Dietsinreview.com asked Dr. Kantor for suggestions on unexpected ways that students can boost their grades, through exercise, healthy eating, recess and plenty of sleep.
In efforts to boost a child’s grades, sometimes we overlook changing their nutritional habits. When in fact, this could be the root of the problem. Nutrition plays an important role in our overall ability to focus and think clearly. The standard American diet is rich in processed sugars, fats, and dyes, all of which have been proven to have a negative impact on overall brain function. Dyes that are found in many processed drinks and snack foods have been shown to make symptoms of Attention Deficient Disorder (ADD) worse. The refined sugar found in these drinks and snacks have also been shown to make symptoms of ADD worse, with an increase in hyperactivity. Also, the rise and fall in blood sugar levels after excessive sugar consumption decreases the ability to think clearly and will reduce overall energy levels.
Start by giving your child a healthy breakfast. A breakfast that consist of a colorful sugary cereal is one of the worst things a child could eat before school, it is rich in those dyes and sugar. Instead prepare a balanced breakfast that has healthy protein, fats, fruits and vegetables. Eggs are rich in both protein and healthy fats. Consuming adequate omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to improve overall brain function in both children and elderly. If your child does not like eggs, make a smoothie with Greek yogurt, flax seed (also rich in omega 3’s), fruit and coconut milk. The antioxidants in dark berries have also been shown to improve brain function. Making a yogurt parfait with Greek yogurt, blueberries, and granola is another balanced option for breakfast.
If possible try to pack a lunch for your child, you will know that they are armed with healthy choices. Just like breakfast focus on a balanced meal for lunch, consisting of protein, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables. A sandwich with low sodium/nitrate free cold cuts on a high fiber bread with a side of fruit, nuts and chopped raw vegetables is a balanced lunch that still appeals to kids. A bento box with a turkey sandwich on Ezekiel bread with fresh blueberries, baby carrots, hummus for dipping and a small handful of cocoa dusted almonds is a perfect lunch. Kids love to have choices and finger foods, giving them variety is a great way to keep them interested in healthy lunches.
Adequate sleep is essential to optimal school performance. Children are growing constantly and naturally they are more active than a sedentary adults, therefore their sleep requirements are greater than adults. Children should be getting a minimum of 9 hours of sleep per night but 11 hours is optimal. Without proper sleep a child will be more irritable, unable to focus and they typically will crave false energy from foods rich in sugar like candy and other processed snacks. A child who does not get proper sleep is more likely to gain body fat resulting in a higher risk for chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Daily exercise has been shown to have a positive impact on any student’s academic performance. According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, a study with over 5000 children revealed those who exercise regularly may also boost academic performance. The reasons why academic performance was improved vary, some suggest that active children have higher self-esteem, giving them more confidence in the classroom to use their critical thinking and problem solving skills. Other researchers are finding low levels of activity can adversely affect brain structure and function, and affect students’ intellectual performance. All levels of physical activity are beneficial to students even if they do not play competitive sports, participating in active play and/or exercise daily will have a positive impact on their hormones and ability to focus.
Physical activity will be different for different age groups, here are some simple strategies to encourage physical activity.
Make active toys like balls, jump ropes, trampolines, bicycles, scooters, hop scotch, etc. easy to access this is a simple way to encourage physical activity through playing.
Make sure to limit electronic time, it’s easy to let the hours pile up behind a tablet, computer, video game or television.
For the older children consider adding them onto your health club membership, go for walks/jogs with them or invest in exercise videos or home equipment that you can use together.
Be a great example and incorporate regular physical activity into your daily life and they will follow.
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Dr. Kantor’s greatly anticipated new children’s book, The Green Box League of Nutritious Justice, is now available. Be sure to order this highly reviewed book, filled with healthy living tips for the whole family. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Children’s Miracle Network.