Top Tips for Back to School Health

With another school year approaching in September – leading natural health and wellbeing experts, Nutrition Centre, have top tips to share for a healthy return to school. 

Nutrition Centre have strived to improve the standard of people’s wellbeing with ethically sourced, quality natural products since launching their first health store 40 years ago in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire (their services have been available online since 2005, www.nutritioncentre.co.uk).

Now, in the lead up to this crucial time in the school calendar, Nutrition Centre is eager to advise parents to care for their children’s health, setting a precedent to follow for the year ahead.  Firstly, in response to the government’s new School Food Plan (launched 12th July) – which is considering banning packed lunches at UK schools due to their prevailing low nutritional quality – Nutrition Centre offers advice for creating highly nutritious lunchboxes.

The School Food Plan, which aims to get more pupils attending school dinners, follows a report from food company, Leon, demonstrating the importance of nutrition for academic performance, and highlighting that only 1% of school pack lunches are reported to be as healthy as food served in school canteens. The plan also follows concerns over growing obesity among UK children: around a quarter of the UK’s primary school kids are overweight at the age of four, the number increasing to a third for 11 year olds by the time they leave primary school.

Clare Galpin, Director of Nutrition Centre says: “While the School Food Plan promises to make positive long term changes and to improve the quality of school dinners – currently, many school canteens don’t serve healthy food, all too often offering anything from burgers and hot dogs to pizzas and cakes.  In the meantime, Nutrition Centre is keen to offer some tips for creating really healthy lunchboxes to those parents eager to ensure their children get the nutrients and energy they need to keep them focused and alert for afternoon lessons. ”  

Dale Pinnock – renowned TV chef, author of The Medicinal Chef: Eat Your Way to Better Health,  and a consultant to Nutrition Centre – stresses the importance of a healthy lunchbox and shares expert advice for what to include:

“There are few things that can influence a child’s behaviour, mood, concentration, and energy levels more than food. A good packed lunch filled with proteins, healthy fats (particularly Omega 3) and complex carbohydrates will have a dramatic influence on them. Avoid the sugary, nutrient devoid, processed foods that so often get marketed to us as lunch box staples.  Instead look at adding as much fresh produce as you can. Try batch cooking meals, or even using left-overs from the previous evening’s meal. Anything that ensures a broad intake of high quality nutrition. I guarantee you will see the effect in days!”

Nutrition Centre recommends the following three options for delicious and nutritious packed lunches:  

Lunchbox 1

·         Wholemeal pitta bread with chicken/turkey, lettuce and tomato

·         Red pepper slices

·         Fruit yoghurt/ dairy-free soya yoghurt

·         Banana

 

Lunchbox 2

·         Rice/pasta salad with vegetables, peppers, onion, courgette, celery and mixed with tuna

·         Cheese cubes

·         Cucumber sticks

·         Grapes/Satsuma

Lunchbox 3

·         Quiche (homemade if possible)

·         Cherry tomatoes

·         Carrot Sticks

·         Dried fruits such as apricots, raisins and dates

·         Cold rice pudding

 

For fillers, Nutrition Centre recommends avoiding chocolate and crisps and including savoury snacks like homemade flapjacks, natural fruit bars, unsalted popcorn, homemade muffins and fruit.  They also advise staying clear of sugary drinks and opting for water, fruit juice (diluted with water) or soya, rice or coconut milk drinks. 

 

Clare Galpin also stresses the importance of a nutritious breakfast for keeping your child’s brain healthy and vital:   “A healthy breakfast ensures good concentration levels for morning lessons and sets children up for the day.  Research shows that pupils who skip breakfast tend to be inattentive and disruptive in class. We recommend fresh fruit, porridge, organic cereals and pancakes with nutritious fillings – all these are a rich source of energy and high in protein and fibre.” 

Finally, Clare also offers advice for beating the usual collection of bugs that spread like wildfire around schools following the long summer break – from coughs, colds, throat infections and stomach bugs, to impetigo, conjunctivitis and chicken pox.  She says the crucial thing is to keep your child’s immune system strong, which can be achieved by maintaining a balanced diet, getting a good night’s sleep, and taking daily physical exercise.

Clare Galpin recommends that adding supplements to a child’s daily diet is a sure way to boost the immune system: “We love Natures Plus Animal Parade multivitamins as they taste great and are fun for kids to eat. Why not pop them into their lunchbox so they feel like they are having a couple of sweets with their meal! And if your little ones are prone to tummy bugs and upset stomachs, you can top up their good bacteria with BioCare Bio-Acidophilus – the strawberry flavour goes down well mixed in with yoghurt.”

 

Clare Galpin concludes:  “Making a conscious choice to improve your child’s nutrition and keep their immune system boosted will pay dividends to their health, mood and results in the classroom.”