Recipe for Success: 10 Nutrition Tips for All Ages
- Drink More Water
- Shop the Perimeter
- Have a Plan
- Avoid Labels
- Get Your Z’s
- Avoid Blue Light
- Don’t Fear Fat
- Avoid the “Off-Limits” Mentality
- Put Down the Phone
- Don’t Drink Your Calories
Being properly fueled, energized and rested plays a pivotal role in helping you and your students perform your best. When you get busy or life becomes stressful, proper nutrition is oftentimes the first thing to go. However, one could argue that these are the most critical times to prioritize healthy food choices. A properly fueled body and mind are better equipped to take on life’s biggest challenges. Here are 10 nutrition tips for all ages that you and your students can implement right away:
1) Drink more water
The fact of the matter is, kids and adults just don’t drink enough water. Encourage students to bring their own water bottles from home. Sugary and caffeinated drinks spike your insulin and make you crash. Not only is water in a reusable water bottle environmentally friendly, but it’s a great zero calorie drink.
Water is one of the central components to your diet. It helps flush our systems of waste products and toxins, yet many people go through life dehydrated—causing tiredness, low energy, and headaches. It’s common to mistake thirst for hunger, so staying well hydrated can also help you make healthier food choices. If plain water isn’t to your palette, add some lemon or lime to it. Carbonated water is also a great alternative.
2) Shop the Perimeter
Encourage students to pack snacks and lunches from the perimeter of the grocery store. The perimeter of the grocery store is filled with dairy, fruits & vegetables and meats. Great examples of nutritious and easy to pack snacks are carrots and hummus, cottage cheese and berries or celery with almond butter.
3) Have a Plan for Class Events
Advise parents/colleagues that if they wish to celebrate a child’s birthday in class, a donation of fruit and veggies would be much appreciated. I got creative one year for my daughter’s class and made a watermelon cake. The kids loved it.
Watermelon Cake Instructions:
1) Cut 2-inch-thick slice from both ends of watermelon; discard trimmed slices. Stand watermelon on cutting board. Starting at top of melon, use long thin sharp knife to carefully cut between rind and fruit all around watermelon to separate rind from fruit. Remove and discard rind. Pat melon with paper towels to dry; place on platter.
2) Frost with icing or whipped cream.
3) Decorate with berries and other fruit.
4) Avoid Labels
Avoid foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce and instead go for foods that are nutrient dense with only one ingredient: eggs, apples, avocados, bell peppers. There are lots of easy recipes out there that incorporate these and other fresh ingredients so you won’t even miss your food labels.
5) Get Your Z’s
Getting the recommended 7-8 hours a day is just as important as diet and exercise. Poor sleep patterns can throw your appetite hormones out of whack and worsen insulin resistance. Plus, all of those after-school sports and exercise sessions require extra sleep so your muscles can repair. In addition to getting enough sleep, aim to wake up within one hour from one day to the next (that includes the weekends!). If you’re looking for a way to find more shut-eye, try shutting off the screens and see what happens.
6) Avoid Blue Light
One common practice is spending time on your phone or watching tv right before bed. That can actually be very harmful as it disrupts the production of melatonin, a hormone that gives your body “sleep cues”. Screens emit blue light which mimics the brightness of the sun and causes the brain to stop producing melatonin. This can lead to a very disruptive sleep cycle, so put your phone down and grab a book instead. If screens are a must in the evening consider purchasing a pair of blue-light blocking glasses to minimize your exposure before bed.
7) Don’t Fear Fat
Not all fats are created equal. Low fat foods contain more sugar in order to make the food palatable and addictive. Eating healthy fats actually keeps you satiated longer in between meals. Some examples of healthy fats are avocados, eggs (with the yolk), nuts, salmon and chia seeds. Fats to avoid include partially hydrogenated oils, trans fats, and plant/seed oils.
8) Avoid the “Off-Limits” Mentality
When you ban certain foods, it can lead to a binge when you are stressed out or tired. Instead, start by reducing portion sizes and limiting your consumption. When I am craving potato chips, I try to add a healthy, filling snack alongside, like carrots and hummus. That helps me attack the salt craving while also filling up on veggies and protein. Another strategy is to put one serving into a bowl so you can recognize how much you’ve had (eating straight from the bag makes that difficult!). Another option is to replace traditional potato chips with other brands that are cooked in coconut oil or avocado oil for a healthier alternative.
9) Put Down the Phone
When eating, enjoy the meal by limiting distractions from phones or tvs. When you’re not focused on your food, you tend to overeat and not enjoy your meal. Take every bite and chew slowly. This will also help aid digestion, which will lead to greater satiety and health. For an added boost, consider saying some words of gratitude prior to eating. This can help your body enter “rest and digest” mode while also improving the relationship between your mind, body and meal.
10) Don’t Drink your Calories
Many studies have recently shown sugar’s connection to obesity. To reduce your sugar intake, limit the highly caloric beverages often found at coffee shops. If skipping your 500 calorie morning treat is too difficult, try to slowly wean yourself off to limiting it to just one day per week, like Friday or Saturday morning. Setting small boundaries like this can even help you enjoy your treats more. The time away may even help you realize you don’t really need them so often after all.
Mandeep Kajla is a Senior Schools Manager in Surrey, BC. Mandeep is a busy mom of 3 and enjoys outdoor activities, learning new recipes and travelling.