Nutrition: Optimize your family’s health this school year


Bri Edwards PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed


Bri Edwards PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Summer’s winding down, and we’re starting to think about what the upcoming school year will look like.

One thing that moms start to consider is how to set their families up for success when schedules get busier and sports begin, creating an increased demand for nutrients to best support their children’s bodies and minds, but with less time to prioritize meals.

There are a few ways you can ensure that your kids and you are getting what is needed to not only survive the school year but to thrive all year long:

1. Focus on brain-boosting foods

Countless studies show that certain foods help increase cognitive function and memory, and support a positive mood and overall brain health.

Incorporating foods like berries, dark chocolate, nuts and seeds for snacks or oily fish, like salmon, at lunch or dinner time are great ways to support brain health.

You also can take a high-quality fish oil supplement each day to ensure that your brain is getting the necessary essential fatty acids that it needs. Daily fish oil supplements have been shown to enhance cognitive function, reduce inflammation and protect your cells from damage.

Another brain-boosting food is one of the most essential but not often considered brain food: Water. Your body uses water for the nervous system pathway, and with your nervous system being the way you experience the world, supporting it with clean, mineral-rich water is incredibly important.

Try starting with filtered water (not in a plastic bottle) and adding back in some minerals with a trace mineral supplement or a pinch of unrefined sea salt.

2. Prioritize a balanced breakfast

It’s tempting to have quick breakfast foods around the house to create more ease in the morning routine. However, these foods, like cereals or toaster pastries, often lack the necessary macro- and micro-nutrients needed to support our bodies throughout the day.

There are ways to create a nutrient dense breakfast that can be on-the-go. A couple of my favorites are egg muffins that can be prepared ahead of time, chia seed pudding that can be prepared the night before and ready to grab-and-go come morning or a smoothie balanced with protein, fat and fiber-rich carbohydrates that can be thrown together in a matter of minutes.

3. Meal prep for quick dinners

Once after-school activities start, it becomes easier to go through the drive-thru while on the go. The same story goes with convenient breakfast foods. Takeout tends to lack in necessary nutrients and carry with it foods that promote inflammation and blood sugar instability — two things that make properly supporting health an uphill battle.

Freezer meals are delicious and easy. Some can be thrown in a crockpot in the morning and ready to go by the time you or your kids get home later that afternoon.

Or, you can choose to freeze meals that easily can be warmed up on the stove and ready within 15 minutes.

The options are endless and result in more nutrients than the

drive-thru.

Another option is skeleton meal prep. This is where you cook your protein at the beginning of the week so it’s ready to be thrown into any meal throughout the week.

For example, you could roast a whole chicken at the beginning of the week and use it in Mexican burrito bowls and chicken salads throughout the week. The idea is that you get the most time-consuming foods cooked ahead of time to make meal time that much easier throughout the week.

While it’s not necessary to implement all of these tools at once, starting with just one could make a big difference in the health, energy and experience of the upcoming school year.

Bri Edwards is a holistic health coach at Healthy Foundations in Dubuque.

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