Nutrition and learning go hand in hand. Kids who are nutritionally fit are more likely to have the energy, stamina and self-esteem that enhance their ability to learn. As a new school year approaches, it’s important to remember the vital role nutrition plays in assuring your child’s successful school year.
Breakfast is Important
Research has shown that children who regularly ate breakfast had better standardized test scores, better behavior, and were less hyperactive than children who skipped breakfast. When comparing low glycemic index (GI) breakfasts to high GI breakfasts eaten by 9- to 12-year-old children, research also shows that children who eat high GI breakfasts (sugary breakfasts) tend to eat more at lunch.
What makes a good breakfast for children? High protein, low fat foods such as lean meat and whole grain cereals are good choices at breakfast. The protein and fiber from the whole grains will keep your child satisfied until lunch time.
Try to avoid giving your child sugary breakfast cereals, white-flour pancakes and syrup — all of which will leave your child hungry and tired half way through the morning. If your child tends to get hungry in the middle of the morning no matter what, send an apple, whole grain crackers, nuts and cheese snacks rather than sugary cookies or white-flour crackers.
Eating healthy at lunch will help keep your child’s mind sharp and ready to learn all afternoon. It’s easy to pack a nutritious lunch for your kids. The trick is to make sure they actually eat it.
Want to make a brown-bag lunch that doesn’t end up in the trash? Follow these simple tips:
1. Have some fun. Make sandwiches interesting and healthy. Stuff whole-wheat pitas with lean turkey or make PB&J cookie-cutter sandwiches: Spread whole-grain bread with organic peanut butter and fruit preserves, and use cookie cutters to create fun shapes.
2. Mix it up. Pack interesting, nourishing fruits instead of everyday apples and bananas. Strawberries are loaded with antioxidants and make fun finger foods. Or try cubed mangos, sliced kiwis or raspberries.
3. Avoid the sugary juice jolt. Try fruit spritzers made with real juice. Be sure to read the labels on juice drinks. Many contain only a small percentage of actual juice and are loaded with sugar and artificial sweeteners. And whatever you do, don’t pack soda!
After School Snacks
Even with a great breakfast and healthy lunch, a light after-school snack is good to refuel your child’s body before play or study time. A handful of nuts and an apple is perfect, or maybe a snack tray of vegetables and dips. Keep chips, pastries and candy out of the house. Studies show sugary and high glycemic index foods just make kids hungrier.
Teach your children about healthy foods
Here are some tips to help:
- Have the kids read over the different food pyramids and ask your kids to pick out some favorite foods from each food group.
- Let your kids help you plan a meal that includes a healthy serving of protein, a vegetable or two, and a healthy fruit for dessert.
- Keep a chart to keep track of all the fruits and vegetables they eat (we need at least five servings of fruits and veggies every day). After a month, reward them with a special toy or a fun outing for filling up the chart.
Teaching your children how to eat a healthy diet will have a bigger impact if you set the example. Eat right, get some exercise, and make a healthy lifestyle a family affair. Children who eat healthy foods will be more likely to make better food and nutrition choices as adults.
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