In a week or two, summer vacation will be officially over. Most kids will be returning to the classroom, either reluctantly or with a high level of enthusiasm. The one common thread is they will all return. Once school starts, so will the daily routine of taking notes, listening to the teacher, reading, doing homework, getting along with other kids, and taking exams or test. It’s also a time for competitive sports try outs, school socials, and meeting new friends.
US Family Health Plan – a TRICARE Prime health option – has a plan to help your kids have a healthy edge in school. In fact, these tips can help them in every area of life. The plan we are talking about is to help kids get the nutrients they need to do well in school, by eating a healthy diet. Yes, there is a direct link between what they eat and what you see on the report card.
Here are 5 important tips that can help give your children the performance boost they need to do their best in school. They may not like everything on the list, but these tips can make a big difference in their success.
- Serve them a breakfast fit for champions. Breakfast is critical for school-age kids. Research has shown that breakfast-eaters do better academically and athletically. They have fewer behavior problems and are more sociable. Instead of serving your kids sugary cereals that set them up for a mid-morning energy crash and irritability, give them protein and complex carbohydrates that will help them keep their energy levels stable through the morning. A breakfast like turkey sausage and eggs, with a side of multigrain toast is ideal. Another idea could be yogurt with fresh fruit, or French toast with a side of bacon. Once your kids effectively get through the morning at school, consider half the battle won.
- If you choose cereal, pick oatmeal. Researchers believe oatmeal - a whole grain that is high in fiber—digests slowly, providing kids with a steady stream of energy they need. It also has protein. Spice up old-fashioned slow-cook oatmeal with cinnamon, raisins, dried apricots, or cranberries. Throw in some walnuts to add a nice little crunch. Allow kids to sweeten it themselves with a little brown sugar or maple syrup. The more choices you allow them to make, the more they will enjoy it. Just make sure you avoid adding sugar. Sugar can lead to a mid-morning drop in energy.
- Berries are “berry” good. Most berries, especially strawberries and blueberries, are extra high in anti-oxidants. These can help boost cognitive functioning. Some vegetables high in anti-oxidants, like spinach, also have the same effect. Kids love to eat berries plain, right out of the bag, or mixed in with yogurt. Encourage your kids to eat berries for snacks. It is a great way to power them through the school day.
- Make sure they eat a healthy lunch. A good lunch is critical to afternoon school performance. If your child eats lunch in the school cafeteria, be sure to check with the school dietician to make sure what they are serving is healthy. Too much starch or sugar is a no-no. If your child takes their lunch to school, pack it full of power foods: multigrain bread, fruits, vegetables, cheese and protein like turkey, ham or roast beef. Water, juice or milk are good beverage choices.
- Recharge your kids after school. Remember, the end of the school day leads right into homework time. After school, they may need a healthy re-charge to keep going. Surprisingly the best snack for after-school are water and simple snack like cereal, nuts or dried fruit. Water helps fight dehydration that may have set in during the school day. (Water is not as available in schools as we would like to think). Dehydration can lead to listlessness and irritability, so after school is a great time to overcompensate on water consumption. The grains, dried fruit and nuts provide Vitamin B12, which helps with memory and re-call (hint, better homework completion).
With these tips, you have accomplished giving your kids the nutritional advantage they need to get through a rough day at school day. After homework, the family can finally wind down and relax over a leisurely family supper. US Family Health Plan believes in fostering health and happiness for all of our members – both in and out of school. We count kids as some of our most important members, so here’s to a healthy and happy school year!