Eat smart: How to improve academic performance
Healthy eating can help learners in the classroom
Children can improve their academic performance by altering their eating habits to include healthy snacks in their daily routines. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report showed that eating a healthy diet and being physically active can balance kids’ energy levels for optimal attentiveness, increase focus and improve their overall academic performance.
Parents, help your learners develop smart eating habits by providing them with healthy snack options that can improve their brain function, memory and concentration.
What are healthy choices for kids?
A University of Lethbridge study showed that water has a significant impact on kids’ biological, neurological, environmental, psychological and emotional wellness. When kids are hydrated, they learn better and absorb more information. Results of the study found that when children are hydrated they feel more alert, energized and focused, and they are less irritable, tired, moody and stressed. Sadly, half of all children don’t drink enough water. Kids from the ages of 6 to 19 are at least a little dehydrated on a regular basis. Did you know that when your brain is even slightly dehydrated it performs 10 to 15 percent slower? Poor hydration affects mental performance and learning ability by reducing the brain’s capability to send and receive information. By the time children feel thirsty, their ability to pay attention, concentrate and remember things decreases by as much as 10 percent, the University of Lethbridge’s findings revealed.
It’s important to make sure children drink the recommended six to eight glasses of water spread throughout the day. Encourage your learners to drink water instead of soda or juice during scheduled breaks to develop the healthy habit.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development says kids are lacking in another key nutrient: calcium, which promotes bone health and development. Ninety percent of girls and 70 percent of boys do not get enough calcium in their diets. Calcium is a pivotal component of a healthy diet because it increases kids’ energy levels, reduces the risk of illness and speeds intellectual and cognitive development. The CDC conducted a study reporting kids’ diets lacking in specific nutrients such as calcium are associated with lower grades and higher rates of absenteeism and tardiness.
Cheese, yogurt and a big glass of milk can supply kids the calcium they need to grow. If your kids don't get the recommended amount of calcium daily, reaching the recommended amount as an average over a few days or a week is an alternative to make sure they’re getting the nutrients they need.
For kids to be attentive and awake throughout the day, it’s important they get the nutrients they need to be energized. We get most of our energy from carbohydrates because every part of our body uses them.
Carbohydrates should provide 50 to 60 percent of the energy a child needs from food. Energy helps kids fight fatigue, illness and distractions, allowing them to complete their schoolwork and pay attention to their lessons. The CDC’s study on health and academic performance found that hunger due to insufficient food intake correlates with lower grades, higher rates of absenteeism, repeating a grade and an inability to focus. Choosing healthy options such as whole-grain cereals, brown rice and potatoes will help your children feel fuller longer and will benefit their bodies and minds.
It’s easy to forget how many snacks kids eat between meals. A study by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that kids get 42 percent of their daily calorie intake from snacks, which makes snack times almost like additional meals.
Forty percent of kids’ calories come from unhealthy snacks. By choosing healthy snacks such as fresh fruit and bite-size vegetables, kids receive nutritious boosts of energy rather than calories lacking the nutrients they need to perform. Because kids are far more likely to choose sweets or salty snacks, it’s important to set up your kitchen to promote healthier options.
Making healthy eating choices is not always easy, but you can incorporate these smart eating habits into your kids' everyday routine. Stocking your kitchen and pantry with healthy snacks, encouraging your kids to drink lots of water during breaks and serving milk with dinner or yogurt with breakfast are simple ways to teach smart habits while improving academic performance.