A healthy return to school

With the new school year approaching, Helen Galpin of The Nutrition Centre offers advice for staying healthy and achieving optimum performance

A healthy return to school

With the new school year approaching, Helen Galpin of The Nutrition Centre offers advice for staying healthy and achieving optimum performance

Just as New Year’s Day on January 1 is the appointed time for setting new goals for a healthy year ahead, so the ‘Back to School’ week in September is an ideal time to put a new set of positive intentions into motion for your child’s health and wellbeing.  

The Nutrition Centre, Gloucestershire’s pioneering nutrition and health retail outlet is eager to advise parents on caring for their children’s health at this crucial time in the school calendar, setting a good precedent to follow for the rest of the year.

The first challenge at the start of any new school year is beating the ominous round of bugs that typically spread like wildfire round Gloucestershire schools following the long summer break, everything from coughs, colds, stomach bugs and throat infections to Impetigo, conjunctivitis, chicken pox and mumps. Infections increase in September as back at school children all muck in together again, often in closed environments with insufficient ventilation. The various viruses and parasites then spread from children to their families back home and into workplaces, causing havoc. 

Helen Galpin, a director of the Nutrition Centre who runs the family company with her husband David and daughter Clare, shares advice for beating the back to school bugs:

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“We recommend that the key to keeping your child healthy is a strong immune system which can be achieved by maintaining a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, getting a good night’s sleep of 10-11 hours and taking an hour of physical exercise each day. Echinacea is a great preventative medicine for boosting the immune system and radically reducing the chance of infection, and a good multivitamin also really helps to keep sickness at bay. 

“Regular hand washing is also important,” Helen continues. “And for nits, which tend to be very prevalent this time of year, we recommend a herbal head lice removal kit as a natural remedy.”

Illness aside, another important consideration at the start of the school year is keeping the brain healthy and vital for optimum performance in the classroom. 

Helen says, “A good balanced diet is crucial to brain health and mental performance in children, while fish oils are fantastic for boosting brain power, memory and performance and can also enhance mood and concentration.”

Helen also stresses the importance of a healthy breakfast for boosting performance: “A nutritious breakfast improves early morning concentration levels, prevents mid-morning snacking on sugary foods and really sets your child up for the day. We recommend fresh fruit and healthy organic cereals, porridge oats (good for reducing cholesterol levels) and pancakes, all of which are high in fibre and protein and an excellent source of energy. Pancakes with nutritious fillings can be quick and easy to prepare as well as delicious.”

Much modern research testifies to the benefits of a healthy breakfast.  A recent report by the Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA) revealing that one in six UK school pupils skip breakfast, concluded:  ‘Students going without breakfast cannot be at their best for learning during morning lessons and so can be less attentive and a disruption in class’.

Ian Davidson, assistant headmaster of Balcarras School in Cheltenham, firmly endorses the importance of a quality breakfast: “A healthy breakfast is crucial to the wellbeing of all pupils. Ideally, cereals, milk, bread and fruit should be core ingredients as these provide a source of slow-release carbohydrates. Children who start the day well by eating properly will undoubtedly perform better in the classroom.”

A nutritious lunch is also a vital ingredient for any child’s day, as famously highlighted by TV chef Jamie Oliver’s campaign to expose the poor health standards of school lunches.     

Helen Galpin recommends that a lunch box should contain plenty of nutrients and foods with minimal levels of sugar and saturated fat. She says: “We recommend starchy foods for energy intake like wholemeal or seeded bread, rice, potatoes and pasta; protein foods like meat, fish, eggs and beans; and plenty of fruit and vegetables or salad. For fillers, instead of chocolate and crisps go for savoury snacks like rice cakes, organic energy bars and oat cakes. And in place of fizzy drinks, fruit juice or an energising Guarana or soya drink. You could also make up a tasty fruit salad - be inventive; encourage your children to try something different.

“The healthy changes to you child’s lunchbox will make the world of difference to their health, mood and performance,” Helen continues. “It may take time to adjust to the changes but it’s well worth the effort, so keep trying.”

The Nutrition Centre is a group of four shops in Gloucestershire across Cheltenham, Tewkesbury and Cirencester. www.nutritioncentre.co.uk

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