Foods For School Success

August 26, 2023

It’s that time of year again where we pack up our summer schedules to make way for fall routines. In today’s show, our dietitians will provide ideas and inspiration on nutrition to help the school year be a success! No matter how old the student, the combo of protein, fats, and carbs will be the magic balance for focus, attention, moods, and energy for long, active days, so tune in to hear suggestions on what and how to incorporate foods into a healthy, balanced school year.

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MELANIE: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition, brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. We're a company specializing in life-changing nutrition education and counseling. I'm Melanie Beasley, a Licensed and Registered Dietitian. I work out of our Eagan office seeing clients either in person or Zoom. And I also teach classes, which I know you do too, Britni.

BRITNI: Yes. Good morning. I am Britni Vincent, also a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. My home office is in St. Paul, and like all of our dietitians, I also see clients via Zoom or in person. If you are listening to our live show, for most of you, that means school is now back in session in late August, or the start of school might be just around the corner right after Labor Day.

MELANIE: Well, I just co-hosted a show with Kara Carper recently about anxiety and how food is connected to anxiety. We gave the alarming statistic that one in three teenagers, ages 13 to 18, have an anxiety disorder. I was kind of startled with those numbers. That research comes from the National Institute of Health.


MELANIE: Yeah. What is going on?

BRITNI: I'm sure some of you listeners listened to that show. The topic was “What Does Food Have to do with Anxiety?” And you can hear it as a podcast, either on our website or iTunes, Spotify, wherever you listen to your podcast. And that topic was a really good lead in for today's topic, which is titled “Foods for School Success”.

MELANIE: It doesn't sound related, but we're going to get there.

BRITNI: Yes. It's true. So really the bottom line is what we eat and what our kids eat greatly affects not only moods, but also energy, focus, sleep, you know, all of which can affect important things in life, like school, sports, extracurricular activities, you know, even how children interact with friends and family members.

MELANIE: A hundred percent. And I think now we probably have some intention of some parents and grandparents, who have children that maybe struggle.


MELANIE: In some areas. And so hopefully we can, we can give some great ideas. It's, it's really true. Whether your student is in kindergarten or college, food counts when you want them to have good brain power, which equates to good behavior.


MELANIE: And focus. And some of the many topics that we will cover today are how to reduce the odds your child will have anxiety and also just support their success in school. We want them to know how to set up for the best energy and moods for some of those long days coming up in school when they have sports and other activities, either before or after school. They can be a really long day for children.

What causes a brain to not work right when it comes to nutrition?

BRITNI: Yeah. Yeah. Children are so busy nowadays. We really need to make sure that we're fueling them for all of that. Dr. Daniel Amen, psychiatrist and author of Making a Good Brain Great says, “When your brain works right, you work right. When your brain is troubled, you have trouble in your life.” So what causes a brain to not work right when it comes to nutrition?

MELANIE: I love that quote because I think that's so accurate.


MELANIE: I mean, it's common sense.


MELANIE: But when you say it out loud it's like, it's so true.

BRITNI: It hits home.

MELANIE: But with so many things that come to mind when you're talking. But with school aged children, what I have noticed is skipping meals, relying on processed snacks, high sugar coffee or energy drinks, and low quality fast food type meals. We live, we're a busy society.


MELANIE: And those are easy grabs for for parents and children.

BRITNI: Yep. And we want parents to become aware of a variety of nutrients your child's brain needs to function well to avoid anxiety and thrive in school. The biggest tip is to keep blood sugar levels balanced. And Kara and Mel talked a lot about that during the show on anxiety a couple weeks ago.

MELANIE: And really that's what we're talking about for children.

BRITNI: Mm-Hmm. It’s so important.

Avoid high sugar breakfast foods

MELANIE: Yeah. Brains are brains whether they're, they're small and the smaller people or they're, you know, brains and adult people. It's, it's what affects our brain and how we're able to function. What is everyone eating for breakfast? That is the first question I like to ask clients this morning. What did you open? What did you have? Are you fixing your breakfast right now? But I ask that with my clients when I meet with them because it launches our day.


