When it comes to learning, kids’ nutrition is pretty important! This post follows on from How Nutrition Affects Children’s Learning, I looked at some interesting research on how nutrition affects our children’s brain function, their ability to learn and how different nutrients impact the brain. Here, I’m looking at how nutrition affects your child’s development.
Kids’ nutrition and good learning go hand-in-hand. It’s something that parents and educators are becoming increasingly aware of. But some facts around nutrition and cognitive function are not always so well known. I find myself continually learning about the link between diet, development and learning.
How Nutrition Affects Your Child’s Development
1. IRON makes up necessary parts of our brain’s tissue. When a child is deficient in iron, the nerve impulses move slower, which has a direct impact on learning. Iron deficiency during the first two years of life has been associated with changes in behaviour and delayed psychomotor development. (It’s also worth noting that too much iron in a child’s diet can also be problematic). Foods high in iron are:
- Baked potatoes
- Dark green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach)
- Wholegrain bread
- Beans and lentils
Recommended intakes of iron for different age groups are:
- Infants 7 12 months need 11 milligrams a day
- Toddlers 1-3 years need 7 milligrams a day
- Children 4-8 years need 10 milligrams a day
- Children 9-13 need 8 milligrams a day
2. Children who are deficient in IODINE during the early years has been associated with reduced cognition and achievement in school age children.
3. Children who are not well nourished have a harder time fighting infections. This of course can result in missed school days.
4. Under nutrition can result in lower activity levels, decreased social interactions/ curiosity and cognitive functioning.
5. A significant number of studies have found that children who eat breakfast do better on performance tests than children who don’t have breakfast. (you can learn more on this in, How Nutrition Affects Learning post).
6. Breast feeding appears to lead to higher IQ/cognitive development.
So we know the importance of kids’ nutrition, and we know from the previous post, what nutrients our children need for the optimal functioning of the brain. But how do we put this into practice with healthy, easy to prepare meals and snacks? What ideas are there in terms of preparing food for our kids? Let’s start with breakfast.
Kids’ Nutrition – Breakfasts
Breakfasts on school days can be particularly challenging due to time. Below is a list of quick, healthy breakfast ideas that are packed with nutrients. Some of them can be prepared the night before to save on time.
- Soft boiled eggs with an English muffin or soldiers.
- Peanut butter on toast with sliced banana on top. Alternatively, you could spread some peanut butter onto a tortilla and roll it up.
- Wholegrain toast with scrambled egg and tomato salsa.
- Oatmeal with honey and raisins and nuts sprinkled on top.
- Natural yoghurt with granola and berries. (Greek/Greek style yogurt is great for this).
- Raisin and cinnamon bagel with cream cheese and sliced banana.
- Smoothie blended with milk, natural yogurt, fruit and bran.
- Tomato and basil omelette.
- Egg muffins and beans (see recipe in the snack e-book above).
- French toast with wholegrain bread, fruit and maple syrup.
Lunch boxes are a great way to ensure that our kids’ nutrition is on the right track. But how do we make sure that we’re packing foods with the right nutrients and the right quantities?
Below is a very helpful chart that helps with just this. It was produced by the Healthy Eating Advisory Service. (I have put a link under references, in case you want to print out/download your own copy). It’s useful in cross checking that you have covered everything to provide your child with a balanced, packed lunch.
I would also recommend including your child when deciding what goes in their lunch boxes. I think having what appeals to them for that day, (within the healthy eating range), goes a long way in making it appetising when lunch time arrives!
Another way to get more nutrients into our little ones is to provide them with an afternoon snack at the end of the school day. It’s a time when kids are often hungry, so a nutritious snack is another great opportunity. For ideas, you can get a copy of the free, snack e-book (see above under, ‘Nutritious Breakfast’).
Over to You…
Do you have any tips, things that have worked for making great, healthy lunch boxes? If so, we’d love to hear about them in the comments below.