The new school year is finally with us. We can now relax after weeks of concentrating on the subject of finding all the books and school accessories for our children. Yet among this shopping splurge we rarely thought that if we want our child to succeed at school, we must also take proper care of their everyday diet. That is why, together with an expert, we have prepared suggestion on how to compose a menu for your child while they’re at school.
40% of pupils leave home for school without breakfast, one in five pupils eats fast-food more than twice a week, and over 44% of teenagers eat sweets more than once a day – these are the results of research conducted by the Polish Society of Dietetics. Consequently, many children not only weigh too much but they also have problems with concentration and memory.
Create good habits early
Hardly anyone needs to be convinced that our health depends on how we eat. However, we often forget that diet influences not only our physical and mental state, but also the intellectual development of our child. Various components of our meals stimulate production of neurotransmitters responsible for sending signals between neurons. Without them, memorizing or associating facts would not be possible.
If we want our child to succeed in its education, assisting them with healthy eating can only help and correct eating habits should be shaped from early childhood. How can we do that? – The best idea is to lead by example. First it is worth to examine our own habits. If our child notices the parents skipping breakfast, avoiding vegetables or eating chips when watching TV in the evening, it will be difficult to convince them to behave in a different way – emphasizes Monika Molenda-Dąbrowska, dietician from Medicover Hospital.
Morning portion of energy
Short tests, exams, projects, homework – to deal with all of these challenges, a pupil’s brain must work at its full capacity practically all day long. And we must make sure that we supply “fuel” to our child already in the morning, by serving a nourishing and healthy breakfast. It may include, for example, oatmeal or natural muesli with fruit and milk, natural yogurt or vegetable “milk”. If our child prefers sandwiches, make sure they are made with whole-grain bread and ensure a relevant portion of proteins that can be supplied in, for example, cottage cheese or vegetables. The meal composed in this way supplies energy and makes us feel satiated for a long time.
Whilst breakfast is very important, we should not forget about lunch. By preparing a meal for consumption at school you can make it easier for your child to resist the temptation of buying a bun, chocolate bar, chips or a sweet fizzy drink.– Such snacks cause sudden changes of blood-glucose level which make it more difficult for a child to concentrate in class, losing intellectual capacity and fighting a growing appetite for unhealthy snacks. This is a vicious circle – Monika Molenda-Dąbrowska, dietitian, adds. For this reason, if there is such an option, it is better to buy lunch at school (however, first check the menu offered by the school canteen) or simply prepare the lunch at home. Pack brown bread sandwiches with lean cold meat or cottage cheese and vegetables, also adding fruit and yogurt with a natural juice or mineral water to your child’s school bag.
What components are worth adding to those or other meals of a pupil to support brain work? Vegetable fats (for example, olive) are important since they supply the organism with linoleic acid – its deficiency results in lowered concentration and apathy. It is worth to offer our child the snacks with high content of magnesium and vitamin E, e.g. nuts. – Let’s make sure that our child’s diet also includes products rich in zinc and iron as tests have shown that their deficiency results in lowered mental capabilities. The source of these elements is whole-meal bread and leguminous plants. Zinc can also be found in pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds as well as fish, which additionally contains precious phosphorus. Meanwhile, iron can be found in parsley leaves and spinach –Monika Molenda-Dąbrowska from Medicover Hospital additionally suggests.
Let’s also make sure that sources of B group, and particularly B3, vitamins are present in the menu as scientists have proved that their deficiency weakens our memory and is the cause of problems with concentration and sleep. We can find those, among others, in wholegrain bread and tuna. And lecithin, which stimulates our memory, can be found in peanuts, soya and wheat sprout.
What should be limited in the child’s diet? – First of all, sweets, salt, fast-food and animal fats. Their excessive consumption is a straight road to problems with logical thinking, leading also to obesity, diabetes and hypertension. It is simply better to eliminate sweets and sweet drinks that are the sources of unnecessary sugar, may result in mood changes and disturb concentration –the dietician further advises.
Seek help of a dietician
If we have failed to instil correct eating habits in our child, or our child has started to eat unhealthy snacks on its own and cannot give them up now, it is a good idea to consult a food psychologist or a dietician. A specialist will tell you how to convince your child to eat more healthily. You should also visit a dietician when you think that your child weighs too much or too little. – It is difficult for parents to objectively evaluate their child’s weight and define when he or she is just a bit plump and when they become overweight or –worse still – obese. This is dangerous since excessive body mass may lead to serious diseases, such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, hypertension or circulatory system disorders– stresses Monika Molenda-Dąbrowska from Medicover Hospital. – Incorrect weight may have numerous causes. It does not have to come from wrong diet, but hormonal disturbances or disturbances in the balance of lipids or carbohydrates also need to be considered. With our youngest patients in mind, we have prepared special diagnostic packages that allow us to examine a child also on this account – she adds. With early diagnosis, we are able to start appropriate treatment and prevent development of more serious diseases. Specialist diagnostics will also allow us to compose a menu that guarantees our child’s health while stimulating its grey matter to work.