Now that the school year is underway, the topic of food has been put “on the table.” Are you unsure of how to restore your child’s nutrition and order in preparation for school? Want to know how to make the perfect balanced sandwich?
Ronit Goldman-Pachthold, Pediatric Dietician at Sheba’s Nutrition Department, shares her expert advice.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus period has negatively affected child nutrition, dietary habits, as well as sleep, and physical activity of children. One study (published in June 2020 by the University of Buffalo) followed children in Italy who had an obesity problem. When their behaviors in 2019 were compared to 2020, the researchers discovered that while quarantined, kids ate one more daily meal than average, slept an extra half-hour per day, and added almost five whole hours to their daily screen time!
In addition to forcing children to get out of bed and leave their screens behind, returning to school also involves returning to a diet tailored to lunch breaks and recess. Dietary habits must be adapted because meals are at a specified time. To support children throughout the entire day, satisfying and nutritious food should be eaten at these set times.
Golman-Pachthold recommends the following useful dietary tips:
- Make a menu: Together with your child, prepare a weekly menu. By making this into a joint task, you can avoid the “sandwiches that come back home” phenomenon. Hang this menu in a visible spot in your home, so there are no surprises.
- Eat with your eyes: The “beauty of a meal” is essential! Just like adults, kids eat twice – with their mouths and with their eyes. Emphasis should be placed on combining fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables. Attractive food boxes with different compartments work well for packing sandwiches and healthy sides and snacks. (Be sure to buy a box that fits in your child’s school bag comfortably!)
- Pack in the protein: Your child’s sandwich should contain enough protein. It’s recommended to always mix in foods rich in protein, even at breakfast. For example, make an omelet, serve hard cheeses (yellow, mozzarella), cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, tuna or tofu. In addition to protein, these foods will provide calcium for healthy bone development.
- Serve nutritious sweets: Chocolate spread on bread isn’t the best option, mainly because of the super high sugar content. At the same time, it’s vital to strike a balance with kids’ food. Instead of purchasing ready-made chocolate spread, make your own healthier version!
Melt 2-3 cubes of dark chocolate in the microwave, add a teaspoon of almond paste, raw tahini, hazelnut paste or natural peanut butter; mix until the paste is uniform.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, many students all over the world are forced to study from home. In this setting, temptations to snack and eat random, unbalanced meals are much greater. That’s why it’s even more important to build an organized menu in advance. Stock your kitchen with washed and sliced produce, and make ready-to-eat meals that are tasty, nutritious and satisfying. Having these meals around and easily accessible will reduce your child’s urge to nosh on empty calories all day long.