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Nutrition Tips For School Leaders

Does this sound familiar…You arrive at school early, breakfast is a tea or coffee (if you’re lucky), go straight to a staff meeting before registration and that runs straight into the next appointment, perhaps a difficult discussion with parents….then it’s the next meeting and there they are….a plate of biscuits….what are you going to do?

The rest is history. Having worked as a Teacher myself for 8 years, I know how time poor we can all be working in education. Our schedules are dictated by the curriculum and our pupils. A morning break is 15-20 mins for them to grab a snack and a drink, a lunchtime even longer, whereas classroom staff and school leaders will often be on duties before, during and after school. This makes being consistent with nutrition a real challenge, however there are things to consider that can help overcome these obstacles.

Sensible Meal Preparation
The term ‘meal prep’ conjures up images of endless lines of tupperware full of chicken, broccoli and rice. This doesn’t have to be the case. When preparing a family meal, for example Spaghetti Bolognese, rather than cooking enough for that evening… cook extra! This takes little/no extra effort as you are already cooking and gives you the opportunity to store extra, home cooked food in either the fridge or freezer for another day. You also have the extra option of taking a prepared lunch that simply needs a blast in the microwave.

Snack Effectively
In the scenario I mentioned earlier, if you’re hungry and have nothing to hand, of course you’re more likely to reach for those biscuits sat in the middle of the table during a meeting.
However, take snacks you know you enjoy but are healthier than simply filling up on processed junk. Snacking isn’t just about hunger – it keeps your metabolic rate going and prevents the feeling of a ‘crash’ when energy levels slump mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Breaktime or PPA time is a good time to grab a quick snack. Here are some ideas that are quick, easy and convenient:

i) A Piece of Fruit. Banana’s, apples etc are good providers of energy as well as being excellent for your health.
ii) Malt loaf/Ryvita/Crispbreads (you can add toppings and spreads to these, both savoury and sweet). These are more naturally sourced, healthier versions of cake and crisps etc… again making a ‘better’ choice is preferable to forcing yourself to eat things you dislike. That’s often why restrictive and extreme diets are unsuccessful and damaging both physically and mentally.
iii) Greek Yoghurt/Rice Pudding. A pot of either of these are good sources of protein and carbohydrate. Add fruit or honey to Greek yoghurt. These are just a few examples of snacks you could take to work – being prepared is key! If you have food to hand then you are less likely to need to reach for junk food.

Stay Hydrated
This is something we all know we should do and is perhaps one of the easier changes we can make to our day-to-day lifestyle. Working in education can make it trickier to have constant access to water with teaching in different locations but a good quality refillable water bottle can make a big difference. You often hear that you should drink 2.5 – 3.5 litres a day. This is indeed optimal but don’t over pressure yourself to do this solely at work. If you get through half that amount you will be more than adequately hydrated and will have ticked off a large amount of what you need to fulfil for the day.

‘Cheat Days’
This is a term that has taken prominence over the last few years. It is not an approach that I think is a healthy one, either in terms of physical or mental health. It is a technique used by some physique competitors to manipulate their metabolic rate to drop bodyfat. However, to mentally attune yourself to wait until a particular day to deliberately gorge upon less healthy foods is unwise. The human body generally doesn’t like to be subjected to extremes. Pumping huge amounts of salt and fat through your digestive system in a 24 hour period will make you feel sluggish and potentially unwell. Furthermore, it can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food based on a ‘siege mentality’ for the majority of the week waiting for the designated day of decadence. This leads me on to my last point below.

Moderation and Consistency
Both these factors are key to maintaining good health inside and out. To lose bodyweight and/or improve body composition you don’t need extreme measures. In the ‘Tortoise and the Hare’ metaphor, physical health is very much conditioned to being the Tortoise. Your body cannot react as quickly as your emotional impulses, so a week of ‘perfect’ nutrition and exercise won’t register if the following week you fall short. Moreover, you want to have leeway to lead a normal life; if a dinner or event comes up, you should be able to enjoy this guilt free. Similarly if work prevents you completing a workout or activity then it’s not the end of the world. Set yourself sensible and sustainable targets that you can maintain without unrealistic pressure and sacrifice.
A ‘Treat Meal’ once or twice a week is good. It gives your metabolic rate a gentle nudge and also is something to look forward to. Similarly with snacks, if you’re partial to chocolate, sweet treats (or in my case tortilla chips!) then choose an evening where you have a film or TV program you’re looking forward to and accompany this with that favourite snack.

Exercise….the ‘Perceived Hour’
I wanted to finish on a short note on Exercise and Activity. Society has, over time, produced one hour as being the bench mark for Workouts, Exercise and Activity. This is simply not the case!!
Workouts as short at 10 minutes can be very effective, as it’s not the amount of time you spend training, it’s how you train within that time. You need to be consistently improving if you want to get better, whatever your fitness level. Push yourself and be honest with yourself too!! Many people train at half-effort – they leave too much ‘in the tank’ and once they’ve hit their target, be it repetitions or time, they stop regardless of whether they could have kept going. It is this ‘progressive overload’ that encourages your body to get fitter, stronger or faster. If you want some Workout Plans and ideas, search for ‘SAS Gym’ in the app store and download our App to unlock a multitude of different workouts for home and gym workout plans for all levels of experience and fitness. You can also find SAS Gym on Instagram with the handle @sasgymuk.