Back to class, the right diet

Back to class, the right diet
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The Del Paeseni children returned to school a few days ago, after a very strange school year, marked by the health emergency linked to Covid, the lockdown and remote teaching. 

This year too, however, one of the most important issues related to life among our children's desks is re-proposed: what is the correct diet that children must follow during the months of school? We asked Francesca Ghelfi, nutritionist and manager of the "Buono al Cubo" project of the De Marchi ONLUS Foundation, who gave us some valid indications for a healthy and balanced diet for the little ones at school.

Read also: The child has no appetite: what to do?

In this article


Back to school: how to ensure balanced nutrition for the child?

According to Francesca Ghelfi, it is useful to highlight that school meals are generally supervised, before being offered, by experts. "The meals in the school canteens are balanced: if the parent takes care of preparing a good breakfast and a nice dinner for the child, he does not have to worry about covering any shortcomings related to the school lunch".

Therefore, the school meal is able to contribute to a balanced daily diet and it is important that parents know this to reassure themselves.

"It is also necessary that the feeding of the child who goes to school follows the classic subdivision in five meals a day, including two snacks. While this subdivision does not necessarily have to be followed by adults, it is particularly important for children. Eating five times a day allows the little ones to get to the next meal without too much hunger and allows them to have the right energy to stay focused at school.

Then there are established rules that apply to making healthy meals: they were developed by the "Harvard Medical School" in Boston and summarized in the graphics of "The plate of healthy eating". It is a drawing of a dish divided into four parts: one part (1/4) is dedicated to cereals and derivatives (bread, pasta, rice, polenta, biscuits), another (1/4) is dedicated to vegetables, still another (1/4) to fruit and the last (1/4) to protein sources (legumes, meat, fish, eggs or cheeses). In every meal, in order to be healthy and nutritious, there must be these four quotas ". 

Read also: Feeding children: 7 GOOD habits that improve school performance

How should the ideal breakfast be?

"Considering the plate of healthy eating, you can also understand what a complete breakfast can be like. The classic combination" fruit juice and biscuits "does not constitute a complete breakfast. 

Although biscuits should not be consumed every day, they cover the share of cereals, but they do not cover that of proteins. So, together with cereals, a protein source is always needed, which can consist of cow's milk, soya milk, yogurt (Greek, soya, etc.). The important thing is to prefer plain yoghurts, because others are high in sugar. 

If children don't like plain yoghurt on its own, you can mix, for example, two tablespoons of white and two tablespoons of sweetened fruit. In this way the little one does not take only the one with the sugars. 

As a source of cereals, alternating with biscuits, slices can be proposed wholemeal biscuits or wholemeal sandwich bread. a fruitfinally, complete the ideal breakfast ". 

Read also: Ideal breakfasts for children, what to give, why it is important and some ideas

If the child has to bring his own lunch, what to prepare?

According to Francesca Ghelfi, this also depends on the possibility of the school, that is, it depends on the presence in the institute of refrigerators in which to store food. 

"Otherwise you can give the child one cooler bag with lunch and some ice in it. Alternatively, you can prepare foods that last several hours at room temperature. 

Certainly cold pasta, couscous, rice, barley or spelled salad are good proposals. The usual "healthy eating dish" rule applies to lunch as well. You can also prepare boiled diced potatoes (which replace rice and pasta).

Protein sources must be added to cereals (pasta, rice, etc.): you can cut a mozzarella into cubes, or add cannellini beans or peas. It is also possible to use a sauce for pasta based on pureed legumes, such as, for example, a cream of cannellini beans and courgettes. 

You can also choose to take canned mackerel or tuna to school as a protein source, which may last even longer at room temperature. Then finally, like vegetables, they would be fine chopped tomatoes or carrots".

Read also: How to make children love (and eat) vegetables

Can a sandwich for lunch be an alternative? And pizzas and scones?

"The sandwich for lunch can be an alternative. However, it is advisable to use wholemeal bread, so the baby can increase the fiber intake.

It is important, however, do not always put cold cuts in the sandwich, which can only be consumed once a week.

The rule is always the same, namely that of the "plate of healthy eating". You can make a sandwich with an omelette or choose fresh goat cheese or stracchino. It can also be seasoned with legume creams (chickpeas, for example), which can be used instead of the classic mayonnaise. 

You can use cooked vegetables as a sauce for the sandwich: just blend them. There are, therefore, numerous options for avoiding cured meats. It would be ideal to always accompany the sandwich with chopped vegetables such as, for example, carrots or fennel.

It is advisable to avoid pizzas and focaccias, because in general, if bought at the bakery, they are greasy and rich in salt. If you make them at home and then add a little salt or oil, they can be fine. Otherwise no, it is better to eat them maybe only on Saturdays ". 

Read also: Snacks for children, 50 ideas for all tastes

And what can he eat as a snack instead?

"For the snack it is advisable to choose fruit. It is also possible to give the child some peanuts or hazelnuts, to combine with fresh fruit.

In general, then, for the morning snack it takes very little: a fruit can be fine. Instead, many hours pass between lunch and dinner, so the afternoon snack should be more consistent: you can give the child a slice of wholemeal bread topped with oil, but always accompanied by fruit, which must be the basis. As an alternative to a slice of wholemeal bread, you can offer small yogurt or a tomato bruschetta. But fruit, I repeat, must always be there ". 

Read also: Recipes for cooking vegetables for children

Some advice for dinner

"Usually at school, for lunch, the foods that are less offered in the canteen are legumes and fish, which are protein sources along with meat, eggs and cheeses. But, while meat and cheese are offered more often, legumes and fish they are used less in school.

For this reason for dinner you can prepare a single dish, in which to combine cereals and proteins. You can cook pasta with tomato and fish, with a side of vegetables. Or you can cook a risotto with broad beans or peas. 

You can also opt for a single dish based on vegetables and protein source and accompanied by bread. An example is baked chickpea porridge, to be eaten together with bread. 

In general, pasta goes perfectly with the main course of dinner. 50 to 60 percent of the little ones' daily calorie intake should be carbohydrates. Children spend a lot of energy and need carbohydrates". 

Read also: Family nutrition in the time of the coronavirus: live with the experts

  • child diet
  • school canteen
  • back to school
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