Sara loves to snack, especially on candy, soda and other things from the vending machines at school. She is always hungry, but rarely eats a full meal unless she's at home for dinner. Sara never has time for breakfast at home, usually because she is rushing to school, and there aren't a lot of breakfast food options at home. Her parents don’t really eat breakfast either so they never bother her about it.
Sara has been feeling tired, and sometimes dizzy, during classes while at school. She only feels better after drinking a soda or getting a candy bar at the vending machines, but then she becomes tired again and it's hard for her to pay attention in class, especially at the end of the day. Sara is confused because every morning when she gets a soda, she usually feels energized and awake, but throughout the day she becomes more and more tired and craves more sugar or soda to get her through the day.
Questions for Discussion:
1. Why do you think Sara is tired throughout the day? What can Sara do to feel more energized?
2. What kinds of food do you think Sara should be eating?
3. Do you think that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? How often do you eat breakfast? Do you think that if Sara ate breakfast she wouldn't be as tired?
4. Why is healthy snacking important? Do you think your food choices affect your energy? How? List what you would eat on a school day with your mentor.
5. What kinds of food do you think are "fun" and tasty? What kinds of food do you think are "healthy"? Are there any foods that you think are fun and healthy?
**If you are hungry a lot, this is natural- during adolescence, a person's body, AND you're brain, demand more nutrients to grow and develop in a healthy way. Snacks are a great way to get more vitamins and nutrients in between meals.
**Snacking can help hold you over in between meals, and if you're hungry in between breakfast and lunch, pack snacks like fruit, trail mix, or cheese and crackers to keep you satisfied.
**Nuts have 'healthy fats' which help with brain function and concentration. They have a perfect combination of fat and protein so that you can feel full, satisfied, and stay focused while working on that math homework right after school. A good snack would be peanut butter on rice cakes, or a handful of almonds.
**Snacking throughout the day keeps your blood sugar levels balanced and even, so you don't feel tired. If you can't focus throughout the day, you might need more health snacks in between meals. Pack snacks like fruit, milk (regular or soy), and nuts to keep yourself from feeling hungry or tired between bigger meals like breakfast, lunch and dinner.
**Breakfast is an important meal to remember! Count the hours from when you fall asleep to when you first eat the next day. There are probably over 8 hours that you don't eat! This semi-starvation mode on a person's body, especially a growing boy or girl, can be harmful to physical, intellectual and behavioral development.
**Kids rely on breakfast and regular food intake because their growing bodies and developing brains need the nutrients and vitamins.
**Studies report that those who start the day with breakfast think better, have a better mood, maintain a healthier weight, and have more energy to burn!
How Mentors Can Help:
**Make a list with your mentee of the type of snack foods they usually eat, and help them differentiate the bad snack foods from foods that have more nutritional value.
**Ask them about their meals at home, whether or not they have family dinners, or breakfast. What kind of food does their family keep at home? How can they incorporate healthy snacking with what is available to them at home?
**Offer suggestions for breakfast like oatmeal, juice, and water. Also suggest easy ways for them to pack a lunch, or at least a few snacks.
**Make it a game: Have them focus on healthy snacking and eating for a week and have them journal their progress. Go over how they feel; if they feel more energized and focused etc, and where there are challenges in maintaining this type of eating, such as accessibility to certain foods and family habits. Make sure to not criticize the family and their eating habits, but gently suggest different choices and their benefits.
**Compare and contrast the difference of sugar and nutrients in certain foods. How much sugar is really in a coca cola can? What kind of energy can one get from sugar? What kind of energy can one get from apples? (sugar stacks link)
**If your mentee is interested you can have the school nurse talk to you both about nutrition. Education is the first step towards making healthy choices!