how does my child's diet impact their ability to learn
Child Health, Diet & Nutrition, Health Tips

How Does My Child’s Diet Impact their Ability to Learn?

Heard of the saying “you are what you eat”? Food gives us energy and fuels us for the day. It’s also how our bodies get the essential nutrients needed for cognitive functioning and good overall health. For children this can affect their ability to learn, retain information and their attitude towards school so it’s vital that they have a healthy, balanced diet. To learn more about how a child’s diet can impact their ability to learn and what it should include, here’s some guidance that we’ve put together for parents with a private school in Hertfordshire.

Brain Functioning

To get into the science of it, what we eat determines the composition of our cells and their activities. Eating healthily also supports the production of new neurons (brain cells that send signals to other brain cells and parts of the body). They are needed for everything that we do from walking around to breathing.

Mood and Energy

Low motivation and desire to learn can also have a negative effect on grades. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for balancing mood and anxiety. Its production is affected by glucose which are the smaller chain molecules found in carbohydrates. The brain can’t function without sufficient levels so you will need to make sure that your child’s diet contains the right balance. All carbs aren’t equal and those that provide the best sources of energy are wholegrains, vegetables, fruit, rice, potatoes, and lactose.

Foods High in Sugar

While they crave them, it’s important to keep sugary foods in their diet to a minimum. While initially they will offer high energy, later they will feel tired and lethargic throughout the day. They are also not a good idea as children can become hyperactive and disruptive at school.

Healthy Fats

60% of the brain is made up of omega-3 fats with DHA. They are needed for the structure and function of neurons (the signalling brain cells mentioned earlier), as well as eye and mental development. As the majority of brain cells are developed by early childhood, they’re essential to include. Foods that are rich in the fatty acid are olive oil, walnuts, and oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel. If you struggle to get these into your child’s diet, they can be added via a supplement.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins C, D & E, B vitamins and magnesium are also incredibly vital and have a hand in brain health and development. Vitamin E helps cells transmit messages from nerves while B vitamins and vitamin C affect how the nerves themselves work and form. Magnesium has a slightly different function. It can improve memory, help children deal with stress and depression and is essential for energy production and neurotransmitters.

Foods Containing the Nutrients

Vitamin C can be found in a whole range of citrus fruits and vegetables like peppers, brussel sprouts and leafy greens like spinach. Vitamin D on the other hand they can get from oily fish along with their omega fatty acids and vitamin E from plant oils like rapeseed and sunflower oil. Avocados, spinach, brown rice, and nuts are excellent sources of magnesium. Vitamin E can be found in a wider variety from meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy to leafy green vegetables.

Advice for Picky Eaters

We’ve included a lot of different food groups here and for parents of picky eaters we understand that making sure they get eaten is a difficult task, but don’t give up! There are lots of ways to get around them. Try experimenting with presentation and make their food a little more eye-catching perhaps? You could cut their food out into stars, disguise them with other ingredients so they don’t suspect anything or vary the spices that you use to hide their distinct flavours. Also make a habit to eat at the table where there are no distractions. That way you will get them to eat properly as opposed to taking small bites and spending the entire time on their devices.

Educate Them on the importance of Food

Food is pretty cool for everything that it helps us do. Teaching children about its importance and why we need the various food groups can help them get on board with healthy eating and make a conscious effort themselves.