According to The Dairy Council of California, good nutrition has been linked to academic performance. An absence of certain food groups can have a negative impact on grades as well as attendance. Statements like these are based on researchers who evaluated lifestyles of children. The children who ate more fruits, vegetables, protein and fiber with less calorie intake from fats did much better on literacy tests than children who ate foods high in salt and saturated fat. Not having the following items in a child’s diet can lead to lower grades, absenteeism and lateness; vitamins A, B6, B12, C, Folate, Iron, Zinc and Calcium are vital to have in a growing child’s diet.
It is important that parents pay attention to their child’s snack habits. We live in a world where so many of our snack items are filled with preservatives not only for a longer shelf life but also to enhance our cravings for that item; this may explain why we can sit and devour an entire package of an item and still want more. Since one quarter of calories come from snacks, we can honestly say that it’s almost like adding a forth meal to a child’s day. Let’s face it, we don’t always prepare or give our kids the best snacks. When we give a child a choice of snack, they will almost always choose the sweetest, crunchy and saltiest one they can find and skip over the ones with the most nutrients. How do we solve this problem? We start by planning. By doing this, parents give more thought to what they give their children. Combining 2-3 food groups in your child's snack can help with nutrient deficiency in their diet. Food items such as Milk, Dairy, Vegetables, and whole grains are great examples of what children need to have consistently on a daily basis for growth and development. When we make their snacks fun, colorful, tasty and nutritious, we won’t have to do battle in order for them to eat it.
The following are some healthy snack tips and ideas from the Dairy Council of California:
Pair milk, cheese, yogurt, hard boiled eggs (protein rich foods) with apples, whole grain crackers, celery or carrots.
Use smaller containers for foods you want to limit that may not be as nutritious.
Stock up your house and car with healthy items from the store that are also affordable. Make sure you have something from all five food groups which includes vegetables, legumes, and beans, fruits, grain, lean meats, and dairy.
Whatever you do don’t go shopping while you’re hungry, this is not the best thing to do because you will end up with items in your cart you’ve chosen out of sheer hunger and not for its nutritional value.
Lastly, move all nutritional foods to the front of the fridge and move all others to the back. We are most likely to choose items from the front than try to reach into the back of the fridge.
In our classrooms, of course, parents provide snacks for the whole class on a rotating basis. The healthy snack tips can apply to Montessori school snacks as well. Just follow the guidelines, make sure “some assembly required” and send it to class.