Are your children’s minds like sponges or are they more like leaky buckets? Your seemingly intelligent children should be getting better grades at school. But he can’t seem to focus on anything long enough to really master it (except video games), and she seems to be such a good conversationalist (especially with text messaging) but can’t write a decent book report.
There may be several reasons why this is happening. Perhaps he has a learning or developmental disability and perhaps she’s not being challenged enough at school, or it could be a lack of nutrition and exercise. I know what you’re thinking… No! It couldn’t be lack of nutrition! My son or daughter is definitely getting more than enough food. In fact he/she is overweight, but they’ll grow out of it.Unfortunately, studies show overweight children tend to become overweight adults. In addition, there is growing research showing many North American children may not be meeting their Vitamin D needs especially during the winter months when the UVB rays are less intense. One more reason to put away the video games for an hour and get out into the sun for some physical activity.
Research shows that 1 in 3 children are overweight and that almost 80 percent of children inherit “food neophobia”, the fear of unfamiliar food, from their parents. Most food neophobics refuse to eat healthy foods and only want to eat the unhealthy but familiar foods like sugary cereals, pop, and foods high in saturated fat like burgers and fries. Unfortunately, these food options cause energy levels to plummet, ruin the ability to focus, and impair learning and memory. Children who are picky eaters or who have food neophobia are probably missing out on very important nutrients, which lead to malnutrition.
Both overweight and underweight children may have malnutrition due to a lack of nutrients – not a lack of food. Therefore, while many children may be consuming a great deal of calories, they may not be getting the essential vitamins, nutrients, and minerals that they need to learn and stay healthy. Children whose diets are filled with saturated fat, sugars, chemicals, and sodium will inevitably have problems with behaviour, academic learning, and health.
Tips for how to be a good parent
- Make sure that your children don’t skip breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast helps with weight control, mood and school performance. Research has shown that children who regularly ate breakfast had better standardized test scores, better behavior, and were less hyperactive than children who skipped breakfast. Research also shows that children who eat high sugary breakfasts tend to eat more at lunch.
- Get the junk food out of the house. This includes high sugar cereals, soda pop, chips, ice cream, cake, cookies, candy, and most processed foods. Stock your fridge with lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grain and raw nuts to snack on. Buy frozen fruit and plain yogurt so that they can make healthy smoothies. Buy bottled water if it will encourage them to drink water instead of pop. They should be drinking at least 6-8 glasses of water a day.
- Teach your children that they can make somewhat healthy choices at fast food restaurants and in school cafeterias. Most menu items are packed with saturated fat, sugars, chemicals, and sodium, which cause children to feel tired, unfocused, jittery, and sick. These food items not only impact your children’s grades and performance, but also influences their behaviour and moods. Instead of fries, they should choose the side salad. Instead of pop, have water or a small juice. Go for the single burger instead of the double. Choose grilled chicken instead of crispy. Choose the snack size ice-cream dessert instead of the regular size. Limit fast food restaurant eating to once per week.
The last 3 tips have nothing to do with nutrition but are just as important:
- Make sure that your children are physically active for at least 60 minutes a day… every day. Exercise improves health, enhances mood,helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints, burns calories, and when done in the sun allows the intake of necessary vitamin D.
- Start very early to teach your children about the dangers of smoking. The nicotine in inhaled tobacco smoke moves from the lungs, into the bloodstream and up to the smoker’s brain within 7 to 10 seconds.
- Make sure that they get enough sleep. Research shows that sleep deprivation can lead to decreased attentiveness, decreased short-term memory, inconsistent performance, and delayed response time. Primary school kids need 10-12 hours of sleep at night. High school kids need at least 8-9 hours of sleep.
Teaching your children to how to make healthy food choices and live a healthy lifestyle will make a huge difference in their energy level, their ability to focus, learn, and retain what they’ve learned. Also, children who eat healthy foods will be more likely to make better food and nutrition choices as adults.
Sometimes eating a healthy diet might not be enough and you may want to add dietary supplements. Specific supplements can be added to the diet for improving a variety of brain functions and overall health. Folic Acid improves memory. Some of the best foods for folic acid include whole-grain breakfast cereals, lentils, black-eyed peas, soybeans, spinach, green peas, artichokes, broccoli, wheat germ, beets and oranges.Potassium also aids in energy and brain function, and can be derived from oranges, bananas, apricots, avocados, melons, peaches, and nectarines. Oily fish such as salmon, and berries such as blueberry and acai berry are also very good for improving memory and brain function. Supplements that contain Essential Fatty Acids and Fish Oils are essential for those who are not regular fish eaters. In any case, fish and shellfish should not be consumed more than twice per week in order to limit exposure to mercury.
In summary, in addition to looking at other factors that may be causing your children to have difficulty at school, take a close look at what they’re doing and what they’re eating… or not eating. Make sure that they don’t skip breakfast, don’t have access to junk food at home, limit their visits to fast food restaurants, make healthy food choices, exercise every day, don’t smoke, and get enough sleep. If necessary, add good quality dietary supplements to their diet. Start by setting a good example and live a healthy lifestyle.
Karen Robinson at AFASE https://www.facebook.com/karenrobinson1116/ provides special education advocacy training and consulting services to parents and guardians whose children are challenged by autism and other developmental disabilities.
I develop my clients into informed, proactive advocates for their children’s educational needs. They are empowered by current, customized information that enables them to articulate their children’s needs to school staff and school board administrators in a way that is both assertive and collaborative.