Getting a child to eat healthy food can be a monumental challenge for any parent. However, studies show that all of the haggling, arguing, and hassle is actually worth the effort as a healthy diet leads to enhanced academic performance in school. In fact, malnourished children often struggle in school because they are more likely to miss school, score lower on standardized tests, and repeat grades. Worse, bad eating habits can lead to serious health problems, such as diabetes, that not only affect academic performance but a student’s ability to participate in extracurricular activities.
When you follow the chain of negative events, starting with bad nutrition, it is easy to see how a child’s academic career can suffer. For example, bad nutrition leads to a weakened immune system, which leads to increased doctor visits and missed school days. Missing school makes it harder for students to maintain their grades or keep up with lessons. Even if a student can keep up, bad nutrition can interfere with their ability to accept and digest information. Too much sugar, for instance, can cause attention deficit disorder-like symptoms and chronic headaches, making learning nearly impossible.
These particular nutrition problems usually arise when kids are left in charge of preparing their own breakfast and lunch. If they don’t skip meals all together, they usually are making poor food choices. Out of convenience, kids are drawn to processed foods that are high in sugar, sodium and fat. This brand of malnutrition is particularly insidious because health, growth and cognitive problems may not be noticed until a serious issue has developed.
The simple act of eating breakfast can make a world of difference in warding off many of these health problems. According to the Dairy Council of California, “A nutritious breakfast provides approximately one-fourth of the recommended dietary allowances for key nutrients such as protein, vitamin A, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc.” This explains why schools offering breakfast service have seen such major improvements in their students’ overall health, attitude and performance.
However, breakfast is just one of the many ways parents can ensure their kids get a healthy start. Following are some additional suggestions for teaching your children healthy eating habits.
5 Tips to Better Student Nutrition:
1. Don’t make the mistake of offering a wide variety of packaged snack items; rather offer a few healthy snacks like fresh fruits, trail mix, or cheese.
2. Make sure the school offers healthy options for lunch and snack; otherwise pack your child’s lunch.
3. Bring your kids to the grocery store to help choose their favorite foods.
4. Limit their intake of high-sugar drinks including fruit-flavored drinks such as punch, soda and even 100% fruit juice.
5. Let your kids help prepare a healthy meal; they’ll have a great time learning to eat nutritiously.