Term-time for teachers can be both hectic and stressful. Sometimes it can feel like you’re balancing several spinning plates…whilst riding a tricycle…balanced on a tightrope…all whilst being heckled by an angry audience. When exams, reports or data deadlines loom, it’s only natural that other plates begin to fall and crash; and let’s be honest, healthy diet is usually amongst the first victims.
Yet scientists have repeatedly proven that what we eat is incredibly important not only for our physical health but also for brain function, mood and overall emotional and mental health. Your school lunch has the potential to make your day run more smoothly – to give you the energy and positivity to act, react, think and feel a little better, in and out of the classroom. Or it can make you feel like crawling into hibernation. Your choice.
The key here is to make healthy choices as convenient as the less healthy ones. Here are five recipe ideas to get you started:
Simple chicken or turkey salad
Put a spring in your step with this filling, tasty and nutritious salad.
Simply throw together some grilled chicken or turkey, chopped romaine lettuce or fresh spinach, tomatoes, cucumber and celery. This is your base; what you do from here is up to you! I love to add avocado for some good fats and sprinkle on a tablespoon of milled linseed – it’s a great source of natural energy and gives it a gorgeous crunch. Dress the salad with a mix of extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon.
Peanut and courgette soup
This soup is hearty, wholesome and rich in potassium.
Cut your courgettes in half and lightly coat or spray in olive oil before roasting until soft. How many you use is up to you – I find that nine courgettes makes about four to five bowls of a good, thick soup. Blend the roasted courgettes in a large pan with a cup of water, bringing to simmer as you add seasoning and a sugar-free brand of peanut (or almond) butter to taste.
What now? This is a rather trendy one. It’s basically a mixture of wholegrain grains, veggies (cooked or raw), some good fats, a little protein and a yummy dressing.
For an energy boost, try combining roasted veg like butternut squash and Brussels sprouts, some raw veg such as spinach and beetroot, a small handful of walnuts, a handful of chickpeas and some brown rice. For the dressing, mix tahini with a little lemon juice, maple syrup and hot water. Or, you could swap the sauce and the chickpeas for hummus. The Buddha bowl may be a food fad, but it’s easy to make, tasty as anything and over-flowing with goodness.
Easy lettuce wraps
Wondering what to do with last night's leftover chilli or chicken fajitas? Spoon your chilli mix into some whole iceberg lettuce leaves, add a healthy sauce or extras if you wish, roll each leaf like a wrap and use cocktail sticks to ensure it holds. You retain the flavour of the chilli, without the heavy sluggishness of using a flour wrap.
Nut butter and banana sandwich
For those times when planning and preparation fails and you have one minute to create something edible before flying out of the door, help is at hand in the form of this child-friendly, energy-boosting classic. Make yourself a sandwich consisting of wholemeal bread, a nut butter of your choice and sliced banana. You’re getting a good balance of fibre, protein, carbs and wholegrains, and the banana will give you an instant boost. Plus… it’s nut butter.
- Cook smart by making extra portions of your evening meal/roasted veggies for the following day’s lunch.
- Soup is a great example of something you can make in bulk and freeze in portions: homemade ready-meals!
- If you just can’t even face salad without mayonnaise or salad cream, add some lemon juice to loosen it, so that you can do more with less.
- Aim to prepare food creatively and mindfully, seeing it as a treat rather than a chore.
Jo Steer is a teacher and experienced leader of SEND interventions