How to eat healthy as a teacher

Teachers across Canada, whether in Alberta or Quebec or otherwise, have a big responsibility every day to educate young minds and inspire students to learn. But as an educator, you also have the responsibility to take care of yourself and ensure that you’re in good health for teaching throughout the week. Plus, this gives you the additional chance to model positive behaviour to your students – it’s never too early to teach students to make good nutritional choices!

That said, it’s understandable if you might need a quick guide to developing better nutrition habits – you’ve got a lot on your plate as a teacher, after all. Here’s how to begin your school day strong and keep your energy levels high throughout the day:

Get a Good Start

It’s true that teachers have a lot to do in the morning to get ready, but it should go without saying that hitting the drive-through at a fast food place won’t give you the best start to the school day. Skipping breakfast in general can be just as bad – you may end up sluggish and feeling more tired than usual, and you definitely won’t have enough energy to keep you going throughout your morning lessons.

That’s why it’s important that a strong morning begins the night before – with some quick and easy meal prep for the following day’s breakfast. You could try simple combinations of granola, yogurt, fruit, and nuts to help power you through the early hours. Otherwise, you could prepare overnight oats to be ready for you in the morning, or even make mini frittatas that can be frozen and unthawed as needed.

Snack Smart

Say that you skipped breakfast this morning, or that you loaded up on empty carbs and sugar (like a donut or a muffin with a latte). Is the break room vending machine calling your name halfway through the morning? This is the common problem when you don’t get a proper breakfast – you tend to turn to unhealthy snacks to keep you going, and those snacks in turn can cause energy dips and crashes depending on how much sugar and carbs are in them. Definitely not where you want to be when you’re up at the front of the classroom going through a lesson plan!

The solution here is to bring your own healthy snacks to fuel your day. Again, this requires a little more advance prep, but taking the time to portion out your own snacks – packing things with protein and good fats, such as 1% yogurt, cheese sticks, nuts and dried fruit, or raw vegetables with hummus – ensures that you’re eating less sodium and saturated fats. Plus, it’ll save you money at the vending machine as well.

Make Meal Planning a Priority

Speaking of meal prep – and you might be noticing a pattern here – but it’s definitely recommended that you start planning your meals ahead of time. If you’re left with an empty fridge at the end of the day, you’re going to be more likely to order delivery or buy takeout on your way home from school. The occasional indulgence won’t be the end of the world, but it’s when it becomes a pattern that you’ll see it affect your energy levels – and your bank account.

If it sounds like meal prep is going to take you forever, don’t worry – it can be as quick and simple as putting together your lesson plans for the week. Meal prep can include slow cooker meals or even healthy frozen meals that can be pulled out on those extra-long teaching days. If you can take a bit of time on the weekends to make big batches of meals that freeze well – such as soups or chili – not only can you bring leftovers for a few days, but you can also have ready-made food to unthaw in the future.

At the end of the day, going for convenience when it comes to nutrition may be satisfying in the moment, but it can have negative effects on you in the long run. Instead, it’s best to use the planning skills that have gotten you so far as a teacher and sort out what you’re going to eat ahead of time – whether it’s for breakfast, as snacks to keep you going, or for a healthy lunch and dinner.

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