MELANIE: I'm sure you have all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. At first, it may be difficult to get your children to eat what is considered a real food breakfast that will help boost their focus, motivation, and moods all day. Not everyone; but some children only want to eat a big bowl of cereal for breakfast. It's what I grew up on.

BRITNI: Yeah. Same.

MELANIE: And sadly, it's not an optimal breakfast for developing brain power, maintaining energy and focus throughout the long day that we were talking about.


MELANIE: I know that I would tank after my big bowl of cereal with skim milk and lots of sugar on top. I would tank right before lunch and I would just be exhausted having that head bob in class trying to pay attention.

BRITNI: Yeah. You know, and some of you might be wondering how much sugar is in two cups of cereal? So even if it is a low sugar cereal, meaning if you look at the label and it doesn't have a lot of sugar in it, all of those carbohydrates break down to sugar. So two cups of cereal, you know, on average about 55 grams of carbohydrates, which, which breaks down to about 14 teaspoons of sugar, not including the milk that you are likely adding on top. Well, there's absolutely nothing wrong with eating some carbohydrates for breakfast, but it is better to limit those processed carbohydrates.

MELANIE: I like clients and listeners to remember that mathematical equation that if you take your carbohydrates, just the total carbohydrates on any product divided by four that is the sugar impact in your bloodstream. That's what you're getting as it's broken down into glucose in the bloodstream. So if you have a box of cereal, listeners, roll it over, read the total carbohydrate and see how many teaspoons of sugar, before you add the sugar are you getting in your bloodstream from that?

BRITNI: Yeah. 'Cause that sugar in the morning is going to create that blood sugar spike. Two, three hours later you're going to get a dip. And that could cause fatigue. You mentioned the head bobbing, you know, lack of focus.

MELANIE: Irritable.

BRITNI: Yeah. The hangry. I mean, just think about listeners, how do you feel if you eat cereal for breakfast?


BRITNI: Or a donut for breakfast or a muffin. Your children are feeling the same way.

MELANIE: And then it doesn't set them up for success in the classroom. And we all want our children to be loved by the teacher.

BRITNI: Yeah. Yeah.

MELANIE: That's what we want. We want our kids to succeed.

BRITNI: Absolutely.

What do we recommend students eat for breakfast?

MELANIE: Well, on the flip side, what we're wanting students to have is to eat a high protein breakfast. It's the most ideal choice for children and your entire family really to start the day off and to help keep blood sugar balanced and stable. A research study from George Washington University found that a high carbohydrate breakfast, such as cereal resulted in poor attention. We are not surprised. We just talked about that.


MELANIE: At Nutritional Weight and Wellness, we tell our clients that the best breakfast for better focus, positive behavior, and I want to say energy is a balanced breakfast of some protein like eggs, sausage, Canadian bacon, and then put some fruit in there, maybe some veggies and some healthy fat that we're cooking with. And that is a blood sugar stabilizing meal. And I find that kids love a small bowl of berries or cantaloupe along with their scrambled eggs. Maybe some full fat unsweetened yogurt.


MELANIE: You can sweeten it with stevia or monk fruit.


MELANIE: Add some great extracts to it so it tastes like what you get in the store without that blood sugar impact.

BRITNI: Yep. And you know, when I'm working with children and teenagers, I will explain this blood sugar effect of what they're eating.

MELANIE: Oh, I love that.

BRITNI: And they understand. They get it. And a lot of children want to feel better. They want to have more energy, they want to have more focus, they want to, as a teenager, a lot of them want to perform better during sports. So actually explaining this to your children, you might be surprised how onboard they get with, with making these changes.

MELANIE: They want to succeed.

BRITNI: Yeah, for sure.

MELANIE: Well, you are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition, brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. I'm Melanie Beasley, and I'm a registered and licensed dietitian. I'm in studio this morning with Britni Vincent, who is also a registered and licensed dietitian. And as nutritionists and dietitians, we realize that in order to eat real foods, you need to know how to cook. To teach and inspire you to cook real food, we offer a variety of cooking classes via Zoom.

Our next upcoming cooking class to check out is called “How to Roast, Braise, and Sauté Meat”. It's being held live on Wednesday, September 20th. You can sign up online at or call us at (651) 699-3438. Our chef, Marianne, is so knowledgeable and is happy to answer any of your cooking questions. We'll be right back.

