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Balance your School Day Energy

Keeping our energy levels well balanced throughout a busy day at school can sometimes be a challenge. Any energy lows affect our ability to be our best in the classroom and at the end of the day when we might be preparing for the next day, spending time with friends/family, exercising or relaxing. The food we eat is often seen as fuel to keep our body functioning however, the power of food can also be transformative for maintaining better balance and sustained energy.

Balancing your hormones
Balancing hormones such as insulin and cortisol (stress) can make a real difference to our energy levels. We ideally want our hormones to be so well tuned they coordinate like a Philharmonic orchestra, which roughly translates to ‘loving harmony’. The key is focusing on keeping blood sugar balanced throughout the day by becoming aware of the importance of both protein and fibre with all meals and snacks. Protein and fibre help slow the release of sugar in the carbohydrates we eat. When we look at our plate it’s important to include some quality protein. This can take many forms such as meat, eggs, fish, dairy, beans, lentils or other sources such as tofu. We also need fibre, which can come from wholegrain foods (complex carbohydrates) and vegetables. Certain foods known as high glycaemic foods can convert to sugar very rapidly so implementing some simple swaps to include more low glycaemic foods into our meals can be beneficial. Examples include brown rice rather than white or whole-wheat bread as the fibre content helps to slow the release of the sugar. Stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol can also affect blood sugar levels so trying to avoid/reduce these may also be helpful.

How to nourish your body
Nourishing our bodies is vital for energy production, our joints, our mood and the health of our brain and nervous system. The liver and the brain have the greatest demand for energy in the body and can be kept nourished by including plenty of ‘healthy’ fats such as anti-inflammatory omega-3’s. Oily fish such as sardines, salmon and mackerel, nuts and seeds are all great sources. Reducing/avoiding foods high in trans fats such as processed ready meals, baked goods and fast food, can also be advantageous.

Many lifestyle factors can also improve our energy including sleep, exercise and daylight/sunshine. The Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep for adults. A good nights sleep also helps with weight management by balancing the hormones ghrelin and leptin. Developing a good routine around bedtime can be useful and can include setting a bedtime alarm, avoiding bright light and screens after 9pm, reducing/avoiding caffeine especially after lunchtime, exposure to sunlight during the day and daily movement/exercise. Getting outside every day also links closely to the ‘sunshine hormone’ vitamin D, which supports our immune health and may also improve our mood. As we don’t get exposure to sunshine during the winter months taking a supplement during this time may be beneficial.

Changing up your nutrition
These principles around balance, nourish and lifestyle, just like the systems in the body, are intrinsically linked but small changes can make a real difference whether you change your afternoon snack to include more protein and fibre, alter your sleep pattern, put your phone away in a cupboard in the evening or include more nuts and seeds in your diet.
To learn more about managing your stress, click here.

Putting these principles into practice can begin with a simple, delicious recipe, which encompasses both balance and nourish. This Easy Cheesy Flapjack Recipe contains both protein and fibre, which helps to slow down the release of sugar from the oats and may maintain better-balanced energy throughout the school day. Enjoy!

Bio: The Food Teacher™ Founder and Director, Katharine Tate, has worked as a teacher and education consultant for over 20 years. Qualified as an award winning registered nutritional therapist, Katharine, runs a busy nutritional therapy clinic offering virtual consultations. She also combines her unique education and nutrition expertise to offer schools, and organisations advice, education programmes, talks and practical workshops. She has launched a programme of Young Chef awards for schools, which support delivery of the curriculum and nutrition education. She has also written and published several books: 'Heat-Free & Healthy', the award-winning ‘No Kitchen Cookery for Irish Primary Schools’, and has also co-authored the award-winning ‘Now We’re Cooking! Delivering the National Curriculum through Food’.