Skimpy School Time Eating

I’m hearing repeated concerns from parents that their children are just not eating while at school. They come out at 3 o’clock starving and either exhausted or in a full blown state of agitation due to low blood sugar.

Some children are telling their parents that they “just don’t have enough time to eat” at school. While others, really have no interest in eating when they could be doing something more fun like climbing trees or playing basketball.

Whatever the reason, 6 hours is a long time to go without much food, especially, when learning, problem solving, memorization and critical thinking are involved.

What You Can Do to Ensure Your Child is Getting What He Needs from 9-3

Maximize Pre School Eating

You’ll want to ensure your child is filling up at breakfast time with foods that will keep him going for as long as possible. This means ensuring your child has some protein source along with their usual whole grains and fruits. Protein not only slows down the absorption of sugars from carbohydrate foods (fruit, cereals, bread etc), but it also prolongs the absorption of the sugars. This means, that by simply adding protein to your child’s breakfast, he will be receiving a slow and steady supply of fuel for a longer period of time compared to a breakfast of simple carbohydrates like cereal, toast and juice.

Great protein options for breakfast include natural nut and seed butters (no added sugar). Almond butter, pumpkin seed butter, cashew butters and even the old staple of peanut butter are all great choices. Spreading a tablespoon of nut butter on a slice of dense, whole grain bread and topping with slices of bananas can be a satisfying way to start the day.

Natural Greek yogurt is another rich source of protein for the morning meal. It provides a whopping 18 grams of protein for 1 serving compared to about 8 grams of protein for regular yogurt. There is a lot of added sugar in fruit flavoured yogurts. Be sure to buy natural unflavoured yogurt and then sweeten with a drizzle of honey, or a teaspoon of your favourite jam. Combining Greek yogurt with fruit salad and a bowl of whole grain cereals or whole grain toast will also keep your child fueled up for hours.

Not all sausages are created equal. There are plenty of natural, lean, turkey or chicken breakfast sausages that are high in protein and taste kid-friendly. A time-saving tip is to cook them the night before, refrigerate overnight and then pop them in the microwave for about 45 seconds to heat in the morning.

Eggs may feel more like a weekend treat, however, it only takes about 3 minutes to scramble or poach an egg and get ‘em on the plate. Eggs are also a good source of choline which is an essential component of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved with learning and memory.

 Before the Bell

Depending on when your kids eat breakfast a significant amount of time can lapse between eating and the bell.  Give your child one last snack during the walk or drive to school. Having breakfast at 7am and then a snack at 8:50 will provide extra nutrients and energy to your child, when he needs them most, that is, at the beginning of a busy day.

Although I usually encourage all eating to be done while sitting down and paying attention to your food, this is one exception I’m willing to make if your child needs a little extra boost to get him through the day.  This snack needs to be one that you can carry with you that won’t make a mess.  I have a fantastic recipe for the healthiest breakfast or after school cookies. Kids love these things and I love giving them to them. See recipe at bottom of the  post for Hearty Healthy Cookies.

Other “ On the Go” Options

  • Trail mix – a couple handfuls of nuts, seeds & dried apricots
  • Oatcake “oreo” sandwich – 2 oatcakes with almond butter in between
  • High protein, low sugar granola bars – Kind Bars
  • Small whole grain bunwich with cheese
  • If you have a cold drink tumbler – quickly blitz up a smoothie with frozen berries, banana, Greek yogurt and ground up flax seeds to take on the go

During School

A packed lunch is no time to introduce a new food to your child. Fill their lunch boxes with a mix of all  food groups:

  • Protein
  • Dairy/dairy alternatives
  • Whole grains/ starch vegetables
  • Fruits & vegetables.

Try to pack them things you know they will eat. If your child’s favourite sandwich is ham and cheese, then give them ham and cheese. Of course you’ll want to switch it up now and again, but it is certainly OK to repeat their favourites a couple times a week. If your school does not have a milk program, pack a small carton in your child’s lunch box. A small carton of 2% milk will provide an extra 120 calories, a serving of protein and one third of your child’s daily calcium needs.

Asking your child to help prepare his lunch box can also be a fruitful way to get him involved in choosing foods you are both happy with. You will increase the chances that he will eat his lunch if he had a hand in choosing and preparing it.

For more lunchbox ideas, see:

After School: Come Prepared!

You may have noticed that even if your child eats every last scrap of his lunch, they are always famished by the 3 o’clock bell. If you collect your kids from school, it may be an idea to come prepared with a snack. The ‘on the go’ snacks & Hearty Healthy Cookies will all work for a quick bite before the next activity. If your child comes straight home from school, here are some sit down snack options:

  • Pineapple and cottage cheese
  • Whole grain tortilla roll with guacamole
  • Apple slices with cheese
  • Veggies and hummus
  • “Banana Split” – banana cut lengthwise topped with natural yogurt, mixed berries & a drizzle of honey


Recipe: Hearty Healthy Cookies 


2 whole ripe bananas, mashed until creamy

1/3 cups almond butter* (creamy or chunky)

2/3rd cups unsweetened apple sauce

1/4 cups ground almonds

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups of quick oatmeal, uncooked

1/4 cups chopped almonds (optional)

3 squares (30 grams) 85% cacao dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces


Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, mix mashed banana and almond butter until combined. Add applesauce, ground almonds, and vanilla. Mix. Add in the oats and nuts and combine.  Finally, stir through the dark chocolate pieces.

