Updated: Feb 18, 2019
Pause and think about your current energy level.
Are you hitting that afternoon wall? It's three o'clock in the afternoon and you can barely keep your eyes open.
Or maybe you just finished dropping the kids off at school & you are ready to take on the world. You are just busting with so much energy you don't know what to do with it (in our dreams, right?)
Now think about your mini me's. If you are a teacher, think about your students. Take a minute and think about their natural energy flow. When are they suuuper sluggish you wonder wether they are actually awake? When are they so energetic your afraid they are going to explode?
It's normal for our energy levels to increase and decrease throughout the day, but sometimes they get in the way.
Believe it or not, we can use food to help us maintain a healthy level of alertness- or in OT terms, to stay regulated. It's probably not the best idea to pump your child with Starbucks to get them going in the morning, so here are some ideas of what to feed them & when to feed them based on their level of alertness.
When your child needs a wake up call, they need something that will awaken their senses, so try something
> crunchy- pretzels, veggie sticks, nuts, granola, tortilla chips, rice patties
> sour/tart- strawberries, kiwi, dried cranberries
> cold- orange juice, ice water, cold fruit, smoothie
> spicy- beef jerky, salsa, flavored pretzels, pepperoni
> chewy- granola bars, fruit leather, raisins,
On the other hand, if your child needs to calm down, try giving them something
> smooth/creamy- smoothie, milkshake, peanut butter, hummus, yogurt, cheese
> warm- soup, warm tea or hot chocolate, fresh popped pop corn, cheese dip
> naturally sweet- cantaloupe, watermelon, corn, bananas, sweet apple
> chewy- bubble gum, gummy worms, beef jerky
OK, so you know what to feed your kiddo to keep them at an appropriate level of alertness- but we also all know that it's one thing to know something, and another to actually use that information in our daily lives.
So, for example...
Let's start in the morning. Your kiddos are up and moving, but their brain is about five steps behind their body. Make them a bagel or piece of toast spread with peanut butter in addition to cutting up a few strawberries.
Fast forward to lunch time at school. They are having way too much fun with their friends and they need to take it down a notch or two. Pack their lunch with a chewy granola bar, a gogurt, a banana, or celery sticks with ranch dressing.
Now it's time for you to pick them up from school & do homework. They are tired and their brain is having trouble organizing their thoughts. Give them crackers with pepperoni, a piece of gum, or chips and salsa to help wake them up. Or, on the other hand, maybe your child is hyper after school & they need something to help calm them down. Make them a thick smoothie that they have to drink through a straw.
Are you starting to get the idea? Those are just some examples for during the school year. In the summer months your child's body clock could be totally different, which is why it is important to constantly pay attention to your child's body and make any necessary changes.
You might have noticed that chewy foods are included in both snack lists, which can be kind of confusing. Hard muscle work is basically magic-it can both calm and alert. So when in doubt, give your child something that they are going to reeaallly have to work hard at to eat, for example, a fairly chewy piece of fruit leather or make them drink a really thick smoothie through a straw.
Basically, what it all boils down to is not necessarily the specific type of food, but rather how you eat that specific type of food.
So, to recap it all,
When you need to wake your child up, give them something crunchy, sour/tart, cold, spicy, or chewy to eat.
When you need to calm your child down, give them something smooth/creamy, warm, naturally sweet, or chewy to eat.
Every child is different, so it's important to pay close attention to their natural tendencies & try to anticipate what snacks they will need when.
Go ahead and experiment with a few snacks to see what your child likes! It's amazing how big of a difference certain snacks can make. My go to snack for when I'm tired is almonds, but I'd love to hear what snacks work for you guys!