Eating and Sleeping Well for School Smarts

What you do at home plays an important part in helping your child reach his highest learning potential in school. Here are some ways to help maximize your child's brain power.

PROTEINS

Learning requires optimum health and brain function. If a child is eating the wrong foods or those foods that are deficient in the proper nutrients, his ability to learn will be compromised. Parents can enhance a child’s learning ability by providing a nutritious breakfast and lunch daily. Children who eat healthy meals are more likely to have better concentration, problem solving skills, and hand-eye coordination. They are also more alert and creative.

The high concentration of processed sugar in a child’s typical breakfast, such as a toaster pastry, doughnut, or bowl of cereal, makes your child’s brain groggy and will make paying attention during the day much more difficult. By cutting back on high-sugar carbohydrates and increasing proteins, especially in the morning, your child will avoid the “learning grogginess”. Here are some ways to include sources of protein with your child’s breakfast:
  • Peanut butter on toast
  • Melted cheese on bread
  • Hardboiled eggs
  • Cottage cheese mixed with fruit
  • Low-carb yogurt
  • Milk instead of fruit juice
Now, on to lunch. Approximately half of a child's learning hours take place after this meal. You should skip many of the prepackaged lunch items that are high in fat and contain little nutritional value. A sugary snack is okay as a treat with lunch, but pack in the proteins and complex carbohydrates. Don't forget to include water.

WATER

The brain is eighty percent water. Although a number of beverages seem to satisfy your child’s thirst, water is the only beverage that will also quench his brain. Drinks that contain caffeine are diuretics and actually reduce water in the body. Being thirsty causes learning problems because thirst increases cortisol levels. This makes paying attention to tasks more difficult. Within five minutes of drinking plain water, cortisol levels decrease and attention levels increase.

Your child is naturally dehydrated when he wakes up in the morning. This is why it is imperative to have your child drink one glass of water, in addition to his breakfast drink, every morning before school. Remind your child to drink water, even if it is from a water fountain, before a test or when he may be having a hard time focusing in school.

MULTI-VITAMIN

A vitamin deficiency can cause learning problems as well as other health issues. Give your child a daily multi-vitamin after breakfast to ensure he is getting all of the required nutrients for maximum growth and development. Improvements from children taking a daily multi-vitamin have been seen in multiple areas: attendance, academics, behavior, energy, appetite, and self image.

OMEGA-3 OILS

Omega-3 oils are found in the brain in high concentrations and are necessary for maximum cognitive function. Cold-water fish are the primary source of OMEGA-3 oils, such as: salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and halibut. Other sources of essential fatty acids include: walnuts, broccoli, flaxseed, cantaloupe, kidney beans, and soybeans. There are also certain types of cooking oils and several brands of organic milk available that contain these essential fatty acids. Another way of getting the required amount of Omega-3 fatty acids is by taking fish-oil supplements.

Children need Omega-3 oils for optimal brain function. Visit www.shirleys-wellness-cafe.com/flaxoil.htm to learn the extraordinary benefits of the Omega-3 oils. A daily dose of this supplement will enhance learning capability and academic performance, as well as benefit children who have learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder. Visit www.shirleys-wellness-cafe.com/ritalin.htm for more infor-mation on natural alternatives for learning and behavior problems.

SLEEP

Sleep is a vital part of your child’s performance and health. Staying up too late is a common pitfall for elementary-age children. Parents often contribute to the problem because they want to spend more time with their children at the end of the day. Did you know the National Sleep Foundation recommends elementary-age children sleep a minimum of ten to eleven hours per night? Stop to calculate if your child is getting enough sleep.

Tired children are often cranky and fussy, and they become easily frustrated. Sleep enables the brain to encode new information and store it properly. The parts of the brain that control emotions, decision-making, and social interactions slow down dramatically during sleep, which allows optimal performance when awake.

Sleep also helps the immune system function effectively. During deep sleep, the body’s cells increase production while proteins break down at a slower rate. Without proper sleep, the immune system becomes weak, and the body becomes more vulnerable to infection and disease. Growth hormones are released during sleep, so sleep is vital to proper physical and mental development. Make your child’s sleep a priority in your family’s routine.

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