When a new school term starts, the children are quickly back into the swing of long days of learning, burning through their energy reserves with gusto. All without your watchful eye on their blood-sugar levels and ability to focus. More often than we’d like, our children come home from school on their last legs. The whining starts at pick-up, and carries on right through ‘til tea, with repeated requests for sugary treats…

The after-school grumps come when levels of blood glucose (which fuels the brain) dip, and adrenaline takes over. Concentration, cognitive function, mood, behaviour, and energy levels are all affected.

The problem could be the contents of your children’s lunchboxes. Just 1.9% of them meet the same nutritional standard as a hot school dinner… Wow!

4 tips to banish the after-school grumps:

  1. Opt for high fibre
    Go for whole-grain bread in lunchboxes. Wholegrain tortillas/wraps are a good alternative, as are high-fibre fruits like peaches and mango. Carrots with the skin left on are a winner too, with a pot of humus on the side for dipping. Use biscuit cutters to make cucumber stars, red-pepper hearts, or carrot bunnies. A pot of frozen peas will be thawed by lunchtime. Or whip up a batch of savoury muffins — cheese and broccoli are surprisingly delicious!
  2. Top up the protein
    Protein provides long-lasting energy, keeping them fuller for longer at school. So add as much protein to lunchboxes as you can: lean meat, cheese, fish, and eggs. How about a quiche, low-cost frittata, or a hard-boiled egg.
  3. Minimise sugary snacks
    Instead of chocolate or cake, homemade granola bars are not only exceptionally high in fibre (containing oats, wholemeal flour, dried fruit and seeds) but by using honey you stay low on refined sugar, too. An easier choice is Greek yoghurt with added frozen berries (instead of expensive kids’ brands); they’re low in fructose and cost a fraction of fresh – all the goodness, and defrosted by lunchtime.
  4. Opt for school dinners
    The absolute best way to avoid the after-school grumps is to opt for school dinners. Children who do so are up to 18% more likely to be ‘on task’ in the afternoon than their packed-lunch friends. Why? More veg, fruit, fibre, protein, water, and less sugar in their lunches.Meals are meticulously planned against National School Food Standards, to ensure energy and nutrient levels are just right, keeping kids on good form — in class and at home – right through ‘til teatime. No more whining. No more grumps. And less lunchbox hassle for you, too.Children in year R, 1, and 2, school meals are FREE! For year 3s upwards, it’s less than the cost of a take-out coffee. Speak to your school office to sign up.

Questions? Call us on 02380 332226. We serve 1.7m nutritious school dinners in 47 Southampton schools each year. Find us on Twitter: @CityDinners