Health

Nutrition with Jane McClenaghan: Energisers for the end of term

Jane McClenaghan

I HAVE had the same conversation with lots of friends who are parents of wee ones this week. The kids are exhausted, parents are just about hanging in there and it feels like the end of term can't come quick enough.

If your energy levels are waning and you are in need of a little pick up, then I have a few simple ideas that might help you and your kids feel a little more energised for the last few weeks of the school year.

:: Start your day with a protein-based breakfast. This will help balance blood sugar levels, maintain energy and stop you grabbing a quick fix mid-morning.

It could be something as simple as adding a tablespoonful of nuts and seeds to your cereal bowl, swapping your usual cereal to a couple of eggs (and one slice of toast instead of two), or trying some Greek yoghurt with berries and nuts for breakfast instead.

This can work to top up the protein in your children's breakfast too, but even something as simple as peanut butter on their toast with a sliced banana will work.

If you are able to, it might work better to have your own breakfast after the school run so you have time to eat and digest, rather than grabbing quick bite as you rush out the door.

:: Keep hydrated. The first sign of dehydration is fatigue, so keep topped up by sipping water throughout the day. Keep a bottle in the fridge and get into the habit of popping it on the table at breakfast, lunchtime and dinner for everyone to help themselves at mealtimes. Starting your day with a glass of water is a good idea too, as most of us waken a little dehydrated.

:: Prioritise your nutrition. Many parents work hard to nourish their children really well, but sometimes to the detriment of their own nutrition and health.

When you are doing your weekly meal planning and shopping list, don't forget to pick up a few easy lunch ideas for yourself. Falafel with houmous and salad, tinned fish to have with leftover roasted Mediterranean vegetables, or some wholemeal pitta pockets to pack with protein and salad for a quick, handy and nutritious lunch.

:: After a long hard day at school, kids need refuelled and get the after-school munchies.

This is a good opportunity to add a little pop of nutrition into their day without filling them up too much and knocking their appetite for teatime.

Fruit is the obvious choice - pack your fridge and fruit bowl with the stuff you know they will eat. Strawberries, bananas, pears, nectarines, or whatever is your child's favourite.

Take care when buying yoghurt not to get ones that are laden with sugar or sweeteners, I like Yeo Valley, Rachel's and Glenisk for decent choices. Mini cheese like Babybel are more nutritious than processed cheese or cheese triangles. Keep a pot of peanut butter or houmous on hand to spread on toast as a quick filler too.

:: Make life easier on yourself at teatime and have a handful of dinners that you can cook once, eat twice. Roast dinner with enough leftovers to reheat for tomorrow's tea, chilli with rice tonight becomes the filling for fajitas tomorrow, or a big tray of roasted Mediterranean vegetables can be added to a ragu or bolognese another day.

:: Have one or two meals that can be made in minutes, that everyone will eat. Stir-fry, frittata, traybake chicken and vegetables, or a healthy stir-fried rice with peas, scallions, broccoli, leftover chicken, some soya sauce, garlic and ginger and then whisk in a couple of eggs.

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