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Students’ busy schedules can interfere with them remaining healthy, in both body and mind, during the school year. One of the key aspects of physical and mental health that tends to suffer during the school year is getting the proper nutrition to remain productive.

“Proper nutrition nourishes your brain, improves your concentration, and stabilizes your energy levels,” says registered dietitian at NDC Nutrition at Work, Karine Levy. “By making sure that they have enough healthy food available, students can achieve better performance in their academic programs, and fight any potential energy slumps during busy periods.”

As a parent, here’s what you can do to ensure that your child is getting and maintaining proper nutrition, even when their post-secondary life may take them far from home.

Acknowledge the transitional phase

Have you, as a parent or caretaker, prepped and purchased meals for your child before they left for post-secondary school? I know many parents that have, which sometimes leads to their children having difficulty transitioning towards greater self-reliance during post-secondary school. “Many students are used to living at home, and now that they’re in school, they find that they don’t have the time or skills to prepare healthy meals,” says Levy. “The transition is hard, and an action plan needs to be created.”

As a parent, I know how challenging it can be to watch your child go through such a transition. Even though you can’t always physically be there for your child to help them with their meal prep, you can offer guidance and support. Let your child know that you are always a phone or Skype call away, and that you’d be happy to offer them tips and recipes for healthy foods that they have enjoyed in the past.

In addition to this, the most recent Canada Food Guide offers helpful insight into what a healthy nutrition plan consists of.

Advanced meal prep encouragement is key

“It all starts at the grocery store,” says Levy. “By setting aside one specific day during the week to go grocery shopping, and by planning meals in advance and writing a list, students will find that they won’t just end up eating healthier – they’ll also save money that they would be tempted to spend on eating out during the week.”

This is a very important tip for students. Most students that I’ve met have found that having a definitive plan in regards to their meals for the week has decreased their stress, increased their nutritional intake, and helped them develop stronger cooking skills.

Advanced meal prep also comes into play when it comes to finding healthy snacks. Encourage your children to buy snacks while grocery shopping that contain healthy proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Some of these foods include nuts, fruits, greek yogourt, whole grains, and veggies with hummus. Having a good assortment of these options readily available can help curb the urge to reach for “junk food” during those late-night study sessions.

Be a healthy food guide

Although I’ve already touched on offering your child guidance in accordance with food choices and meal prep ideas, the learning for students never ends. As much as you can provide them with ideas of how to eat healthier, nothing can beat the qualified advice from a registered dietitian.

“Social media has an overflow of information – some of it is accurate, and some of it isn’t,” says Levy. “Dietitians are specifically trained to create the best personalized nutrition plans for clients, and offer trusted advice in regards to their nutritional concerns. They are the experts, and when it comes to determining what’s best for students’ nutrition, speaking with a dietitian is the best option.”

Your Student Assistance Program (SAP) will offer resources to help your child determine their own custom nutrition plan, putting them in touch with qualified, experienced dietitians who can help them feel their best during the school year. As challenging as it can be to help your child navigate their post-secondary years, your SAP can help you and your child get the most out of their academic journey while supporting their physical and emotional wellbeing.

If your child is up to the age of 21, or up to the age of 25 and a full-time student, they can receive nutrition counselling services through your SAP. For more information on how you can help your child take charge of their nutritional challenges and maintain a well-balanced, energy-boosting diet, contact your Student Assistance Program provider today.