Sign Up for a Cooking Class


Immune support tip: Key Greens & Fruits

BRITNI: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. As parents, we know that back to school time means exposure to all new kinds of germs and time to pay extra attention to our family's immune systems. My family's favorite way to get in those extra immune supportive nutrients is to drink our Key Greens and Fruits powder. It's a super food blend of natural fruit and vegetable extracts and contains key nutrients to support our immune system like vitamin C.

Plus, it comes in nine delicious flavors. Right now in my refrigerator I have pink lemonade, so my kids just think it's lemonade. That's all they know is lemonade. And then we also have chocolate. And they're both, they're both a hit at our house. So for the month of August, it is 15% off. So perfect timing to stock up for the start of the school year. To order for yourself or to learn more, visit nut

Shop Key Greens & Fruits


MELANIE: You know, before we went to break, we were talking about, you know, a bowl and maybe you, you do like some healthy full fat yogurt. I always encourage organic.


MELANIE: I like to add blackberry tangerine to my yogurt.

BRITNI: Ooh, yummy.

MELANIE: Yes. And it's…

BRITNI: That's a great idea.

MELANIE: It's kind of a delicious little antioxidant boost.

More breakfast ideas & why is it important to eat breakfast?

BRITNI: Mm. Good idea. You know, you could also do cottage cheese if your children like cottage cheese. That would also be a high protein breakfast option similar to the yogurt. And I know a lot of children, school starts early, so they are waking up early, they're maybe rushing out the door. And I have heard clients tell me they're just not super hungry to eat before school. But a lot of of schools don't allow snacking in the classroom is what I have found. So many of them end up skipping breakfast, and then they might not eat until lunchtime.


BRITNI: So skipping breakfast is going to lead to that low blood sugar.

MELANIE: And irritable.


MELANIE: I am not a nice woman when I'm hungry. I don’t know about you.

BRITNI: Absolutely not.

MELANIE: So it, it's a lot to ask of our children. One of the things that I would do, because I had one daughter who was perpetually flying out the door. She loved to hit the snooze button. I made smoothies.


MELANIE: And when you were talking about cottage cheese, I would put strawberries and cottage cheese in her smoothie for some protein. She loved it. It tastes like a strawberry cheesecake smoothie. I would put in a container that she could just take with her; looked like a water bottle.


MELANIE: And that was kind of, and I did sneak in vegetables in there. And that was kind of my children's high school breakfast really; both my girls, that's what they had.

BRITNI: That's great. And that is how I've gotten a lot of children or teenagers that I meet with to start to have breakfast are the smoothies.


BRITNI: And there's so many different combinations that you can come up with because the reality of it is, you know, skipping breakfast or having a high carbohydrate processed food breakfast, you know, that can lead children and adults to be impulsive, distracted, restless. You know, if your you or your child child has some ADHD signs or symptoms.

MELANIE: Or anxiety.

BRITNI: Yes. It's going to exacerbate those. So it is so important to feed the brain the nutrients needed to function well. And for breakfast, we've been talking a lot, but you know, for the entire day. And like you said at the beginning, breakfast just sets the tone for the day.

MELANIE: Yes. We've got so many dietitians and nutritionists that are so great. I want to plug you and working with children and teens: you, Teresa, Brandy, Alyssa, all they're really great working with.

BRITNI: Well, thank you.

MELANIE: Yes. So, but maybe for breakfast, opt for something different. If you don't want the smoothie, like on our website we have recipes for healthy pancakes, chia pudding, egg bakes. You're like pancakes that, that doesn't sound okay. But it is. You have to trust us that we've tweaked the recipes so that you can have a pancake.


MELANIE: And they freeze nice. And then you throw them in the toaster.

BRITNI: Ooh. Yummy.

MELANIE: Instead of making, you know, pancakes or waffles, I throw them in the toaster after I've frozen them between parchment paper.



The importance of eating healthy, natural fat

BRITNI: You know, we're talking a lot about the importance of a balanced breakfast with protein, you know, those carbohydrates from vegetables and/or fruits. And then it's also really crucial to get some of that healthy, good natural fat, because most of our brain is fat.


