Nutrition and Learning: How what our kids eat is tied to behavior and learning Nutrition

Nutrition and Learning: How what our kids eat is tied to behavior and learning

Hi guys! It is Rachael here from Eazy Peazy Mealz again, and today I wanted to share some of the changes I have seen in my son’s learning and behavior with some diet modifications.

My disclaimer is that we have a long way to go, but we are heading in the right direction and seeing results. So I will be sharing some of our favorite foods for giving kids what they need for good behavior and improved learning.

Have you ever heard a parent, or even yourself, say something like, “You have had too much sugar today, you are so hyper!”? I think we all know intrinsically that what we eat can impact behavior. But we often only associate the negative parts of this.

For example, too many treats might lead to excess energy and tantrums in children. Too much fatty foods can lead to excess weight and cellulite in adults. But just like when we put unhealthy things in our bodies we get unhealthy results, the opposite is true.

Let’s put it another way, if avoiding bad foods can help avoid bad behaviors, wouldn’t encouraging good foods encourage good behaviors? Well it does. What your child eats is a huge factor in their behavior and learning. Making a few changes to a child’s diet can have profound effects on how they function and behave, and how easily they learn.

In order for the brain to work properly and for neuro pathways to form, it has to be nourished. Nourishing the brain with healthy foods and water will enable students to engage and excel more readily.

But what exactly does the brain need? In order for the neurons in the brain to function properly they need the following five things:

  1. Good Fats
  2. Protein
  3. Complex Carbohydrates
  4. Micronutrients
  5. Water

Let’s look at each of these things one at a time, and look at a recipe you can use to help get more of these essential things in your child’s diet.

Good Fats

Of the solid matter in the brain, 60% is fat. The membranes are mostly polyunsaturated fats, and by eating a diet rich in fats you help the brain maintain flexible, dynamic membranes that can transmit and receive information, as well as many other critical functions. Like energy. Fats provide energy for the brain. But it has to be good fats.

Good fats are not what you find in French fries, fried nuggets, chips, crackers, etc. But rather in things like the nut butter we shared previously here (LINK TO IT), eggs, and lean meats, fish, legumes, etc.

Add healthy fats in your child’s snacking with these Chocolate Chip Cookie” Apple Sandwiches

chocolate chip cookie sandwich with apples

Protein

We have talked about protein a ton, but let’s get a little more detailed. Protein is what provides the amino acids, or building blocks, for building those neuro-pathways, and the support structures for neurons. In other words, without protein your brain would not be able to create new pathways (learn). Additionally proteins help protect the DNA and cell components of the brain against damage. Pretty important stuff. Again, good protein is key.

Good proteins can be found in raw nuts, baked and grilled meats that aren’t covered in unhealthy sauces. Etc. Consider good protein sources.

Add healthy proteins all day long, including breakfast with these Chocolate Fudge Protein Waffles.

protein, waffles, protein waffles, whey protein, healthy eating, healthy breakfast, protein packed breakfast, high in protein

Complex Carbohydrates

Carbs are an energy source for the brain. This is a tricky one. See, sugar tends to be the main fuel for the brain. However, too many kids consume and excess of sugar, which leads to a great burst of energy, followed by things like having trouble concentrating, unstable blood sugar levels, and drowsiness. Cut down the sugar and focus on a diet with complex carbs such as whole grains rather than sugars.

This Zucchini Shrimp Scampi is a great exmple of a complex carb (Yes Zucchini is a complex carb) and a great way to help kids get what they need without added refined sugars.

scampi on fork

Micronutrients

These are things like the vitamins, zinc, etc. Kids only need a little, but they are key for brain health, and unfortunately, according to the National Health and Nutrition Survey, less than 15% of kids are meeting the daily recommendation. Not surprising when you consider the nutrient value in foods like pizza, chicken nuggets, chips, soda, etc.

Help your kids get the micronutrients they need with whole fruits, salads, and cut veggies. These easy to take along with you snack cups are a great way to make eating this way convenient on the go.

parfait 2

Water

Neurons store water, and need water for optimal brain health and function. A dehydrated kid means a kid whose brain is not functioning at its full potential. Water keeps the brain from over heating (which leads to cognitive decline).

Sugary beverages can lead to dehydration. Focus on water! If you want some flavor, consider fruited water like these.

spa water

Helping your child get what he or she needs in his or her diet for optimal brain function is all about providing good foods they want to eat, and limiting those over sugared, over processed, unhealthy options!


Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs


Comments

  1. Such a great reminder on the importance of good diet and how it affects behavior. Thanks so much for sharing it with us at Talented Tuesdays!

  2. I’m so glad you shared this! I’ve noticed since my son started kindergarten last year he has to have a good breakfast or it’s hard for him to focus on doing his homework and makes him tired and on edge after school. Thanks for this great nutrition information to help me with his diet!

  3. Love these suggestions, especially the chocolate chip cookie apples!

  4. Great reminders for us as parents to really concentrate on what we feed our kids!

  5. So much great information! Those snack cups are such a great idea!

  6. I need to focus more on nutrition and learning together! Good information!

  7. What great suggestions and think nutrition is something to be taught even at an early age! I always think food learning can be fun too!

  8. Proper nutrition is so crutial for our kiddos!! Thank you for the reminder today and love the fruit-infused water 🙂

  9. These are such great tips for nutrition for our kids. My youngest has been battling me lately. She’ll eat 2 bites of any good protein or veggie, and then begs for something like ice cream. We are learning about what’s healthy and not healthy.

  10. Wow so much useful stuff here for kids AND adults! It’s awesome you got Rachael to do this post. Love her blog

  11. […] oats in granola bars instead of oatmeal. If breakfast protein is difficult, try this recipe for protein waffles. Another way to change things up is to make sure the meals are easy and quick to eat. Healthy […]

  12. Oh all these look SO yummy! We have food experiences with our kids every week at our Preschool Center. I cannot wait to try some of these with them!!!

  13. Great advice I am just about to study nutrition starting September. Think it is such s great thing to know this info.
    Rosie x

    • That is awesome! You will have to share with us more about what you learn. Nutrition is fascinating, especially when it comes to fitness and helping kid focus in the classroom. What would have thought?!

  14. Such important things to teach our kids, especially with the amount of junk that is in our food these days. Great post!

  15. […] NUTRITON & LEARNING: How nutrition is tied to behavior […]

  16. Such great information! My daughter is heading off to kindergarten in a few short weeks, and I am collecting ideas for nutritious things to send in her lunch box each day. Great post!

    • That’s wonderful! Nutrition is really hard, especially when you are in a hurry to get them off to school. I know you’ll think of some great ideas to send with her that she will love. Anything with protein does wonders. Have fun and I hope she enjoys Kindergarten.

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