Studies have proven a link between nutrition and school performance -better nutrition yields better learners. When students engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as poor dietary habits, substance abuse, and lack of physical activity, their school performance suffers.
With the frenzied pace that usually accompanies a new academic year, however, it’s easy to choose speed and convenience over nutrition. Students often try to squeeze eating in between activities such as classes, extra-curricular activities, sports practices, homework, and after-school jobs – making it easier to opt for fast food and vending machines. However, with a little bit of planning, we can shape better habits that will improve nutrition and learning. Here are five tips you should keep in mind:
1.) An extra five or ten minutes of sleep may sound good, but arranging for enough time every morning to sit down to a nutritious breakfast can really pay off. So, skip the donuts and sugary cereals and choose high-fiber whole grains and protein. One of the best choices is old fashioned oatmeal, which can be made quickly and topped with fruit and almonds. Whole wheat toast and an egg can be a healthy choice, too. Keeping hardboiled eggs in the fridge and ready to go makes them a fast, on-the-go power breakfast. If you’re concerned about the fat content of eggs, just skip the yolks – they are easily removed from hard-boiled eggs and also can be separated from the whites before cooking other egg preparations.
2.) Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids have long been heralded by nutritionists as a superior brain food, and though fish consumption is on the rise, Americans still eat far too little. And that’s a shame because eating these kinds of fish can actually reduce our risk for dementia and mental decline and can enhance our memory. While salmon and trout are some of the best choices, tuna can also make a great choice for a healthy school lunch. Simply grab some whole wheat crackers and a package of water-packed tuna for a great start to a brain-healthy lunch – or mix some in with ready-to-eat salad greens.
3.) A small number of nuts or seeds, like walnuts, almonds, or pumpkin seeds, along with dark chocolate, can actually make a healthy snack – and it tastes great, too! They have powerful antioxidant qualities, which help with cognition. Plus, the small amount of caffeine in chocolate can give you a little boost of concentration when you need it. Just don’t overdo it: keep these snacks to one ounce per day.
4.) Trade white for wheat everywhere you can. It’s just as easy to make lunches from a sandwich on whole wheat bread instead of white bread, and many breakfast cereals boast whole grains, too (but be sure to read labels and look for choices high in fiber). Make a big batch of whole-wheat pasta salad with veggies, herbs, and olive oil to have on hand in pre-portioned containers for healthy, convenient lunches.
5.)Berries are another great way to add a sweet flavor without feeling guilty. Blueberries and other berries can help with memory due to their antioxidants. Berries also are high in fiber. They’re easy to toss into a reusable container for a healthy morning snack between classes.
We know that these changes may seem big, but they can be really easy to incorporate into your daily habits if you just give it a try. And if you still feel that you’re not getting enough nutrition from your diet, ask your doctor about a vitamin and mineral supplement.
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