BRITNI: So we need to be nourishing our brain. Also that fat is key to keeping our blood sugar stable.

MELANIE: Mm-Hmm. Mm-Hmm.

BRITNI: So focus is going to be better. Learning will be easier. Your children will have less anxiety. I notice in my own children, I always offer them protein, some carbohydrates, some fat. And then it's up to them what they want to eat.

MELANIE: I love that. I loved you mentioned sweet potato fries. You would make homemade sweet potato fries in the air frier.

BRITNI: Definitely they're into that. And most often they all eat their protein, but if they choose not to, I notice they are hungry way faster. And their behavior changes.

MELANIE: So listeners, if you've ever been in a meeting that goes long through the lunch hour, it's all you can do not to keep looking at the clock.


MELANIE: And not focus on the speaker, because you're thinking I am hungry.


MELANIE: Your children are no different.

BRITNI: Totally.

MELANIE: So we've got a, we've got to front load them here with a good breakfast. Now let's talk about, let's talk about chicken nuggets, the favorite, the favorite food.


MELANIE: I decided to look into what a commercial chicken nugget consists of. And here's an ingredient list from a well-known frozen chicken nugget package: ground chicken meat. Sounds good so far; water, soy flour: eh, isolate soy protein: eh, sodium tripolyphosphate. It's a commercial preservative, but it's not food. Right? And, but it's typically used in detergents.

BRITNI: Oh goodness.

MELANIE: And lastly, sugar of course. Why we have to put that in chicken nugget, I'm not sure. But those ingredients do not include even the breading or the batter.

MELANIE: That's just the chicken portion.


MELANIE: So the list goes on and on and on. Not food.

BRITNI: No, no. Very processed food. And you know, it is, it's easy to make your own homemade chicken tenders or, or chicken nuggets. So if anyone is wondering how to replace those processed store bought chicken nuggets, we have a great recipe on our website for turkey or chicken nuggets. The recipe has very few ingredients, no refined oils. And it's even gluten-free, which is a bonus for, for a lot of folks out there.

MELANIE: And it's not complicated.


MELANIE: Sometimes when we start thinking, okay, I'm going to make something, it feels burdensome because it’s new and it's like climbing a mountain. So I always challenge my listeners, pick one new recipe that you're going to swap this for that out a week. Time yourself. Because many times we think this is going to take forever. And then you time yourself. Oh, it took me 20 minutes. So the daunting start up of trying something new is that we think it's going to be such a big deal.

BRITNI: So true. Yep.

MELANIE: I'm the same way.

BRITNI: Oh, same.

MELANIE: A lot of times if I look at a recipe and there's a lot of ingredients I think, oh, it's going to take me forever to make it. And then I challenge myself like I challenge my clients, just time yourself, Melanie. It's, it's always much less than what I think in my imagination.

BRITNI: And then you do it once and then it's easy to do it again and again

MELANIE: If you liked it.

BRITNI: Yeah. Yes. Of course.

MELANIE: Well, Britni, let's give some ideas about packing lunches. Now that we've said what not to do. Let's talk about what to do.

BRITNI: Yeah. Great idea.

Avoid high sugar foods, chemicals, food dyes, colorings & additives

MELANIE: What should that look like so that children aren't crashing after lunch and losing that focus or thinking of ways to get into trouble with their teacher? Because they're irritable. Believe it or not, falling asleep in class after lunch or acting out in the classroom can happen because from a lunch that was either too high in sugar, too high in chemicals, too high in food dyes, colorings, additives, ingredients from processed foods, or maybe the lunch just didn't have enough protein or healthy fat to make them feel full and satisfied.


MELANIE: That's what we all want. We just want to feel full and satisfied after a meal.

BRITNI: Yeah. You know, you mentioned food additives. I have to share this. It's top of mind. One of my clients yesterday was telling me about her son, who every time he has licorice, he, his behavior completely changes. And I mean, with licorice there's tons of sugar, but also there's the red food coloring.


BRITNI: So she is convinced it is, you know, mostly that red food coloring. I'm sure the sugar isn't helping either. That really changes his behavior. So, you know, we, we can react to some of those things and food and it's, it's not going to be obvious of course.

