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A Nutritionist’s Back-to-School Shopping List

What’s on your back to school shopping list?

New clothes? Pencils? Binders? Backpack? An iPhone? We tend to get sucked into the back-to-school hype and it can be easy to overdo it with the shopping. In reality though, our children probably don’t need most of the new clothes and school supplies we buy them. Although I do like my daughter to have a new outfit for back to school, what’s front and center in my mind is the following:

What is she going to eat and drink at school?

How am I going to prevent her from getting sick at school?

With this in mind, here’s what’s on my back-to-school list:

1. Probiotics:

A good probiotic supplement will help aid with digestion and boost immunity. I like the Progressive or Genestrabrands, as both use a human strain of bacteria making it more likely to colonize in the gut. Both have a children version, which is about 5-10 billion CFUs (colony-forming units).


2. Immune Boosting Herbs:

September is the time I usually start the kids on Deep Immune by St. Francis. Deep Immune herbs are meant to be taken as a preventative for a short period of time. They have a specific product for kids. However, you can also add lots of immune-boosting herbs to food. Ginger, turmeric, oregano and garlic are all good for the immune system and can be added to soups, stews and sauces. Elderberry syrup is another great option to boost immunity and it is sweet, so kids will like it. We put a bit on our pancakes instead of maple syrup. Or a bit in a smoothie. It also makes a good cough syrup. Use only small amounts though, because it can be overly sweet.


3. Vitamin D:

If you’ve ever had a nutrition consultation with Essential Balance, you would know that we almost never recommend vitamin supplements. We believe that you should get most of your vitamins and minerals from food. Vitamin D is the one exception. Here in Canada, it can be very difficult to get sufficient levels of vitamin D from the sun. Vitamin D is vital for immunity and bone, especially growing bones. So now that summer vacation is over and your kids will be spending less time outside, it is time to pick up some vitamin D and give them about 2,000 IUs before they head out the door in the morning. This will also help improve their mood.


4. A Water Bottle:

As a child I remember the drinking fountains at school. They often didn’t work,or kids spit gum in them. Basically, no one wanted to use them.

By the time I got to high school, I remember the vending machines where I could buy water. Most of my less health-minded peers would opt for the pop instead. I would guess that your average student probably has less than 500 mL of water per day while at school. Given that adults need optimally minimum 3L per day, school-aged children need at least 1-2 L depending on age, size and activity level. Dehydration affects your ability to think clearly, regulate your body temperature and inhibits bowel function. Not to mention, makes you irritable and tired. On average, I would recommend sending off your primary school-aged kids with at least 500 mL of water a day and your high school aged kids with at least 1 litre of water. Have them pick out a couple of water bottles that they like (stainless steel is better than plastic of course.) If they don’t like the taste of water, they can add some lemon, cucumber or fruits. They can even add a few ice cubes so it will stay a bit cooler throughout the day. Even water with a bit of organic juice is better than no water at all.


5. Healthy nut-free delicious snacks:

One of the main complaints I get from parents is that even if they send healthy snacks to school, the kids won’t eat them. Instead, they share with another child or buy something from the cafeteria or vending machine.  To combat this, I prepare some delicious school-safe snacks that they won’t want to trade. They seem like sweets, but they contain natural sweeteners and less of it. Plus, they contain lots of fiber or protein or healthy fats (or all three to slow down the release of blood sugar). Blood sugar balance is very important in children and teens. They need to eat healthy foods often for sustained energy throughout the day. This will ensure they are happy and focused. Here are some of my go-to school-safe snacks:

  • Black bean brownies from Minimalist Baker (as seen below!)
  • Raw bliss balls made with sun-butter, oats, flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, dates
  • Oatmeal raisin cookies
  • Healthy “Rice Krispies squares” made with puffed quinoa or brown rice and brown rice syrup and pumpkin seeds.


Gluten Free Vegan Black Bean Brownies! Had some left over black beans from my fajitas the other night, so of course I made brownies. The protein and the fibre in the beans help to balance out the sugar. I’ve made a few black bean brownies before but this recipe from minimalist baker is by far the best! Here it is: 1 3/4 cup cooked black beans 2 large flax eggs (2 heaping Tbsp (~16 g) flaxseed meal + 6 Tbsp (90 ml) water) 3 Tbsp (45 g) coconut oil, melted (or sub other oil of choice) 3/4 cup (72 g) cocoa powder (the higher quality the better) 1/4 tsp sea salt 1 tsp pure vanilla extract heaping 1/2 cup coconut sugar 1 1/2 tsp baking powder Optional toppings: crush walnuts, pecans, or dairy-free semisweet chocolate chips Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the flax egg and set aside. Blend all ingredients except for toppings in a food processor. If you are using canned beans make sure to drain and rinse thoroughly. Add water to get he right consistency. Shouldn’t be runny but less thick than chocolate frosting. Add flax egg and process again. Add toppings and scoop into muffin tins. Make sure to grease muffin tins with coconut oil. Bake in oven for approximately 25-30 minutes. For full instructions check out @minimalistbaker. Enjoy 😊 As an aside it’s always better to soak and cook your beans instead of using canned. Cans are often lined with BPA plus they may contain unwanted additives. I also think homemade tastes a lot better. . . . #blackbeans #veganbrownies #plantbased #vegandessert #healthydessert #plantbasedprotein #blackbeanbrownies #nutritionistapproved #glutenfree #flourlessbrownies #bloodsugarbalance #minimalistbaker #chocolatevegan #glutenfreevegan #glutenfreeveganbaking #bpafree #cleaneating #cleaneatingrecipe #yorkville #yorkvilletoronto #toronto #blogto #vaughan #essentialbalanceholistic

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Kirsten Colella is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and the busy mother of a 7-year-old and 1-year-old. She has experienced first-hand the difference good nutrition can make in her own children’s lives. She is a strong believer in families supporting one another and coming together over good food! 

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