Food for thought

As educators, we realise the importance of creating the right conditions for an optimal learning environment: natural light, minimum clutter, optimal temperature (18 to 21C), an ordered and motivating classroom, flexible seating, plants, adequate ventilation, fresh air, brain food and hydration. The last two on the list are vitally important, and we rely on family support to ensure that brain food and hydration are considered when preparing for the school day.

Parents often underestimate their role in developing healthy eating habits. You are the first teachers regarding positive eating behaviours which nutritionists emphasise are important for a healthy life and a sharp brain. Providing water bottles, which the children have access to throughout the day in the classroom, and fruit and vegetables to graze throughout the day, are an essential part of a teacher’s collection of strategies to ensure an optimal environment for wellbeing and learning.

Children watch, listen and learn through observation, and then follow what they see. So how can we, as parents, make the best choices when it comes to school lunches and set them up for a lifetime of healthy eating habits?

  • Provide food from the five food groups every day, especially from the first three:
    1. Vegetables
    2. Fruit
    3. Grain foods
    4. Milk, yogurt, cheese and/or alternatives
    5. Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts, seeds and legumes
  • A ‘traffic light’ system can be a great aid for packing school lunches (Murdoch Children’s Research Institute):
    1. Green for food they can have every day: low-fat milk drinks, wholegrain breads and cereals, fruits, vegetables and lean meats
    2. Yellow for sometimes food: baked snack biscuits, full-fat milk drinks, processed and cured meats
    3. Red for occasional treats: lollies, cakes, deep-fried foods
  • Encourage the drinking of water – children are at a greater risk of dehydration than adults due to their size and having a larger proportion of their skin available to lose sweat and be exposed to heat.

Setting our children up for success is the aim of teachers and parents alike. What we provide for our children to consume throughout the day is an important aspect of the how we achieve this; food for thought.

Margaret Adams
Deputy Head of Carey Donvale