Let dough rest 10 minutes.

Place parchment paper along cookie sheets. Drop medium to large spoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheet, depending upon the size of cookie you want to have.  Bake about 30 minutes or until golden brown and done. Store in covered container.

Makes about 16 cookies.


* Make these “school safe” cookies by substituting pumpkin seed butter for almond butter and either ground pumpkin seeds or whole wheat or spelt flour for the ground almonds. Skip the chopped nuts.

* There are countless options to make these cookies your own. Try adding a 1/4 cup raisins, craisins or chopped apricots. A 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut is our household’s favourite.

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5 Smart(er) Resolutions

It’s that time of year again where we look forward and consider what we can do to improve our health, wellness and lives.

For resolutions to be successful, they must be specific and realistic.  Don’t fall back on vague, mindless resolutions with no real plan of action on how to incorporate them into your life.

Consider the following 5 specific and smart resolutions that will help you become The Best You in 2013.

Number 1: Rethink your Goal

When people decide they want to lose weight, they naturally think in terms of pounds. However, body weight may not be the best tool to predict one’s risk of chronic disease. Abdominal obesity is a predominant risk factor for coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Instead of thinking in terms of losing 10 pounds, think in terms of obtaining your ideal waist circumference.

Ideal Waist Circumference:

Women – under 80 cm (30 inches)

Men- under 90 cm (35 inches)

Your risk factors increase when waist circumference reaches or exceeds 88 cm (or 35 inches) for women and 102 cm (or 40 inches) for men.

Number 2: Exercise

One of the best things you can do for your body, health and longevity is to exercise. Having a physically active lifestyle can reduce your risk of obesity, certain cancers, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. Exercise elevates mood, reduces stress levels and leads to better quality sleep.

If you are currently inactive, start by incorporating 10 minutes of physical activity into your day. Continue to increase activity levels by 10 minute increments until you are able to undertake moderate to vigorous exercise for approximately 30 minutes a day.


You’ll have a better chance of success if you make it fun:

  • enlist a friend to become your power-walk buddy
  • remember your favourite sports at school? Find a team, join it and get out and play again
  • in cold winter months the local swimming pool provides a great way to get fit
  • can you forgo the car and walk or bike to work?
  • enjoy a round of golf, but leave the cart at the clubhouse
  • wear a pedometre and aim for 10,000 steps a day.
  • small changes reap big rewards – get in the garden, wash the car, take the stairs, jump off the bus two stops early, take the dog for a good long walk

Number 3: Eat More Plants 

Very few of us are reaching our goal of eating between 7-10 servings of vegetables and fruits a day. A diet abundant in vegetables and fruits provides rich sources of fibre, antioxidants, essential nutrients and has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.

Some quick tips on how to up your intake:

  • make veggies the star of your meal and have grains and protein as bit players
  • keep a fruit bowl on the counter and within reach
  • make a large batch of vegetable soup to accompany meals throughout the week
  • add frozen berries to warm oatmeal
  • expand Meatless Mondays, to Meatless Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays
  • get out of your comfort zone and try something new – bok choy, kale, jicama, broccolini
  • apples, pears, mandarin oranges, sugar snap peas and baby carrots all make easy-to-grab snacks on the run

 Number 4:  Forgo the Flour

The cornerstone of a healthy diet is eating natural, unprocessed, unmanufactured food. Try to incorporate 3 flour-free days per week into your schedule. This means avoiding all refined flour products, such as crackers, bread, muffins, cookies, pasta and pizza.

Grains that have been pulverized into flour are easily digested and fast absorbing. This leads to a spike in your blood sugar signalling your body to release excessive insulin. Insulin drives your blood sugar down, partially by converting the sugar to fat. As your blood sugar drops it leaves you feeling tired, lethargic and very hungry setting you up for a cycle of cravings.


  • Instead of a bagel for breakfast – have steel cut oats with fresh fruit
  • Instead of your usual lunchtime baguette sandwich – use large romaine lettuce leaves as a roll up and fill with hummus and veggies or salmon salad
  • Instead of crackers or banana bread for a snack – reach for a handful of raw almonds and an apple
  • Leave the pasta in the pantry and try a vegetable stir-fry on wild rice or ratatouille on a bed of quinoa.

Number 5: Don’t drink your calories

An easy way to lose weight and keep your blood sugar on an even keel is to simply stop drinking pop, juice, energy drinks and other sweetened beverages.

Fluids are not as satiating as solid food. Eating one apple that provides about 65 calories will fill you up for much longer than drinking one glass of apple juice at 114 calories.  It will also provide you with all the nutrients and fibre which have not been removed or destroyed through processing.

By simply substituting water for your 2 pop a day habit you will lose 15 pounds in one year!


  • Start by weaning yourself off the sweet beverages. Dilute your morning juice by half the first week and 3/4s the second week. Week 3, stop buying juice and just drink water. You can add a squeeze of lemon to provide some flavour if you wish.
  • Do not substitute regular pop for the diet alternative. Ideally, you want to retrain your taste buds so they do not crave excessively sweet products. If you like the carbonation, try substituting pop with unsweetened, flavoured fizzy water.
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