In today’s ever increasing competitive environment, it’s important for parents to remain vigilant when it comes to their children’s health and overall performance in school. Signs of mood swings, lack of concentration, and inability to focus are signs that a child is in trouble. Yet, the solution can be as simple as good nutrition, rest and exercise. Here are my five healthy essential requirements to ensure that your child will excel in school and in life:
1.) Breakfast – don’t skip it. It’s the most important meal of the day. Omitting breakfast means missing out on healthy brain fuel. Research shows that children who regularly eat a meal in the morning have superior standardized test scores, have better behavior, and are less hyperactive than children who skip breakfast. Children who do not eat breakfast are at a higher risk of becoming obese which in turn can lead to chronic health issues and even diabetes.
What to serve – children need protein in their diet. Stay away from sugary breakfast foods such as sugar coated cereal, doughnuts, toaster pastries, and cinnamon rolls. Instead, serve organic eggs and sausage, Greek yogurt, ham or other protein. Children need protein for their developing brains and growing bodies.
Healthy tip # 1 – children who are not hungry in the morning may not be properly digesting the previous evening’s dinner. It is normal for children to be hungry every 3-4 hours, especially teens. If your child is not hungry in the morning, they may benefit from Advanced Digestive Enzymes. Enzymes are responsible for digestion and absorption of food and help to break down and move nutrients throughout the body.
2.) Sugar – reduce and limit intake. Sugar depresses the immune system within 30 minutes of consuming and can last for as long as five hours.
What to serve – A healthy lunch consists of protein, vegetables, and fruit. Avoid drinks, even 100% juices; they too are full of sugar. Dinner should contain mainly colorful vegetables, and some protein. Feeding your child simple carbohydrates like breads, potatoes, pasta, rice, or noodles should be limited and if possible eliminated as an evening meal.
Healthy tip # 2 – Save sugary snacks for after school. Simple carbohydrates break down into sugar quickly and the body spends time managing the sugar instead of focusing on more important healing and repairing functions during sleep. Eating simple and refined carbohydrates or items with sugar or that break down into sugar (also known as high glycemic foods) such as bread;waffles; pancakes, breakfast cereals, toaster pastries, doughnuts, or even 100% juice in the morning may cause your child to have a “foggy brain” or inability to focus at school.
Simple carbohydrates break down into sugar quickly. A quick rise in blood sugar causes insulin to be released to deal with the sugar. The insulin spike drives blood sugar down which can leave your child feeling fatigued, tired,foggy, confused, sleepy or lacking attention because of the sudden drop in blood sugar.
3.) Water – there’s no substitution. Water is essential to your child’s health. The human body is approximately two thirds water and there is no substitution for water. Juice, soda, coffee, tea, and other fluids may contain water, but do not have the same chemical structure. If your child does not consume enough water, the body will retain the water that is consumed and will not flush out toxins in the body.
Healthy tip # 3 – Water has numerous health benefits and plays an important role in crucial body functions. Water also helps to utilize the fat reserves in the body. Fat is condensed stored energy. When your child drinks enough water, their body is able to access the stored fat. Once released, the body uses the fat for energy.
Healthy tip # 4 – If your child is tired or less active than usual, it may be a sign of dehydration. Dehydration can occur when not enough water is consumed.
Symptoms of dehydration:
- Hunger and/or thirst
- Dry skin
- Dark colored urine
- Muscle cramps
4.) Sleep – a necessary component for brain power. Sleep is necessary for the growth, development and the health of children. It is as critical as food, drink, and safety. Skipping a nap or staying up late can add up and lead to cranky kids, especially toddlers and teenagers. The body heals and repairs while we sleep. Studies show that consistent lack of appropriate sleep can affect mood, concentration, memory, learning, alertness, and ability to focus, weight, and much more. Sleep also plays a critical role in our immune system, metabolism, and other vital functions.
Healthy tip # 5 – Average Sleep Needs
- Newborns (0-2 months) 12-18 hours
- Infants (3 months to 1 year) 14-15 hours
- Toddlers (1-3 years) 12-14 hours
- Preschoolers (3-5 years) 11-13 hours
- Young children (5-12 years) 10-11 hours
- Preteens & Teens (12 – 18 years) 8.5 – 10 hours
- Adults (18+ years) 7.5 – 9 hours
- Elderly Adults may require less sleep
5.) Exercise and Play – it’s your child’s “job.” Adults may think of exercise as going to the gym, using a treadmill, or lifting weights. But playing outdoors and being physically active is exercise for children. It’s their “job” to play and an important part of developing brain power and social skills necessary for academic success. Basketball practice, dance class, swim club, or gym class at school are all great exercise activities for children. If they are moving and playing, it is exercise for them. Make sure that your child has ample time every day to do their “job”.
Healthy tip # 6 – Exercise = Better Outlook. Children that are active have stronger muscles and bones, less body fat, decreased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, and even have a better outlook on life. It is important for them to engage in aerobic activity. This strengthens the heart and improves the body’s ability to transport oxygen to its cells. Studies show that kids who are physically fit sleep better and are able to handle physical and emotional challenges.
What are you doing to help your child achieve maximum brain power? Share your thoughts with me; I’d love to hear from you!