Back to school and back to the same old juggling routine. It has been interesting getting ready for the return, planning and sorting lunchboxes, snacks and drinks for the kids’ first week back.
I had temporarily forgotten the mayhem in the kitchen in the morning, choosing and coercing breakfast into my eight-year-old and my newly teenage son.
I have some key objectives as a mum. Firstly, I need them to have the energy to enjoy school and get through the day. I also want to give them brain food that helps them concentrate and get the most out of their lessons, to prevent tiredness and energy lulls so they can push through till home time. These are the same things I repeatedly hear in research groups from other mums when talking about snacking, drinking soft drinks and eating biscuits.
Looking at the physical needs of a child’s body at school and the types of products and ingredients that help address these issues, there seem to be a few missed opportunities within the lunchbox category.
Take ‘brain food’ - omegas were a hot topic a few years ago, but seem to have fallen out of fashion. Omegas 3 and 6 are found in equal amounts in the brain, and it is believed they should be eaten in equal amounts. Omega-6 can be found easily in regular foods like chicken and eggs, but omega-3 is harder unless you eat lots of oily fish. New sources of plant-based omega-3s could help to address this need, for example flax seed, hemp seed and ancient grains.
Managing energy levels via food and drink is also key and can be achieved via balancing blood sugar levels. Eating the right things helps keep energy and concentration levels even. Foods with slow-releasing sugars, for example oats, brown rice, rye, whole wheat and vegetables, help greatly.
Higher and better-quality complete protein solutions would help, too. Foods that contain the nine essential amino acids that the body can’t produce itself would be great to integrate further, from both plant and meat sources. Amino acids are vital to maintaining good mood and concentration, especially GABA, tryptophan, theanine and glycine, which children often have low-normal levels of.
Finally, water. The brain is 80% water, so to function properly and retain good mood and concentration, hydration is key. More ways to boost hydration via water-plus options that speed it up naturally, for example coconut water and other alternatives with high potassium and micronutrient content, are needed.
There’s so much potential for next-generation lunchboxes to drive healthier, happier and better-functioning children in schools.
Claire Nuttall is founder of The Brand Incubator