BACK TO SCHOOL NUTRITION GAMEPLANBy: Emily Parsons, Pn1
As the summer came to a close this year I had client after client tell me, ‘Oh I’m actually excited for school to start- my routine is going to make staying on track so much easier!’ This comment came from youth athletes and parents alike- all convinced that a little more consistency in the day to day would be just the ticket towards hitting the nutritional goals we had laid out. I can’t say I disagree with these clients. Following a similar schedule everyday as opposed to the randomness that summer often brings can certainly be helpful in implementing a healthy routine. However, the most important thing to recognize is that you need to know what a healthy routine actually means for you (hint: this might mean more consistent practice than just pure intuition!)
So, here are my top 5 tips to navigate your nutrition during the school year. Want to know something extra great? These tips are transferable whether you are stepping foot into the crazy world of middle school for the first time, or the parent waiting in the parking lot at 3:00 analyzing all the newest tween ‘fashion statements.‘
1.Eat Breakfast Everyday– Set the tone for the day with a quality, balanced breakfast every morning. This is more than simply grabbing a pop tart or bagel on your way out the door. Aim for a quality serving of protein, a handful of carbs and 1-2 fistfuls of veggies or fruit. Always in a rush and just can’t seem to make the time? Prep some options in advance such as overnight oats, healthy muffins, baked eggcups or pre-portioned protein shakes that just need to be blended up in the morning.
2.Pack Quality Snacks– School days can be long, and if you add sports practice on top of that then you may gone for close to 9 or 10 hours. If you want to keep your energy levels up and blood sugar stable, snacks are key (this goes for you too, mom and dad!) Shoot for something you like that has a good balance of protein and carbs- aka not just a candy bar or bag of chips. Great portable options include trail mix, apples w/ peanut butter, homemade energy oat balls, veggies or crackers w/ hummus, or a balanced protein bar (rx bar, oatmega, luna 5, etc.)
3.Bring (or buy) a Balanced Lunch– We all know that the school cafeteria can be a nutritional nightmare. Pizza counts as a vegetable…really? But on the days you aren’t able to bring a nicely balanced lunch, you still need to know how to navigate the looming landmines. It all goes back to finding the balance (spoiler: a slice pizza with some doritos doesn’t exactly make the cut.) Start with finding some form of protein: grilled chicken sandwich, turkey and cheese wrap, ham and cheese sandwich. Next, find a vegetable or fruit option: salad bar, carrots w/ dressing, whole pieces of fresh fruit or fruit cups. Finally, add in an extra item you enjoy: individual bag of pretzels or baked chips, yogurt cup, fruit chews, etc. It may not always be perfect, but if you consistently try to find the balance you’ll stay right on track.
4.Carry A Water Bottle– This is my first tip to every client (both youth and adult) that comes in my office: invest in a water bottle you actually like and use it. Rather than constantly buying bottled waters or only drinking during meals, stay ahead of your thirst and aim to drink water consistently throughout the day. Our bodies simply can’t perform optimally if they aren’t properly hydrated. And dehydration occurs faster than you think! Thirsty right now? You’re probably already a little dehydrated- so get that water bottle and fill ‘er up!
5.Prioritize Sleep– I know I know, sleep isn’t the first word that comes to mind when you think about nutrition. However, in reality it affects everything and is just too important to neglect. When we miss out on sleep our hunger cues get thrown off, energy takes a dive and willpower to make healthy choices begins to vanish. I realize the more we pack into our schedule each day, the less time there seems to be for sleep. But I’m willing to bet that if you really look at how your spending your time there is something you could cut down on to make a little more time for the goal of 7-9 hours sleep. Maybe it’s one less episode of your favorite Netflix show, an hour less of scrolling on social media or putting down the video game controller a bit sooner. Trust me, you’ll be thankful for the few extra z’s when the school bell rings in the morning.