How will my child manage in University/College? 5 Essential nutrition and life skills for academic success.

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You've done your parental homework, you've selected the best school, and a program with promise. Soon they will be off, into the culture of school away from home. The emotions and worry fly. Will they be organized, safe, and responsible?

Basic life skills such as sleep, hygiene and feeding themselves now become a concern. You, as a parent, know that these basic life skills will be important to support other pressures that will unfold. Deadlines, organization, communication, social skills, and relationships. 

Here are 5 tips for ensuring nutrition and life skills success at school. Prepare your child for a happy and healthy year that lead them to their highest potential.

undefined1.Food Education

Prepare at home before the big move. It won't look like they are listening but those skills in the kitchen which were of little relevance til now will become important when they need them. Have a conversation about food. Take them to the grocery store. Show them how to pick their favorite foods, how to use sight, smell and feel to determine freshness and quality.

If you have a local farmers market during the summer, go together. The informality of the 'lesson' makes it fun and an easy way to learn. Alternatively, send them on their own with a list and see how they do. 

Teach them to cook 5 of their favorite meals. Having some easy recipes under their belt, and the ability to cook them over and over will give them a sense of pride and self-sufficiency. Their signature dish, they will be the one who can make it better than anyone. 

undefinedBasic kitchen skills such as using a knife, chopping, and peeling. Awareness of the size and shape the vegetables should be chopped into to allow even cooking. Start with the Holy Trinity. In Italy, they call it "soffritto", onions, celery, and carrots. In France, it is called 'mirepoix' and can be used as the starting point for many dishes. In Cajun cooking, onions, bell peppers, and celery create the base.

Build on those skills. How can you take a basic recipe, and switch it up with seasonings? For example, a basic tomato sauce can be changed taste and nutrient wise by adding different ingredients. Make a basic bolognese sauce with minced beef, tomato, onion, and herbs. Switch it up by using turkey, spinach, and spices. Or make it vegetarian and add all the veggies in the fridge that need to be used. The next day you can add leftover sauce to a baked spaghetti squash, or over nachos for some variety.

Safety first. Proper food handling in the kitchen is an imperative discussion and lesson. Clean hands, surfaces, and tools will be important in avoiding food poisoning. Washing hands with warm water and soap, cutting boards and other utensils. This may be obvious to you but if your child has not been taught about the health risks of food poisoning, they may not protect themselves. Have these conversations in the kitchen while it is relevant. 

I recommend freezing cooked foods after they have cooled. Food can be taken out and defrosted when needed rather than remembering how many days it has been left in the fridge. It takes the guesswork out of it. Unless food will be consumed in 2 days, it should be frozen.

Send a thermometer to school to check the internal temperature of meats. Teach your child how to use it. Educate them about salmonella and the importance of checking poultry, and pork when it's cooked. With guidelines and temperature placed on the fridge. Easier still, buy a thermometer that is labeled right on the tool.

2. Meal Planning and Time Management 

I recommend double or triple the recipe. Freeze the extra portions as you go so there is a variety of meals to choose from when they do not have time to cook. 

undefinedEncourage them to choose a day of the week for meal planning, shopping, and preparation. It will set them up for a successful and smooth week. Work with a regular meal plan, and a shopping list to save time. Rotate 2 different weeks to give variety. Stocking up on basics that support these recipes will save time running out to the grocery store.

When going out for an evening of socializing, planning is paramount and a predictor of how they will feel the next day. Taking the time to eat a meal and hydrate before will help. I recommend drinking unsweetened coconut water before, and between drinks if possible at a home party. Think of coconut water as being natures Gatorade. It has all the electrolytes you need to ensure hydration at a cellular level without any preserves or color, thereby decreasing the chance of a hangover.

3. Meal execution

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Encourage making cooking a top priority. They wouldn't walk into an exam without the preparation. (although I do not know your child). Cooking is preparation for the week which sets the tone for the mind and body. Suggest a day to cook. Maybe a Sunday is less demanding or they have a day where classes are light or in the evening. Encourage them to place it on their calendar.

4. Foods to add. Food determines mood. Healthy Fats are important.

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Healthy fats support the body and brain in a myriad of ways. The selling point for them may be, these fats will give them shiny hair, and support a healthy weight. Other benefits include boosting immunity, strengthening bones, is an anti-inflammatory, improves memory and cognitive function. 

Include these foods

  • Avocado
  • Butter
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Fish with Omega 3 fats- salmon (preferably wild), sardines, anchovies
  • Nuts and seeds. Walnuts in particular.
  • Eggs 

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Sleep

Setting yourself up for success with proper sleep will not be fixed overnight. But the following habits can assist in creating a better pattern and allow for quality rest. 

  • Encourage them to go to bed at the same time each night (with the exception of weekends)
  • Sleep in a dark room. Ideally, they should not be able to see their hand in front of their face. They can wear an eye mask if not possible.
  • Turn off all electronics after 11:00. The blue light emitted by screens will delay the process of REM sleep.
  • Use earplugs especially when living with roommates.
  • Encourage them to keep the sleeping area clean and tidy. An organized physical space will assist in calming down the mind.
  • Settle the body with evening yoga, light stretching and breathing techniques to calm the nervous system. There are many guided meditations for sleep preparations on YouTube. They can choose the one that best serves them that day. It could be calming anxiety, finding self-love, preparing for deep sleep, or stress management.

Time away at school gives your children an opportunity to gain independence and an individual sense of self outside the home, with a safety net. Ultimately, the right life skills will carry them to achieve their highest potential. On and off campus.

Here's to a successful year!

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