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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3 thoughts on “Skimpy School Time Eating

  1. This is great Haley. I just wanted to add that sometimes my son really does not have time to eat all his lunch. I find the simpler I keep the meal the more likely he will have time to eat it all. A sandwich or a thermos lunch always work. Frazer’s school has the reversed lunch program which I think also helps. Ok off to try the cookies

  2. Double thumbs up on the cookies in our family! Was debating whether to make banana oatmeal muffins or granola cookies to put in snacks this week and then tried this recipe instead – so getting best of both without using butter or sugar. I added some ground flax and chopped dried apricots and am delighted to find ‘healthy’ tastes so good! I have question about storing them…do you find they keep best in fridge and can I make a bigger batch and freeze them?

    • I’m glad your family enjoyed the cookies. Regarding storage, I would place the cookies in a sealed container and store in the fridge to keep fresh. Freezing the cookies should work fine as well. The texture may change slightly, however, it is another way to keep the cookies for longer should you wish to double the recipe.

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