Our daily bread

Sugar and spice is all very nice, but carbohydrates keep you going. Elizabeth Holmes looks at sensible snacks

Exhausted already and only half way through the autumn term? With new school year resolutions long forgotten and a crabby feeling settling uncomfortably in your psyche, you could be heading for a dose of winter blues.

Yet the deluge of tasks facing teachers may not solely account for feelings of exhaustion, anxiety and depression: erratic eating patterns and a deficient diet may be factors.

Chocolate, biscuits, crisps, tea, coffee and fizzy drinks all produce a rapid high followed by a crashing low. These stimulants guzzle our energy, with a cup of coffee or tea causing as many disturbances in blood sugar levels as a chocolate bar. What we see in pupils' behaviour after a lunch of fat, sugar and additives we can see in ourselves (moderated) if we look.

Lorraine Perretta of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition says the right food can dramatically boost energy levels and reduce stress and exhaustion. The latest research suggests we should aim to snack on a complex carbohydrate plus a first-class protein (meat, fish, dairy product or tofu). This means eating, for example, a crispbread with cottage cheese or raw vegetables with tuna pate.

"It is believed that the combination of complex carbohydrate and protein produces the optimum rate of sugar release into the bloodstream, therefore sustaining even energy levels over a longer time," says Ms Perretta. "Nuts are also a good snack, with almonds being a great source of essential fatty acids which can balance hormones and improve skin condition as well."

Eating little and often also helps in limiting fatigue. Keep fat, sugar and refined foods to a minimum and have a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates, such as wholemeal bread, pasta and rice. Replace sugared, caffeinated drinks with plenty of diluted fruit juices, herbal or fruit teas or plain water.

Sensible snacking is not about becoming a health food fanatic, but it is about giving your body the best chance of coping with the demands you make on it daily.


* Take your share in keeping the staffroom tidy and washing up.

* Keep up with the available information. Dailyweekly happenings, changes to routine, timetables, duties, messages and union advice may be disseminated in a variety of ways. Check first thing each day and don't leave yourself vulnerable.

* Keep up to date on professional matters by reading publications such as The TES. If they are not provided by the school ask if they can be or buy your own.

* Be careful what you say in front of voluntary helpers. Close the door when confidential matters are being discussed. Remember that sound travels around corners.

* Remember, the staffroom is not a place for chatter while someone else is taking assembly. Perhaps you should be in your classroom.

* Leave the room promptly at the end of each break and don't make a habit of pinching extra minutes. Use the loo during the break.

* If children come to the staffroom door, don't intimidate them. They will be nervous enough about entering your territory without you emphasising it. There might be an emergency. Some parents are nervous too.

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