Once you factor in sports, a school day can be a long and mentally and physically draining day for your children. On this episode of 32Gi Sports Nutrition, we look at how best to fuel your kids for a day at school. It’s as important to plan their fuelling strategy, as it is yours.
Welcome to this week’s edition of 32Gi Sports Nutrition with myself Mr Active, David Katz and of course, Mark Wolff, 32Gi Director and Nutritional Expert. Mark, great to have you on, as always. This week for January, I think especially in the Southern Hemisphere it’s back to school and a lot of parents are like: What do I give my kids for breakfast? What do I give them for lunch?
It’s very important because you want your kids fuelled throughout the day, especially if they’re going on in the afternoon to do sport. So straight off, I’m wanting to know basically Breakfast of Champions, what would you advise people to give their kids for breakfast? If they know they’re going to be at school and then have school sport afterwards?
Mark Wolff: Dave, first of all thanks very much for having me again on the show. It’s a very good question and I think it actually needs a little bit of explanation. Because first of all children are quite fussy in what they eat. I know that from personal experience. Each child has got different tastes and textures that they prefer.
I think also the problem of many parents is that there’s a lot of stress going on and difficulty in time management in preparation of proper meals so maybe we can also take that into account. I know a lot of kids also skip meals and they only eat their first meal at school. Which I completely disagree with based on the fact that you need to kick-start the day with a proper meal.
The ideal school day breakfast for your kids
What I would generally recommend to most parents is that the children should be fed something along the lines of a decent protein, definitely a decent fat and maybe slightly lower on the carbohydrate side. The reason I say this is that there is no reason to spike a child’s blood sugar levels before going to class.
Because what’s going to happen is that they will see a dip. Then it’s going to impact them from a concentration point of view and it will definitely impact them from an energy level perspective. Then suddenly you get a child that is very tired and staring out the window and not able to focus.
It’s not a nice spot to be in because generally a lot of schools have quite a bit of time up until the first break. Then I think they have a large number of lessons until the second break or until lunch time. What you find is that kids don’t get to eat as frequently as they would like. Many schools don’t allow children to eat in class although there are the few exceptions.
If this is the case then you need to plan out a child’s, I would say fuelling strategy for their day at school. So starting off with something that’s probably a little more sustainable. I would go along the line of probably egg, avocado or salmon or maybe a full fat cream cheese, etc. But something that’s a little bit more filling and that keeps them full for a lot longer, just as an example.
However, a lot of children might not like that and they might like to go for a cereal or a porridge. In that case a lot of parents tend to find instant cereals, which I’m completely against because they’re completely loaded with sugar. I don’t see any nutritional benefits to a processed food.
Try this instead of instant cereals
I think we all know my take is to keep food as natural as possible. I would suggest rather, not being lazy and rather taking your time to prepare a meal. It takes an extra five minutes, it doesn’t add major pressure to the day. But just maybe look at some rolled oats, even a gluten-free rolled oats, simmering a little bit.
But don’t just leave it like that because oats by itself, most children don’t like and it needs flavour. Don’t go and add sugar to the oats, rather go afterwards and add some nut butter, add some berries, add some full fat yoghurt, add some cinnamon.
If you want some flavour or some vanilla powder, add some nut butter to provide some protein. A little bit more fat to the product and actually give it some sustenance. In other words, take some foods and make it into a nutrient dense meal that allows the child to feel full and stale for a lot longer.
If you do that, they won’t feel so much hunger until break. Where they can eat whatever you’ve prepared for them that day. However, if you don’t provide them a proper meal that it stabilises their blood sugar and allows them to stay a little bit fuller for longer; you’re going to get a child that is really battling in the classroom environment. I think breakfast is a very key meal and I advise definitely not skipping.
In the case of children that train in the morning before school and there are plenty of children. We deal quite a bit with the swimming schools that do train and exercise in the morning. It could be an hour or two hours of hard training and then they go to school, it’s very critical that that child recovers immediately after that session. That means eating a proper recovery meal immediately after that session or taking in some sort of recovery shake or smoothie immediately after that session. Then maybe having a second meal or second snack before the on-set of school in order to be able to stabilise them properly. Because that child is even at more risk for having a dip in the morning. I think that pretty much sums up, from a morning perspective.
How to fuel your kids according to their school schedule
DK: Mark, looking at carrying them through the day, the principle theoretically would be the same. They’ve got to keep their stores up by eating throughout the day and keeping those energy levels and that blood sugar up. So I presume the basis or core of the meal would apply the same throughout the day as it would for breakfast?
MW: I think a parent needs to consider what time their child is going to be finishing school and also what time they have got available to eat during school. So is there one break, or two breaks and then plan accordingly. If they’ve had a decent breakfast in the morning, then the first break would be quite a nice snack. The second break would probably be a bigger meal or the other way around.
You could have a decent meal or smaller meal in the first break and then another snack in the second break. I really need to suggest that those meals are from a health perspective, there should be a fruit in there. There should probably be some sort of a vegetable in one of those breaks. The other thing is that they shouldn’t be loaded with Nutella sandwiches and peanut butter sandwiches all the time.
Really try and make that meal count. Because the more nutrient dense your meal is for your child, the far better that child will be from an energy level perspective. From an immune system perspective, they’ll be a lot stronger. Don’t ever underestimate the value of the nutrition you’re giving a child. Because it does impact them and you have complete influence over what they’re going to be eating during the day.
How to factor sport fuelling into a school day
It’s very important, yes I agree, smaller snacks maybe through those sessions, make sure they’re healthy snacks. Then prep them for a decent lunch time meal. If it’s after school and now they’re going to participate in sport, you need to take that into account as well.
Maybe their second break snack needs to be slightly higher in carbohydrates to be able to fuel that session after school. Because again their energy levels now are not demanding just mental focus but also physical energy as well in order to be able to participate in their sport.
In that case I would suggest that making sure that they have something to nourish them after school. Before their sporting practice takes place so that they’re fuelled for that session. One of the most critical factors I haven’t spoken about, I mean we’ve spoken about food, I think one of the biggest things is actually speaking about fluid intake as well.
Make sure your child has a water bottle and that they hydrate completely through the day. There are a lot of schools which don’t allow children to drink in class, I think that’s nonsense. Because a child does need to stay hydrated and I would love to get access to schools to convince teachers to allow kids to even snack in class. But some schools just do not allow it.
A natural food bar for your kids
Every child is different and it’s just a matter of trying to find what works for them and what doesn’t. Play around to see what they like and what they don’t like. There are so many options on the market. One of the things that we’ve got, just as a matter of interest, in the 32Gi range is a completely natural food bar. Which is nuts and fruit and it’s got protein in.
That makes an absolutely brilliant snack during the day because it’s loaded with goodness. From a nutrient perspective and it’s completely natural and it’s healthy and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. There’s a food bar option, for example. There’s many varieties of options available and it’s just a matter of going out there and searching for them and trying to find what’s best for your child.
DK: Mark, I was going to mention hydration because I’ve heard stories of parents being called to come fetch their kids from sport because they’re throwing up. The parents ask them and basically the kids have had nothing to drink all day. As you mentioned, it’s very important that hydration plays a role there.
We’re out of time for today, but I want to ask you another question going forward. So we’ll get onto that in another edition of the podcast and that’s related to the Endure drink, because I think it’s a good one for kids. I personally live on it. But from Mark Wolff and myself, Mr Active, David Katz, we’ll catch up again with you next time.