I had a unique opportunity to work as a site director for an after school program. My background and interest in nutrition left me astonished at the snack items that the school provided to the children. All approved by the state as healthy and on the food pyramid, yet many snacks were full of sugar, chemicals, dyes, or did not contain any nutritional value at all.
It was almost like a science experiment on days when yogurt was served, because it was certain brand of yogurt that has a rabbit as their mascot. Need I say more? We should have just given them candy! It was night and day as I watched relatively calm children begin to bounce off the walls and the ones who had to work harder on their self control simply lost it all. Of course, they wanted seconds!
After a long day at school, it’s important to provide your children with healthy snacks. Whether they are in an after school program or at home, kids need a “pick me up” for energy until dinner is served. Graham cracker cookies, corn chips, and concentrated all “natural” juices don’t cut it! If you need some ideas, here’s a great website I found called Tastes Better From Scratch. , click here to view it.
Not only should you provide healthy snacks for your children, but you should also insure that they are well hydrated. You might not know this, but those cool water dispensers you give your kids to take to school….. they get lost, they get spilled, and they get poured out!! That’s right. It was rare for me to see them actually drinking from them! Many were left in the cafeteria after school and wound up in the lost and found. My suggestion would be to hydrate them well before and after school. Water when they get up, water in the car, water, water, water, whenever they can get it. Make sure that it’s pure water. If you can’t afford bottles, get a filter for your faucet please!!!
Another observation related to school and nutrition is that teachers and after school enrichment teachers give out candy and although the kids are told to wait until they get home to eat it, they don’t. If I saw them starting to eat it, I’d have them put it away, but if I didn’t, all the food dye and sugar would kick in and we would have several of our more active youngsters all hyped up on sugar running around the room getting in to trouble. Rough, physical behavior would normally manifest and have to be dealt with. Food Dye definitely plays a part in impulsive behavior. For more information, read this article from the Amen Clinic about Red Dye #40. It is one of the big additives on the food sensitivity list that my son was sensitive to.
Some snack alternatives for candy are: organic fruit chews, naturally dried fruit (no sulphur), whole grain cereals frosted with honey, ginger chews, coconut/date balls, and other homemade treats that contain little sugar. Even homemade peanut butter or chocolate chip cookies made with whole grain flour and real sugar is better than any candies made with food dyes and corn syrup. Another rule of thumb is to raise your children to let desserts and treats be special while filling up on whole foods. Snacks should be once or twice a week, not daily, not as a constant reward, and not after each meal. Treating your child doesn’t need to be with food. Try a box of crayons, reading a special book together or take a walk outside. The more you can change rewards to activity the better. Constant sugar intake leads to a sugary sweet addiction that can last a lifetime!
My last observation at school is that on milk day, most kids refused it. So, where are they getting their calcium and protein parents? Make sure they get it at breakfast and dinner because they are most likely not getting it at school. I personally wouldn’t want my kids to be served milk at school anyway. Lots of nasal nastiness, ear infections, eczema and digestive issues to deal with when milk was on the menu at my house, so we gave that up, but I had to replace the protein and the calcium. Make sure your kids are getting their calcium from plenty of vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cabbage and watercress or from dried fruits, nuts, seeds, peas, beans and lentils that also contain calcium. It sounds easier just to drink a glass of milk doesn’t it? If that’s the case for you then another idea is to make the switch to goat’s milk. It tastes like whole milk and it does not have the side effects that cow’s milk does. Read here about what Dr. Axe says about goat milk vs. cow milk.
So you see parents…..school snacks really do matter and what matters most is your children’s mental and physical health. So, work hard to make them a good breakfast, load them down with water every chance you get and pack those extra healthy snacks.