It’s mid-afternoon and your child comes home with an “I’m so happy to be finished with school!” smile… but within a few minutes he is unrecognizable. He’s cranky, impatient and maybe even unreasonable. This isn’t the same kid who left this morning! Sure, there could be a zillion reasons to explain this but did you ever wonder if it wasn’t because his teacher yelled at him or because his best friend was absent but maybe it was because the food he ate - or didn’t eat - during the day?
It’s the calories in food that give our kids energy. But it turns out that the right combination of foods is critical to sustaining that energy. The right foods eaten together will help kids focus in school as well as on the soccer field, at their piano lesson or even on the playground.
The good news is that getting the right combinations of foods is pretty simple. Amy Geant, registered dietician in Naples, Florida says the key to maintaining energy is in stabilizing your blood sugar. She says kids should eat a complex carbohydrate for energy (think whole grain crackers and brown rice or whole fruits and vegetables) WITH a lean protein (think poultry, beef, low fat dairy products, nuts and seeds) to sustain that energy every 2-3 hours throughout the day. Forget the pairing or go longer than 2-3 hours and prepare for a sugar high and a crash landing.
So how easy it is? While a freshly picked apple sounds like a great snack, it won’t give your little thespian enough energy to get through her two-hour play practice. Pair it with a cheese stick or a piece of rolled up turkey and she’ll feel good for much longer. Or if oatmeal sounds appealing on a cold morning, add some turkey sausage or some scrambled eggs for the extra energy your child needs to get through his calculus test. And if your son’s constant “I’m starving!” before soccer practice is making you crazy, give him some yogurt and strawberries before he runs out the door.
Give it a try for a few days and hopefully you’ll see the child who returns from school is the same one who left you this morning!