A s the summer vacation draws to a close, parents are frantically scurry - ing around finalizing their back-to- school preparations – books, stationery and other accessories.

It is interesting that while most parents will go to the ends of the earth to ensure that their child is not missing a vital text - book or mathematics accessory, few invest in adequate nutritional preparation for the coming school year.

Some schools provide catered meals, especially as children grow older and have longer school days. Parents spend a small fortune annually for these meals and, in most cases, tend to rely on the powers-that- be to ensure that the meals are well-bal - anced and nutritious.

As a veteran parent, having seen three kids through the school system with ca - tered lunches, I can tell you that if there is a power-that-be, he or she seems to demon - strate very little knowledge about nutrition, and the meals inevitably end up being items that are popular with the kids rather than nutritionally balanced.

Parents, unfortunately, fall into the trap of thinking that the catered meal will sup - ply the main nutritional input of the day and that the sandwich sent from home is just a bonus, a caloric boost to get their kids through the morning until lunch.

For any health-conscious parents, I encourage you to rethink this strategy and switch it around: Make your sandwich the nutritional part of the day and the catered lunch the bonus. The premise is that you have control over the sandwich sent from home and little or no control over the catered meal or what portion of it your child eats.

A simple sandwich can be an excellent, nutritionally balanced injection of ingredi - ents to take care of your child’s nutritional needs throughout the day.

A healthy sandwich starts with the bread.

Rather than using supermarket bread, which is predominantly starch, you can easily revolutionize your family’s health by baking your own sandwich loaves, which you can fill with other vital nutrients.

Since the bread component of the sandwich is the carbohydrate contributor, careful selection of the filling is necessary to nutritionally balance the sandwich.

By giving your child a supermarket bread sandwich with chocolate spread, jam or other sugary condiments, you are simply carbo-loading your child, providing an instant injection of calories that raise blood sugar rapidly but then cause it to fall just as rapidly a short time later. If eaten at 10 a.m., this kind of sandwich will give your child a boost of mental energy until about 10:30, followed by which the blood sugar will drop as rapidly as it rose, bottoming out even lower than before the sandwich was eaten and resulting in a sleepy, even lethargic, irritable child from 11 until lunchtime.

However, if the sandwich is made from bread rich in dietary fiber (bran) that slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream and, in addition, has a filling that is protein based, such as cheese, cold meat/salami, egg, etc., the carbohydrates from the bread will be gradually absorbed over a period of two to three hours, providing a steady flow of calories and energy to the brain from morn - ing break until lunch. Children eating such a sandwich will have longer attention spans and learn more effectively than those who carbo load.

Adding vegetables to the sandwich, such as a slice of lettuce, tomato etc., will add more nutritional value to the meal. If your child prefers cucumber or carrot sticks, these may be added on the side.

To ensure your children’s energy level throughout the afternoon, you would be wise to analyze with them which parts of the catered meals they actually eat every day and supplement the lacking portions.

The guideline is to combine carbohydrates with protein to ensure steady intake of calories and energy over an extended period of time.

How many parents neglect the subject of their child’s nutrition during school hours? They are then surprised when grades begin to fall and irritability causes tempers to flare and kids get into fights.

While it is true that the child’s natural intellect and personality play a major role in the above, mood and attention span are greatly affected by blood sugar levels dur - ing the day, and these may be optimal or pitiful with the simple addition or omis - sion of a wholesome sandwich.

WHOLESOME SANDWICH ROLLS

Makes 6 rolls (which freeze well)

✔ 3½ cups white flour
✔ ⅓ cup whole-grain flour (if your child will accept it, use only whole grain flour)
✔ 1 ⅓ cups water
✔ 2½ tsp. instant powdered yeast
✔ 3 tsp. salt
✔ ⅓ cup olive/canola oil

Plus:
✔ 1 egg, beaten
✔ Sesame seeds Mix dough ingredients and knead for 10 minutes. Leave to rise for 30 minutes.

Divide into six and roll out into round or elongated rolls. Place on baking tray and leave to rise for 1 hour.

Baste with egg and sprinkle with sesame.

Bake at 180° for 20 minutes.

Master baker Les Saidel is CEO of the Saidel Artisan Baking Institute (http:// www.saidels.com), which specializes in training and education in the field of or - ganic, healthy, artisan baking, and is the inventor of Rambam. He conducts baking workshops and courses year round for families and groups.

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