting them involved in meal planning & prepping.(At four years old, maybe not asking them to take out the butcher knife and start chopping carrots, but perhaps putting the veggies into a pot for dinner or a container for their lunch the next day)
Have I am confident that the administration of your schools will advise you to purchase a lunch box as well as a water bottle.Make sure the latter is BPA free if you are purchasing plastic.Chemicals affect our children more because they have less body mass for the chemical to penetrate.Containers for their lunches are available at a reasonable price at stores like Walmart. They come in convenient “lunch kits,” complete with ice packages.I would also recommend a thermos for warm meals in the cold winter months with children’s sized cutlery wrapped in a napkin.
PREPARE IN ADVANCE. Make lunches the night before. If you prefer to include a hot portion as their main course, heat that up in the morning but have the rest of the lunch prepped & ready to go.
LABEL SNACKS. Put numbers on the containers so the children know when to eat what snack. My daughter likes yogourt, so I would always label that as “snack #1.” It makes sense to have this before apple slices for example, right?
ALWAYS INCLUDE THE ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS in your child’s lunch. These include water, protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, minerals & vitamins. Consider these to be like building blocks of a healthy mind, body & spirit.
NEVER ALLOW YOUR CHILD TO SKIP BREAKFAST. Even if they are not yet in the habit, at the very least encourage them to have a smoothie. Start with unsweetened almond milk (I like the “Silk” brand) and/or coconut water, some fresh fruit such as berries/apple/banana, some nut or seed butter, & either flax oil or any other omega 3 oil designed for children.
MAKE FOOD FUN. These are children we are speaking about. They definitely eat with their eyes and nose at this stage of their lives. If food looks more appealing, they are more likely to eat it!! Try using cookie cutters for their sandwiches or cheese slices. Using skewers for fruit or veggies is another great little trick that I found worked really well.
PROVIDE ALLERGEN FREE, NUTRIENT DENSE TREATS on occasion. While whole, fresh fruit, vegetables, & whole grains are always preferred, giving your child a packaged product is okay. I would recommend reading the label and being comfortable with the ingredients. Take special note of the sugar content. My children have “Made Good” bars, “Love Grown Cereals” & “Free Yumm” products once in a while as a snack.
Leave a little REMINDER of how much you love them in their lunch box. A little “I love you” on a sticky note or a picture of mom or dad will go a long way in keeping their nerves calm. This in turn promotes good digestion.
Every workshop I design is tailored to the group I am educating. When it comes to kindergarten, these are my top nutrients:
Essential Fatty Acids
Each of the above have different functions and can be found in a variety of foods. The main nutritional goal at this age is to build a strong immune & skeletal system. Part of this involves keeping their stress levels in check, even from this early age!! The other goal is to include foods which are good for brain health and stable blood sugar levels. It’s a delicate balance, but can certainly be attained.
I always like to end my workshops by giving the participants something to think about. I really want parents to understand the perils of refined sugars. I want parents to be educated about the effects refined sugars have on their child’s mind, body & spirit:
MIND…refined sugars decrease
The ability to focus
Increase unstable blood sugar levels
Decrease the ability to absorb minerals & vitamins
Increase the risk for childhood obesity, which affects their self esteem
Increase the risk for tooth decay, which affects their self esteem
Increase the risk of inflammation, which leads to the risk of future chronic disease such as arthritis, cardio vascular disease & Cancers
Increase aggressive behaviour
Decrease (no that’s not an error) energy levels
I have done several studies about refined sugars. Please do not give package goods that are highly processed and contain excessive amounts of refined sugars to your children for their school snacks. Even though you may have the best of intentions, it is not a “treat.” Instead, follow the tips above, and watch them grow & flourish intellectually, physically, and emotionally.
For more information about breakfast and lunch ideas for your little one just starting out in kindergarten, call for a complimentary 15 minute consult. Until then, may the transition be as smooth as homemade almond butter!