MELANIE: Well I, yeah. And I also think, you know, you got to remember it's licorice is full of gluten.

BRITNI: That too. Yeah.

MELANIE: Well, it's time for a second break. You are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. Today we're discussing foods for school success as we are already at that time of year again. I can't believe it. Stay tuned because we have more ideas for how to make sure this is a successful school year for your child. We'll be right back after the break.


Kid friendly balanced smoothies

BRITNI: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. As a mom of three young children, I understand how it feels to be concerned that they're not getting all the nutrients that they need for their growing bodies. You know, one of my go-to tricks for getting extra nutrients in is adding vegetables to smoothies. My kids love smoothies. It's easy enough to add spinach or frozen riced cauliflower in there. And then I know they're just getting a, an extra boost in nutrients. You know, earlier this month we posted an article on our website called 10 Easy Smoothie Recipes that gives some great ideas. And during that month of August, our Nutrikey protein powders are all 15% off. I personally like the vanilla and chocolate options, just so you have some variety in there.


BRITNI: So to order for yourself, visit

Shop Protein Powder

Packing balanced lunches

You know, before break we started talking about lunch. So Teresa, who's the dietitian at Nutrition Weight and Wellness, wrote an article not too long ago and she gave some great ideas about how to include three things in every lunch. The article started out by asking, “What do healthy and balanced lunches have in common?” They're all real food, which are better options than the processed baggies of chips or gummy bears because those processed foods are going to be much higher in sugar, turn into more sugar in the bloodstream. And again, is not going to serve our bodies and not going to support calm and focused brains at school.

MELANIE: What I also liked in that article is Teresa mentioned that all healthy, balanced real food lunches have an animal protein like chicken, nitrate free deli meat, ground beef, turkey sausages. Even she gave us like just using the healthy recipe in the thermos of chili.

BRITNI: Mm, great idea.

MELANIE: So I like meatballs with a good dipping sauce, some toothpicks in there, a little organic ketchup and mustard. I mean, that's always a win.

BRITNI: Yeah. And we know how important protein is for that focus, attention, behavior regulation and energy. And especially those children who have after-school activities, you know, whether it be sports, music, theater, that protein at lunch is critical for that sustained energy throughout the day.

MELANIE: I should say too, when I mention meatballs, I'm talking about the homemade meatballs.

BRITNI: Oh, yeah, yeah.

MELANIE: So  listeners, if you buy meatballs in the freezer section, roll it over, read the ingredients. If there's something that you cannot pluck or hunt from nature, it's probably not a good source of food for your child's developing brain and body. You know, Teresa also emphasized, don't forget some healthy fat in there because that healthy fat anchors and stabilizes blood sugar levels, which prevents the energy slump, the poor mood, the anxiety, and keeps our focus from, you know, wavering. So olives are a great source, full fat sour cream, especially if it's on chili; yum; full fat cream cheese, maybe cream cheese deli meat roll-ups, guacamole. Anyway, you can sneak in some good old butter.


MELANIE: I mean those are, those are delicious ways to pump up a snack or a meal.

BRITNI: Those little guacamole cups or avocado cups, those are super, super handy, easy to pack.

MELANIE: Nice to dip finger foods in.



BRITNI: My children like to eat, eat it plain with a spoon. So that works too.

MELANIE: Me too. I love to eat a half an avocado with salt in a spoon.

Keep offering vegetables/healthy variety of food to children

BRITNI: Yeah. Why not? You know, we know generally children gravitate towards more carbohydrates and often are lacking some vegetables and fiber, but parents, just keep offering those vegetables to your children because one day they might decide they like a certain vegetable. You know, just this week typically my children are not huge fans of peppers. But I was eating one so I offered them and they all gobbled it up and kept asking for more and more until it ran out.

So you just never know. But if you keep offering it without any pressure, just putting it on their plate or having it on the table, you know, one day they might decide to try it and they might like it. And I have had several clients who are children or teenagers who think they, they don't like a certain vegetable, but then we talk about some ideas and they're willing to try it and then they learn they do like more.

MELANIE: It's also really good to remember that whatever you're saying out loud will will sort of settle like concrete in your children's brain. So if you say, oh, you don't like… You're reinforcing that.


