Yet again, summer has flown by, and kids are heading back for what we hope is a healthy new school year. Parents can help to make this a reality by following these timely health and nutrition recommendations.
Start the Day Off Right
Studies show that children who eat nutritious breakfasts function better. They do better in school, and have better concentration and more energy, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. So, what makes a good breakfast for children?
Protein, healthy fats and fiber are the most important food groups at this time of day. They will leave your child feeling satiated for several hours instead of creating peaks and valleys of energy. A good example of this would be: an egg, a slice of whole grain toast with nut butter, a piece of fruit, and a glass of organic milk or small glass of juice.
Lean meat, whole-grain cereals with nuts and high protein/high fiber bars are also good filling choices at breakfast. The protein and fiber from the whole-grains will keep your child satisfied until lunch time. And if your children aren’t fans of typical breakfast foods, think about serving leftovers. Chicken, a turkey sandwich and even pork tenderloin are better at the early hours than a breakfast without protein. Scrambled egg burritos may be a fun option to try.
Avoid giving your child options like: sugary breakfast cereals, white-flour pancakes and syrup, instant oatmeal, donuts, white bread toast with jam, toaster pastries and fast food, all of which will leave your child hungry and tired half way through the morning. Although kids may disagree, eating sugar on an empty stomach will only increase their cravings for sweets. If your child tends to get hungry in the middle of the morning no matter what, send an apple, whole-grain crackers or cereal, veggies, nuts or cheese snacks rather than sugary cookies or white-flour crackers.
Get Re-Fueled with a Healthy Lunch
If you prefer not to pack lunches every day, you can refer to your child’s school cafeteria menu and plan to send food from home just on days when the main courses are not particularly healthy or are dishes that your child prefers not to eat.
Encourage your child to eat a balanced diet including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy products (or other calcium sources), and healthy fat sources such as olive oil, nuts and seeds. Start with a sandwich: whole-grain bread with nut butter, turkey, string cheese or another type of lean protein. Try making a mixture of fruits and vegetables — like carrots, dried cranberries and grapes — in one container for a fun, colorful mealtime treat.
Eating a proper lunch will give your child the fuel to be an effective student the rest of the day. These healthy foods can help students perform better in the classroom and improve overall health. Scientists have also established a link between student behavior and nutrition, noting that access to proper nutrition can help students maintain psychosocial well-being and reduce aggression. This can have a positive effect on students by avoiding discipline and school suspension.
Always be sure that your child has access to plenty of pure water throughout the day. It is the best option for both children and adults. Some kids may enjoy a glass of organic milk at times, but keep an eye on “juice” drinks, many of which can be high in sugar and empty calories. Stick with 100 percent fruit juice as a more healthy option for your family. Discourage your child from drinking caffeine, as it stays in the system for an average of seven hours. This means an after-school coffee drink can interfere with their much-needed sleep at night.
Support a Healthy Immune System
There are also nutrients that can help support your child’s resistance to seasonal health concerns that arrive during back-to-school season. Vitamin C is probably the best-known nutrient for supporting the immune system, but there are others as well. Probiotics, or “friendly” bacteria, are good for not only digestive system health, but also supporting the body’s natural resistance to viral and bacterial infections. And, omega-3 fatty acids, known for supporting the brain, are believed to support the healthy activation and number of T-cells in the body.
If your child does not consume the recommended daily amounts of these nutrients, you may choose to address these gaps with supplementation. Just stop by Natural Healthy Concepts in Appleton or Fond du Lac, and our friendly, knowledgeable staff will be ready to help.
Oh, and back to our opening question …
Is good nutrition important for good learning? In one word — Yes!