By Massa Bitar, MS RD
Studies show a strong link between childrens’ diet and their performance in school. Parents should start taking action to raise better generations.
Everyone agrees that nutrition plays an essential role in raising healthy children. Yet, our society struggles with the paradox of children being overfed and undernourished.
According to a 2013 survey, 3.5 million children in Saudi Arabia are obese.
In fact, recent studies are showing that nutrition not only can influence your children’s health but also their academic performance. With life’s increasing pressures nowadays, better academic achievement can lead to better job opportunities and a generally better socio-economic status. Consequently, a good diet in childhood not only enhances health but also overall life conditions in the future.
This article explains how diet affects school children’s academic performance and gives parents helpful tips on how to improve their children’s overall diet quality.
Evidence has now established strong and consistent associations between breakfast consumption and better academic performance. A healthy breakfast improves cognitive functions (memory and neural efficiency) and reduces absenteeism and tardiness, whereas skipping breakfast may lead to difficulty concentrating, shorter attention span and memory problems.
Research has shown that the best breakfast type is based on low-glycemic-index food, ensuring slow and consistent sugar release to the blood. This would lead to improved concentration ability during the several hours between breakfast and lunch and to better cognitive functions.
Examples of good breakfasts that both parents and schools can provide include the following:
• Low-fat yogurt with whole grain cereal and fruit.
• Whole-grain, low-sugar cereal with milk and a piece of fruit.
• Vegetable-omelet and milk.
• Steel-cut oatmeal with sliced apples, cinnamon and nuts.
• Tomato, avocado and cheese on whole-wheat toast.
• A piece of string cheese, a piece of fruit and a handful of pumpkin seeds.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals which reduces the risk of nutrient deficiencies and protects the body from diseases and infections, leading to fewer missed days of school and more time spent learning.
Generally, findings suggest that the consumption of the following foods leads to lower grades in school:
- Soft drinks
- French fries
This might be due to the fact that poor quality diets may lack certain nutrients such as iron and zinc, which play a key role in brain development, cognitive function and behavior.
Available literature clearly suggests that having a good quality diet that includes fruits and vegetables, while avoiding unhealthy foods, leads to better grades in schools. Set your children up for success with a nutritious breakfast and pack them a health promoting lunch with whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables and protein.
This ensures they obtain the daily recommended intake of vitamins and minerals and thus leads to better school performance.