As the school year kicks off, it’s safe to say that good grades are at the top of many people’s school wishlists. While you can’t deny that paying attention in class and doing the assigned work makes up a major part of the grade, there are other, usually overlooked, ways to earn fridge-worthy grade cards.
We spoke with with our resident nutrition expert, Mary Hartley, RD, and nutritionist and author Dr. Keith Kantor about which healthy habits may boost grades and improve performance in school.
Eat Healthy Foods
Mary shared that getting the right nutrients can boost the speed at which the brain works. “So many nutrients have a role in cognition, including cholesterol from egg yolks and dairy products, essential fatty acids from fatty fish, nuts and olive oil, and carotenoids and flavonoids found in colorful fruits and vegetables.”
Back to School Food: Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Breakfast Donut Sandwiches
Get Your Vitamins and Minerals
“A host of micronutrients also play key roles in processes that run the brain, including iron, zinc, choline, selenium, iodine, magnesium, B vitamins, and vitamins A and C,” Mary added.
Back to School Food: Rainbow Smoothie
Avoid Processed Junk
Dr. Kantor advises against consuming foods with a lot of unneeded fats, dyes and sugars, which can have a negative impact on brain function. He also cautioned against drinks and snack foods containing artificial dyes and refined sugar. Both have been shown to make Attention Deficient Disorder symptoms worse, which would negatively impact school performance.
Back to School Food: Clean-Eating Back to School Cookies
Don’t Skip It
“Eating breakfast has been linked to improved academic performance,” Mary said. Even if your kid refuses, try to sell them on even a piece of fruit or a wholesome granola bar; something, just about anything will keep them alert, focused, and ready for class.
Back to School Food: Pumpkin Spice Protein Ball (Larabar Copycat)
Caffeinate if Necessary
Though you shouldn’t hand junior a cup of coffee before school, older students may want to have a cup as they walk out the door. Mary shared that most people perform better on mental cognition and memory tests after consuming caffeine.
Back to School Food: Vegan Pumpkin Spice Latte
Ditch the Cereal Bowl
According to Dr. Kantor, a bowl of sugar-laden cereal is one of the worst things a child can eat before school because of the sugar and dyes. “Instea,d 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 you’re not an egg fan, Dr. Kantor suggests a Greek yogurt and fruit-filled smoothie or parfait with granola as balanced breakfast options.
Back to School Food: Frozen Banana Breakfast Parfaits
Pack a Lunch
“If possible try to pack a lunch for your child,” Dr. Kantor said. “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.”
Back to School Food: Fresh Strawberry PBJ
Keep Lunch Simple
A healthy lunch doesn’t mean a fancy lunch. Dr. Kantor suggests packing a variety of healthy finger foods. “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.”
Back to School Food: Blueberry Cucumber Salad
Get Plenty of Shut-Eye
“Adequate sleep is essential to optimal school performance,” Dr. Kantor said. He recommends school-age kids get 9-11 hours of sleep per night to keep them energized and focused throughout the school day.
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photos by Kacy Meinecke, Abra Pappa for DietsInReview.com