MELANIE: So we called it when my girls were young and they were growing up, we called them no thank you bites. So there was always a variety of food. And then if there was something new they'd say, oh, I don't know. I'd say we haven't tried it, so have a no thank you bite. Because they would always say no thank you.


MELANIE: So we called them no thank you bites; just one. And then if you don't like it, you can try it down the road. But at least you know. But another trick I have for clients with young children, they're trying to get a meal on the table. They're trying to cook and the children are hungry, they're clamoring, they're going in the pantry, they're looking for anything they can eat. So do a salad bar and that's where you pull anything from the refrigerator you want to use up; might be little bits of bacon. You might have nuts and seeds. You might have... And the rule is salad, the lettuce and the dressing don't count and they have to pick four ingredients.


MELANIE: Right? And the dressing and the salad don't count. So it might be pickles they put in one day. But it, they're busy engaging their brain with what their salad's going to look like. They can't say I am starving. 'Cause there's something out. You're using up leftovers and they get the opportunity to make choices for themselves, which is where children become exploratory.

BRITNI: Yep. Wonderful idea. Yep.

MELANIE: Lunches with processed and prepackaged treats and snacks, it, it doesn't really make sense for your children, but you could put in what they've just established as their favorite vegetables and fruits and because you know children, their friends are going to be sharing what they have a lot of times and it might be chips and granola bars and cookies and so forth. Your children will have plenty of opportunity for those things. And the same at home too. Right?


MELANIE: We don't want to be so rigid that we create an issue but know that they're going to be exploring, they're going to be eating. I remember my daughter growing up, we had milkshake night, which was actually protein smoothies on Sunday nights and they loved it. She went out with friends to a birthday party. She comes flying across the yard after the birthday party saying, mama did you know McDonald's, they put ice cream in their milkshakes? The gig was up. But you know, so did I say never have a McDonald's milkshake? Of course not.


MELANIE: But we made them differently at our house and then occasionally they'd have a milkshake and no one died. But if we're fueling them the best that they can when they get these incidental treats and snacks, their body is equipped to handle it. 'Cause they're nourished bodies.

BRITNI: Yep. That’s a great way to put it.

MELANIE: Yeah. We don't want to set up any mental stigma around any food.


MELANIE: But we want to definitely educate children on how they're going to feel and what's the best nourishment for the body for long, strong, healthy growth; not about weight, not about anything else; not to demonize food, but to keep that healthy perspective about let's nourish so we can fight off sickness and feel good and stay focused and be strong.

BRITNI: And I know that by offering that variety of food with no pressure, that creates less picky eating.

MELANIE: Oh that's a really good point.

BRITNI: Yep. I hear that a lot from parents. My children are so picky and I know this could be a huge step for some of you, but at dinner if you offer the meal, and again they don't have to eat it or they could eat what they want, but that's what is served.


BRITNI: Instead of making, you know, two or three meals just because you know you might have some picky eaters, your children are going to learn to like different food and then it's way easier for you. That is stressful.

MELANIE: It is. And children will not allow themselves to starve to death.

BRITNI: No, they will not.

MELANIE: They won't. It is their job to make noise about what they like or they don't like. Because they're figuring themselves out. And don't let that noise trigger you into feeling that you need to make three separate meals.


MELANIE: Say that is some interesting information. This is what's for dinner; not to worry if you don't like what we're having for dinner. We're going to be having breakfast in the morning.


MELANIE: They will figure it out. And I always try to have two or three things I know they like.


MELANIE: And then maybe something new or different to try. But I love that. No pressure means a healthy child mentally and physically.

BRITNI: Yep. You know it is already time for our third break.

MELANIE: You are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. This morning we're discussing foods for school success. Did you know that we see clients of all ages and stages of life? It seems that it's getting more and more common that moms are coming to me with concerns about their picky eaters. We know that nutrition makes a difference in a child's development and behavior. If this is a concern for you, we have some solutions. During a one-on-one counseling appointment, we will work with you to make a plan that suits your child's individualized needs. To learn more about how our nutrition counseling can help your child, call us at (651) 699-3438 or visit

Schedule Nutrition Counseling


BRITNI: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. Today we've been discussing tips for keeping your children eating and feeling their best throughout the school year. Did you know we have a special online class on this very topic? It's called Foods to Build Happy Focused Kids. If today's topic resonates with you, we invite you to learn more by taking this one hour online class. Visit and search Foods to Build Happy Focused Kids.

