With school starting this week, I wanted to focus on kids today. I know that you all have heard about the correlation between our nutrition and our performance. But I wonder how many of you actually take it seriously when it comes to our kids? I hope that this article wakes some of you up when it comes to your kids health and school performance – we NEED to take back control when it comes to what our kids eat!
Conventional wisdom says that nutrient deficiency is somehow connected to poor academic performance. But why is this so? Quite simply, the human brain needs a large number of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and amino acids to produce neurotransmitters and other important brain compounds. A lack of nutrients can result in chemical abnormalities and missed connections.
Brain science is demonstrating that it doesn’t take much of a nutrition deficit to have a major effect. Brain chemistry can change as a result of a lack of a single nutrient, giving rise not only to diminished mental acuity, but also to mental/emotional disturbances and behavioral disorders such as hyperactivity, Attention Deficit Disorder, anxiety, depression, eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia), drug and alcohol addiction, autism and violence.
If lack of nutrients can have these results, then can the plastic brain repair itself as a result of improved nutrition. The answer appears to be a resounding “yes.” As a result of changes in school diet in the early 1980s in New York City schools, the average performance of New York schools rose from the 41st percentile to the 51st percentile – a large gain that statistically could have no other explanation.
A more recent study from England of children with attention deficit disorder demonstrated the salutary effects of imposing a regular, nutritious diet. For a period of three to four weeks, the children were on a very restricted diet, generally consisting of: turkey, lamb, rice, potato, banana, pear, various vegetables, bottled water, sunflower oil and milk-free margarine.
The results were fairly astonishing. 76% of parents reported a worthwhile improvement in behavior. The rest reported no change. Equally interesting, for the children who improved, the subsequent introduction of food additives into the diet resulted in a deterioration in behavior for 70% of the participants.
All this goes to show that it’s not only true that you are what you eat, but that kids’ performance in school is likely to follow the type of food they eat. If they eat well, they’ll do well. If they eat junk food, they’re likely to get junk grades.
Jamie Oliver is a big voice when it comes to changing the way kids eat at school. His show “Food Revolution” has opened the eyes of many. Please visit the website for more information, and sign the petition!
So there IS a grass roots project to get quality foods in our kid’s schools, but what can we do in the meantime to ensure our kids are getting the right fuel? We take control of their lunches! I know that a lot of your kids will groan and complain about you packing their lunch, but as a parent, it is your job to protect and teach them. I have been making my kids lunches so long, that I can now tell my oldest to pack the lunches and know that she is making the right choices- that they are eating quality, real foods. I know that if your kids are in high school, making their lunches is probably not an option. Still, their health is your responsibility. Instead of packing them a lunch, take time to teach them why they need to make clean food choices. Buy them “The Eat Clean Diet” book. Get “Supersize Me” and/or “Food, Inc” and watch them together. (I recommend these 3 resources for EVERYONE!)
What does clean eating look like in a lunchbox?
No prepackaged foods/snacks, no sodas or juice, and no candy/dessert. Instead, fresh fruits and vegetables. Try to include a protein, a fruit, a vegetable, and some whole-grain in each lunch.
A typical lunch for my kids looks like this: chicken salad on a whole grain wrap with baby spinach leaves, fresh pineapple, sweet baby carrots and water. The key to beating boredom is variety and color!
Tips: Water is ALWAYS the best choice for their drink, but to mix things up, you could add a splash of lemon or lime juice. You could also give them organic, fat-free milk, but we need to also make sure they are drinking enough water every day.
Buy lots of different fruit, and let them pick a different fruit each day for lunch and one for a snack. Don’t sweeten their fruit. Fruit has natural sugar, and it helps train the brain not to crave sugar. If you must sweeten something, use an all natural sweetener like Agave Nectar, raw honey, or Stevia.
Pick a whole-grain bread instead of white or honey. Try using a whole-grain wrap instead of bread some days.
Skip the lunch meat! (That’s a whole blog in itself!) Instead try cooking chicken, ham, roast or turkey on the weekend and slicing it up for the week.
Add a little lettuce or spinach to their sandwich to add even more vegetables.
Switch to all natural peanut butter. Add sliced fruit to their peanut butter sandwich instead of jelly. Try making a wrap with fruit and peanut butter too!
Include a home-made trail mix, or celery with all natural peanut butter topped with raisins, or some whole grain crackers with all natural cheese for a snack if they are staying after school for activities.
Get your kids involved in packing their lunches. Talk about why they need to eat this way, and encourage them to look for new foods they would like to try!
I am passionate about teaching the next generation to eat REAL FOOD! Here are some other blogs that will help you do the same.