The new school year is well on its way. The initial frenzy is over and the kids are now getting knee deep in a new semester of knowledge, the stresses of schoolwork and exams, and are likely being introduced to a new set of emotions and confusions that are directly impacting their behavior and overall concentration. While it may feel like all you can do is either wait it out, talk it out, or seek professional assistance; there may be another solution right under your nose
Think about your child’s diet at-home and during the school days. While you may be able to ensure that they are eating all their vegetables and other necessities while at home, do you know what they are consuming when you are not around? Do they choose from the breakfast and lunches provided at school, grab a soda or candy bar between classes, or opt for sugary and artificial snacks while doing homework and studying?
If the answer is Yes to any of these questions, then it – at least, in part – could very well be your child’s daily nutrition that is directly impacting their behavior, immune system and cognitive ability.
That is why Drs. Sandheinrich at 1st Step Family Wellness of St. Louis want to help keep your family informed about why proper nutrition is so important for your growing youngster(s) and provide you with the school smarts to ensure a safe and healthy school year all around.
Recent studies have shown that nearly two-thirds of middle school students are obese or overweight due to eating regular school lunches, while others are affected by poor bad cholesterol levels. While these numbers have started to show a slight decline, many schools are still not provided with the proper funding or educational resources to provide today’s children with the balanced and healthy school lunches needed. Such has led to poor nutrition for many children, who instead are consuming too much fat, sugar, sodium or processed foods and too few vitamins and minerals, which leads to weight-related chronic health problems like diabetes, kidney stones, cancer, and heart disease.
Poor nutrition or unbalanced nutrition has also been linked to problems associated with bad or intolerable behavior, a weakened immune system, and reduced cognitive ability. Children who consume greater amounts of gluten, dairy and corn are more likely to have poor behavior and a greater chance of learning issues, because their body produces an intolerance and is unable to function properly. These and other common foods (e.g. soy, shellfish, sugar, etc.) have been found to bind directly to receptors in the brain that may directly impact the immune system and could mean that your child has an intolerance to certain foods. Food intolerances do not show symptoms the same way that food allergies do, however; the body instead causes inflammation in the brain that leads to anger issues, irritability, depression, anxiety, the inability to concentration, and other learning or behavioral problems.
While there is no need to cut out such products completely, be sure that they are not making it the primary star of their snacks and meals. Instead opt for substitutions like meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables, along with nuts and seeds. These items are easily prepared for a morning or afternoon snack at school, but make sure the school doesn’t have any policies against having items like nuts or peanut butter in the classroom due to another student’s severe allergies or other health issue.
It is also good to discourage your child from constantly snacking on vending machine items, like sugar and high-fructose corn syrup filled foods and drinks. Studies have shown that overly-processed sugars and foods not only reduce the immune system’s ability to properly function, but also worsens or prolongs symptoms when afflicted with a cold or other immune system bug.
In addition, if your child has memory and concentration problems, it could be a sign that they are not eating the right foods to keep their blood sugar stable throughout the day. The consumption of sugars and starches do not help with cognitive functioning, because they are meant to provide the body with a quick and short-lived rush of energy. That is why it is important that children (and adults) instead stick to high protein foods throughout the day that will keep their blood sugar stable and reduce the risk of energy dips in the afternoon.
To ensure that your child is receiving all the necessary fruits, vegetables and proteins that will help them from feeling weak, fatigued or nauseous, first consider limiting your child to one cafeteria lunch per week. One that contains the greatest variety of high-protein and fiber rich foods, and fewer saturated fats and carbohydrates. On all other days, be sure to stay away from overly processed foods and pre-packaged junk foods, and instead prepare meals and snacks the night before that are healthy and balanced. This means ensuring that they consume only between 1,800 and 2,000 calories each day.
To accomplish this consistent balance, you need to have nutritional know-how and be prepared for the day ahead. Here are a few meal and snack ideas to get you started:
2 tablespoons of almond milk
Veggies of choice
2 teaspoons grapeseed or coconut oil (or more)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat the oil in a pan. Sauté the veggies that you have chosen on low to medium heat When the veggies start to soften, whip the eggs in a bowl and add the milk. Then add the egg mixture to the pan with the veggies. Once the eggs start to set, flip or stir. Once the eggs are completely set they are done. Season with salt and pepper to taste
6 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 to 2 cups almond flour
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Grapeseed oil or coconut oil
Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk eggs. Mix eggs, water, and honey in a bowl. Blanket a plate with almond flour and mix in sea salt and black pepper. Cut chicken breasts into thin cutlets. Dip each chicken cutlet into egg mixture. Coat moistened cutlet with almond flour on both sides. Place cutlets in baking sheet and lightly spray oil on both sides. Bake for 25-30 minutes until slightly undercooked. Switch oven to broil mode and move baking sheet directly under broiler to make crisp.
To make a well-balanced lunch, add raw or steamed vegetables, a fruit, and some water.
2 bunches kale
2 teaspoons grapeseed or coconut oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
Preheat oven to 350°F. Wash kale and tear leaves off the stem in potato chip sizes. Place leaves inside a plastic bag along with oil and salt. Shake bag until kale is nicely coated with oil. Distribute kale equally on a baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until crispy.
Overall, the key to ensuring your children have stable behaviors, a strong immune system, and steady cognitive function is to make sure they have a nutritionally balanced diet. If none of the recipes provided are a hit with your child, then get creative and stick with the basics. What truly matters is that they (and you!) are eating healthy, get enough sleep, drink lots of water, and exercise at least 30-minutes each day to have a great school year.
Want more nutritional tips and recipes? We at 1st Step Family Wellness are dedicated to ensuring that you and your family have the best care possible. This means not only addressing any questions about chiropractic care, but also about your whole family’s overall health and wellness. Stop by or give us a call today!