Foods to Build Happy Focused Kids Class

Eating in balance all throughout the day to optimize kids’ performance

So before break we were talking about lunches and you know, a different way to approach dinner. But I think it's really important that we talk about that afternoon snack.


BRITNI: Because when it comes to children of all ages who are active with extracurricular activities, you know, sports, theater, chess, dance. There's so many different activities nowadays.

MELANIE: Stand by Britni. It's coming.

BRITNI: They all need enough energy and focus to get through that day. 'Cause It can be really long days for them.

MELANIE: And that's a long day to have to be under authority.

BRITNI: Mm-Hmm. Mm-Hmm.

MELANIE: You know, it used to be children would go to school, they come home from school and the authority was the neighborhood kids. It's just, that's not the life we live anymore. You can't send your children out to just play until dark.


MELANIE: They're in structured activities, which means they have to be pleasing to the adult who's leading it. That's a lot of pressure. It's a lot of brain power.

BRITNI: Yeah good. That's a good, good point.

MELANIE: Yeah. Well, energy doesn't just happen from one good meal or one good snack. That's why we started our show talking about the importance of breakfast. It launches your children into a good blood sugar balance for the rest of the day. It's hard to get behind that curve ball if you start out hungry with low blood sugar.


More meal and snack ideas

MELANIE: It kind of sets you up for trying to catch up for the rest of the day not feeling the best. Well the protein filled real food meal breakfast definitely sets the stage for thriving at school environments. So some great ideas that are easy is make an egg bake on Sunday that you can just reheat a big square of it for your child. Let them put their favorite topping on it. Or maybe, like I mentioned, you can make those healthy pancakes and throw them in a toaster; a protein smoothie if they're really rushing out the door that we mentioned earlier; a chia pudding.

BRITNI: Yeah. A lot of kids really like that.

MELANIE: And they'll take the time.


MELANIE: That, that bests that Captain Crunch.

BRITNI: Yes. You know, and we shared some lunch ideas with protein and healthy fats. And again, that will continue to set the stage for children focusing in the afternoon, not falling asleep on the desk, changes in behavior, not staring blankly at an assignment.

MELANIE: That's so frustrating for them as well.


MELANIE: So let's talk a little bit about snacks. You might be wondering about some great snacks to bring. Some of my clients have shared in the past that they grab a quick granola bar for a snack or a protein, “protein bar” thinking that meals, this really counts for a snack and it doesn't. Can anything really fill up a hungry tummy if it's like a, a bar, a packaged bar? There, I just want to say there is no bar tree. There's no granola bush. It doesn't matter if you see in the ad them eating that granola bar and the nature, it's still not a healthy choice. It's a, it's a cookie. Let's be real. That's why we think they're delicious.

Food such as energy bars and protein bars have made this huge comeback and you think, oh, protein, I'll grab this protein bar. Look at the source. Many times it's soy protein isolate. It's not even a good source of protein for the body. So we want to really pack something as simple as deli meat rollups with some pickles and deli meat.

BRITNI: Yeah. Easy. You know, we have the oatmeal almond ball recipe on our website.

MELANIE: Oh, those are so good.

BRITNI: We have, we have various different kind of bites or ball type recipes or bar type recipes that would be a great replacement to these quick granola bars that people add. And then you know, that they're getting some protein. It’s all real food.

MELANIE: It's all real food. I know years ago I sort of developed some recipes. One was a pizza pocket muffin.

BRITNI: Mm. Yeah.

MELANIE: And one was a corn dog muffin. That is nice. You just throw in some mustard packets and they're good to go. I think I even have a pickle dipping sauce on there, but those are delicious; something that the kids like that looks different and really is a muffin but has protein.

BRITNI: Mm-Hmm; and portable.

MELANIE: And portable. It's on our website.

