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:
- Good Fats
- Complex Carbohydrates
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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