The pencils are sharpened, the PE kit is packed. It’s official – the holidays are over and it’s time to go back to school. As the seasons shift a gear, make sure your children stay healthy and happy with nutritional advice from NHS dietician Sam Perkins:
Boost their energy At this age, kids run out of energy quickly. Their diet should provide enough calories to sustain them – especially after school when they’re hungry. A wholemeal sandwich with banana or oatcakes with peanut butter are quick snacks that provide energy.
Try different things From age five onwards, children tend to be keener to try new foods, so now is the time to retry previously rejected offerings!
Check their calcium Many children grow rapidly pre-puberty and during adolescence, so adequate calcium is vital. A diet high in dairy and other calcium-containing foods is the best source, but if theirs is lacking, give a calcium supplement*– multivitamins don’t always provide all the calcium needed. Boys aged 11-18 need 1000mg (about four glasses of whole milk), girls 800mg.
And their iron The average age UK girls start their periods is 12, and if theirs are heavy, they’ll lose iron. In this case, I’d suggest an iron supplement. Before 10, girls need 6-9mg (a spaghetti bolognese contains 6.6mg); after 11, 14.8mg.
Be aware of their online presence The influence of bloggers comes into play at this age – girls may follow routines they see online and go gluten-free or vegan because they’re told it’s a healthy way to eat. But many bloggers aren’t qualified to give advice and the wrong information can cause deficiencies. If you can’t discourage your teen, educate yourself so you know who they’re following and how to balance their meals.
Boost omega-3 This is an extremely important time to ensure omega-3 levels in the diet are good. These can help with moods and stress while studying for exams. Try for two portions of oily fish a week.
Make sure they get their vitamin D Teens may be more likely than other ages to be at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Younger kids are more likely to play outside at school, while teens spend more time inside playing computer games or on social media. Going through a low body confidence stage and therefore covering up with clothing is also common. Again, a supplement may help.
*IF YOUR CHILD IS UNDER MEDICAL SUPERVISION, CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE GIVING SUPPLEMENTS
Want to read more? Discover whether your child should be taking supplements in the latest September issue of Healthy magazine.