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After a long and hot summer in Monaco, the children are finally back to school, which means routines return to some kind of normality and the sanity of mothers across the Principality is restored (well almost!). As a Mum to a six-year-old son and nearly-teen daughter, I always find myself stressed in the weeks running up to the start of school, buying uniforms and books, covering books, labelling pens and pencils, filling out forms for activities and obtaining all kinds of documents and certificates.
Then come the daily chores, including homework and packing up their little bags with all they need to get through the day ahead: sports kit, books, water and, of course, a goûter or two! My daughter started her education in the UK where snacks aren’t provided by parents so it was a whole new concept for me. I felt breakfast and dinner were demanding enough without the added pressure of supplying healthy snacks.
Getting the snack right
This is a subject I personally struggle with daily. I am often asked about snacks at my workshops by likeminded parents who are battling the same problems of fighting with fussy children and a society that is strongly led by the junk food industry.
So how do we combat this? Here are a few tips to help bring you closer to healthier choices and a happier mind.
Snacks don’t need to be too fussy or fancy so keep it basic, simple and small. One of the things I teach at my workshops is to eat as close to nature as possible. It’s also one of the principles of healthy eating that I try to teach to my children. So don’t be scared to give your children just a simple piece of fruit or vegetable sticks as part of their goûter, but be sure to educate them to why a piece of fruit is better than a packet of biscuits. You can turn it into a fun game, letting them choose what snacks they want that will make them big and strong like their favourite superhero or grow long beautiful hair like their favourite princess.
Going au naturel
Opt for organic whenever possible. I love the farmers market in Place d’Armes where I pick up locally grown seasonal and organic produce.
Look out for Domenico on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday or Romy on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. You’ll find them under the arches of the market; they also deliver which is really handy if you are always on the run like me.
Beating the breakfast blues
A wholesome and balanced breakfast is the best start for your children as it fuels them with the physical and mental energy they need to get through the morning of lessons. If they eat well for breakfast there should be little need for a big and unhealthy mid morning snack anyway.
You can “balance” their breakfast by including a good source of protein, fat and carbohydrate, which will keep them fuller for longer and help to improve concentration throughout the morning.
Examples of a protein breakfast include, yoghurt, cheese, nuts, seeds, greens or eggs. Use good fat, like coconut and olive oils, avocado, nuts and seeds and throw in carbohydrates – whole grains, fruit and vegetables – to name just a few of many examples. Avoid refined carbohydrates (anything white) and sugar as much as possible.
It’s hard to give them the perfect breakfast everyday so do your best to tick all the boxes in the best way you can. My son LOVES Rice Krispies, which are not nutritious but he has them with almond milk (fat/protein/carbohydrate) and a balanced protein smoothie (yoghurt or rice protein powder or peanut butter) with usually spinach, banana and avocado – which check all boxes. He’s happy with a little bowl of Rice Krispies and I’m happy that he is getting nourishing goodness. It’s a stress-free balanced happy start to the day.
Nothing sweet about sugar
Remembering that 1 tsp of granulated sugar equals 4g of sugar, you want to avoid sugar as much as possible when choosing ready-made snacks. Check the serving size of sugar (you may find that it is double!). Also bear in mind that dried fruits are high in sugar so be mindful about the serving size and balance with some nuts to slow down the sugar rush!
Aim to find a healthier replacement rather than the healthiest option, which makes changing habits easier and more achievable. Talk to your kids about the choices you are making to give them a better understanding of health.
For example, you could replace crisps with homemade popcorn or a natural shop-bought popcorn. You can even flavour it yourself with coconut oil and a little coconut sugar for a sweet taste or Himalayan salt and nutritional yeast for more savoury flavours. For a more convenient alternative, try the small bags of flavoured mini-rice cakes – I split one 60g bag into two snack servings – and you can find them in the bio section of the Spar, Carrefour and Marché U supermarkets in Monaco.
Set treat boundaries so your kids have something to look forward to and aren’t left feeling completely deprived while their school friends still feast on junk. This worked for me and my son looks forward to Sweetie Friday every week.
If you want to add in cookies and cakes, make them yourself so you know exactly what has gone into them. I have shared my favourite and easiest recipe below, which has been made by many Monaco Mums and featured in numerous school snack boxes over the years.
Top Lunch Box Snacks
Naomi’s Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe
150g almond powder
3 tbsp melted coconut oil (see Naomi’s Tip)
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla powder
pinch of Himalayan salt
½ cup dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs (healthier option)
For more healthy recipe ideas head to www.naomis.kitchen
Naomi’s Tip: To melt the coconut oil, submerge a glass jar into bowl of boiling hot water and wait a few minutes to melt. Coconut oil is a stable oil and can go from solid to liquid many times without spoiling or going rancid.
Share your tips or favourite healthy snack ideas on Instagram monacolife_
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