Carbohydrate and sugar loading for sports is NOT recommended

BRITNI: When it comes to sports, you know, football, cross country, any of that, it's a common misconception that everyone needs to carbohydrate load beforehand or have the sugary electrolyte drinks before the big meet, race, game. You know, if the physical activity is one hour or less than plenty of water and real food is really all that's needed.

MELANIE: That's a really good point that we don't, some of those, some of those drinks are so loaded with caffeine as well, that that can create anxiety down the road. That can create sleeplessness. So the food dyes are in there, artificial flavoring or sugar, artificial sweeteners. So you have to be careful. What do we, it's not just about what we're putting in the body for nourishment. It's about what are we putting in the body that the body now has to process during a sporting event.

BRITNI: Yeah. Yeah.

MELANIE: So there are so many sports drinks and energy drinks out there and they’re mostly, mostly just unnecessary ingredients that your children don't require. They're creating more detriment than help. So if your child is active for more than an hour straight, they may benefit from just some plain straight up coconut water, which is full of natural electrolytes. If they don't like that there are some decent electrolyte products out there that don't have sugar, artificial dyes, artificial sweeteners. And that's what you want to lean into.

BRITNI: Good ideas. And you know, when you are carbohydrate loading before a game, meet, any of that, you, while you are exercising or competing, you are simply burning off those carbohydrates, that sugar, and that is going to lead to a much bigger crash. Carbohydrates are not a long-sustained energy source.

MELANIE: Good point.

BRITNI: They're going to give you quick energy. Whereas if you go into that event with your blood sugar balanced because you ate a balanced snack, the energy throughout that game or competition or practice is going to be much more stable. And I've had a lot of teenagers and adults for that matter, tell me that they notice they feel better while, while doing their activity and they actually perform better, which I know is a big goal for some, some teens.

Examples of what to eat before sporting events

MELANIE: What are some examples that you have them eat prior to a sporting event?

BRITNI: Yeah, that gets a little tricky depending on timing. But sometimes the smoothies can be nice. That can be made ahead of time. It could be like we have protein muffins on our website. It could be something like that, one or two hard-boiled eggs, maybe a little piece of fruit, some nuts beforehand.

MELANIE: Yogurt, hard boiled eggs to do those.

BRITNI: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Those are all some great, great ideas that would lead to feeling a lot better during that activity.

MELANIE: When my daughter was in track years and years ago, because you know, she's 30 now and she was in track and I, there was a new bar that came out that I was getting her, and I'm not going to name it. It's still out there. And I would give it to her so she could eat that on the bus on the way to the track meet. I would go to the track meet. She threw up at every track meet.

BRITNI: Oh no.

MELANIE: She would run past me and mouth the words, I'm going to throw up. And I thought, what in the world is going on? Well, I read the bar and this was years ago when I was still sort of mainstream dietetics and thought it was okay. And it was full of soy protein isolate. Well, years later, come to find out she's allergic to soy. I was poisoning my child before every track meet. So I switched it up and started giving her cottage cheese and berries that we just blended and it looked like a yogurt. And she would eat that and she did great.

BRITNI: Oh good.

MELANIE: But it took three track meets for me to figure it out.

BRITNI: Oh man.

MELANIE: But you just never know. Your children are going to thrive or they're going to tank based on what you're giving them. It makes me cringe what some of the snacks are that are brought to these events.

BRITNI: Yes. Yeah, that too. So, you know, it's just food as nourishment and fuel for these growing bodies.

MELANIE: All the more reason; their cell turnover is so much, is so rapid. We've got to nourish the cell turnover because that is going to help them focus in school. It's going to help them be their best selves and when they can be their best selves at school or at a sporting event, it feeds their self-esteem.


MELANIE: And really that's what we want: healthy, happy, thriving children. That's our jobs as parents. And we have a lot of parent guilt when they're not doing well. Like, what are we doing wrong?


MELANIE: So if we can be of any assistance, we're here to help you. We're here. And we've got a lot of young mothers now as nutritionists and dietitians on staff. So you're in good hands. Well, our goal at Nutritional Weight and Wellness is to help each and every person and child experience better health through eating real food. It's a simple yet powerful message. Eating real food is life-changing. Thank you for joining us today.

BRITNI: Thank you.

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