How to Keep Your Kids Healthy This Fall

Image: Poodar Chu With the AMAZING summer we have been having so far, it’s hard to believe that school is just around the corner. You might not be thinking school supplies and sweaters quite yet, but trust me – it’s creeping up!

Rather than focus on how hectic the transition can be, I like to equip parents with ways to make the school year start with a bang (instead of a bust).

If you’re interested in an active, fun and energetic fall with your kids, I high recommend having a look at how you’re fuelling your family: healthy food choices help support improved energy, concentration and academic performance. When it comes to healthy kids, nutrition is key.


The Unfortunate Reality of Childhood Obesity

Parents tend to find it challenging in today’s fast-paced society to ensure that their kids are living a healthy lifestyle and exercising regularly. Childhood obesity is reaching epidemic proportions, with over one-third of Canadian kids overweight.

Typically this trend will continue into adolescence , and even then many continue to gain excess weight. In fact, if current trends continue, by 2040 up to 70% of adults aged 40 and over will be overweight.

A lot of the problem is related to how active kids are: research shows that Canadian children and youth are spending an average of 8.6 hours per day, or 62% of their waking hours, being sedentary.



Healthy Eating for Healthy Kids

Getting your kids out from in front of the TV or computer is a great place to start, but food is equally important.

Fruits and vegetables, along with a whole foods diet, have been shown to increase immune function – which means less sick days at school. Unfortunately, with the abundance of commercially processed and sugary foods available at grocery stores and seen in the media, it can be very difficult to teach children about the difference between healthy and low-nutrition foods.

The best way to shift the above trend is to get your children excited about eating a whole foods diet with a balance of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes.  Lean meats, free-range chicken, eggs and fish are great choices for proteins as well. These foods are high in vitamins, minerals, essential nutrients, fiber, proteins and healthy fats.

Start with breakfast. Breakfast is often a missed meal amongst children (and even us adults): the morning can be so chaotic that we run out of time to prepare something to eat. Statistics show that as many as 48% of girls and 32% of boys do not eat breakfast every day.


Why is breakfast so important?

As the first meal of the day, it helps fuel the brain and muscles after a nightlong fast. If you child does not eat when he/she wakes up, their body lacks the energy it needs to perform all of its daily functions.

Studies show that eating breakfast helps kids manage their weight because skipping breakfast sets your child up for extreme hunger later in the day, leading to poor foods choices, excess caloric intake and major stress on blood sugar balancing and metabolism.


Easy Breakfast Ideas

  1. Protein SMOOTHIES!  Blend fruit, protein powder (whey or plant based), plain organic yogurt, greens, flaxseeds and water in a blender until smooth.
  2. Homemade granola and plain organic yogurt or coconut/almond yogurt for those who can’t do the dairy.
  3. Sprouted grain bread/rice cakes with nut butters (almond, hazelnut, pumpkin seed) with cut up apple slices.
  4. Plain rolled oats or quinoa cooked on the stove top with fresh fruit and nuts. Overnight oats or chia pudding made the night before can also make breakfast quick and easy.
  5. A hardboiled egg on sprouted grain bread or quinoa and fresh fruit.


Also, Snacks!

Sending your child to school with healthy snacks is another overlooked but crucial way to keep them healthy and keep their energy up. Too often children experience an energy crash around 2 or 3 pm, and turn to things like chips, soft drinks and sweets as their only available options.

Snacks your kids can dig into when they get tired will balance their blood sugar and provide vital nutrients – which won’t happen if they eat a chocolate bar, instead.


6 Quick Snack Ideas

  1. Veggies and dips (hummus, bean dips, guacamole). *Try adding a little colour (and some added nutrients) by mixing in a steamed beet, yams, spinach or kale to your hummus!
  2. Mixed nuts and dried apricots or apples.
  3. Hardboiled egg wrapped in a lettuce leaf and drizzled with honey mustard.
  4. Apple dipped in almond butter topped with shredded coconut or chia seeds.
  5. Healthy homemade cookies or granola bars  made with raw nuts and seeds, oats, dried fruit and sweetened with apple sauce, dates or stevia (a natural sugar found in most grocery and health food stores). *Make these ahead on a Sunday afternoon and get your kids involved to up the ante on their healthy eating education!
  6. Kale chips!

A recent study just found that 55% of five year olds consume less than two servings of fruits and vegetables per day, so even if you don’t use the suggestions above, focus on having fruits & veggies as the key ingredient in every snack and meal.

Essential vitamins and minerals are necessary for proper growth, metabolism, digestion, immune system function, muscle and nerve function and detoxification processes in the liver. Well-balanced meals and snacks are crucial for sustained energy throughout the day, and the ability to comprehend and retain information.

Set your children (and yourselves!) up for a better back-to-school: think whole foods, fruits & veggies, healthy breakfasts and snacks.

And then start the school year off without a hitch!