Cookin' With Chef Kyle Williams

Discover the essential ingredients of a healthy school day

Chef Kyle Williams — October 2020

Nutrition tips for at-home learning.

As the father of two school-age children, I can empathize with the uncertainty and pressure associated with the new reality of virtual learning. On top of our typical parenting and job responsibilities, some of us also need to serve as de-facto homeschool teachers or tutors for our kids. Getting dinner on the table can feel like an impossible feat to begin with for some, and now we need to consider additional feeding and caring for our kids who would typically be at school during the day. However, I like to think of this as an opportunity to help teach my children not only their daily lessons from school, but the value of eating nutritious food and the importance of a balanced diet.

Here are some tips to help parents make this school year more productive in both the virtual classroom and the kitchen.

Ingredients for a healthy school day.

There isn’t one magic vitamin or solution that will keep your children alert and full for the entire school day. It takes a combination of healthy habits, including a balanced diet, to keep the brain alert and a student’s stomach full so they can engage successfully in virtual learning.

To keep the brain active, I recommend serving food that includes omega-3 and vitamins E or B. These vitamins are so important in meals because omega-3 is a key nutrient for brain health, vitamin B is a great antioxidant that supports brain function, and vitamin E has been discovered to improve memory function.

Try to feed your kids foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals rather than relying on supplements. Salmon is one example of a simple, healthy food that’s high in omega-3 fatty acids. Egg dishes such as veggie omelets or scrambled eggs are easy-to-make sources of vitamin E. Avoid unhealthy foods and beverages like candy, soda pop, and fast food, because these can negatively impact brain function, and are high in calories but low in nutrients. 

Health is not just about what you eat – it’s about what you do when you’re not eating, too. Depending on how old they are, kids should drink 7 to 10 cups of water daily. Adequate sleep, exercise, socially distant interaction and a healthy home life are also crucial for keeping students alert throughout the school day.

Simple meal ideas.

Though it can be a challenge, getting into a good routine for healthy eating is vital to your children’s academic performance. Two studies from Tufts University found eating breakfast helps control appetite and keeps kids focused on learning throughout the school day.

Here are a few easy-to-prepare meals to add to your repertoire. You can count on them to keep your kids alert and energized during their daily studies. 

Breakfast:

  • Low-fat Greek yogurt parfait with chia seeds, fresh berries, whole-grain granola, and honey 
  • Eggs, roasted potatoes, fresh greens, and whole grain toast
  • Veggie omelet
  • Loaded oatmeal with chia seeds, nuts, and dried fruits
  • For a great side to any breakfast, hard-boil two eggs

Lunch: 

  • Salmon, brown rice, veggies, and avocado
  • Bibimbap, a Korean dish consisting of a bowl of brown rice, meat, vegetables, and hard-boiled eggs
  • Grain bowls or salads with a mix of fat, protein, and vegetables
  • A turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with avocado, spinach, tomato, and onion, plus veggie sticks with hummus and sliced fruit

Snacks:

  • Components of the plant-based, Mediterranean diet, such as hummus, dates, vegetables, nuts, figs, fruits, and olives
  • Dark chocolate, in moderation, is a good source of antioxidants
  • Food that involves “good” carbohydrates, such as brown rice or quinoa (limit “bad” carbs like candy and chips, as these can cause a spike in insulin and can lead to childhood diabetes)
    • When serving foods high in carbs, balance the meal with foods like apples, nuts, or slices of turkey

From the kitchen of Chef Kyle Williams.

Bon appétit!

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