Families today understand that healthy eating is more important than ever before. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), 17% of all children and adolescents in America are obese. This is triple the rate of childhood obesity from only one generation ago. But did you know that eating a healthy diet can help your child to learn in and out of school, and to grow?
According to the National Institute of Health, it is critical that children begin the day with whole grains, proteins and fruits. Sugary cereals may be tempting with cute cartoon characters and sweet flavors, but they aren’t a healthy way to start out the day – or to sustain it. The “sugar high” from those cereals is often followed with a crash and children in school need to have a continued energy level so they can focus, concentrate and stay energized about their day from math problems to gym and everything in between.
Another big challenge is when children skip breakfast entirely. Krista Casazza, assistant professor in the nutrition sciences department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham believes that learning can be affected when children wind up not eating breakfast.
About 8 to 12% of all children in America miss breakfast, according to William Cochran, M.D., FAAP, a past member of the American Academy of Pediatric’s Committee on Nutrition. Cochran is also vice chairman of the Department of Pediatrics of the Geisinger Clinic in Danville, PA. By the time these children enter their teen years, about 20 to 30% of them are skipping breakfast entirely. A poor habit to develop.
Eating regular, healthy meals will help children to focus their attentions on learning and have plenty of energy and enthusiasm for school. They will be able to focus and work hard in their lessons. Fueling a child with healthy meals also means they will not be tempted to seek out unhealthy snacks in large portions after school because they are hungry.
Encouraging healthy eating habits is a positive habit you can give your child that will last them their entire lifetime. According to WebMD, teaching a child to eat healthy can help them to stay in a healthy weight range and to continue with normal growth. Children who learn to eat healthy as children often continue this healthy habit as adults, staying within a healthy weight range.
Healthy snacks are another critical area that families should be aware of. Choosing yogurt over ice cream, baked chips instead of regular potato chips or fruit instead of candy not only removes fat and calories from the diet, but also encourages a lifetime of healthy eating habits. Try encouraging children with to drink water instead of soda. This habit alone removes lots of sugar from their diet.
One of the best things you can do for your child to encourage healthy eating is to do your best to see that meals they eat outside of the home are healthy too. Learn about your child’s school lunch program and the options available and help your child understand the choices (depending on the child’s age they may need less or more help with this). Teach your child to order healthy food while dining out, even when stopping at a fast food restaurant on eating on-the-go.
If your child is overweight or heavy for their age, has food allergies, is a picky eater or you are unsure about anything about their diet, ask your child’s pediatrician for some guidance. They can make recommendations about what would be best to feed your child. There are many children who have experienced these circumstances who continue or learn to become healthy eaters. Healthy eating is the best way to help them in school and with their growth and development.
Eating healthy food sustains your energy in a way that “junk food” simply cannot. Think for a moment about your car or other type of vehicle – you fill it with gas so it can go wherever you want to go. What would happen if you filled it with chocolate syrup instead? One might try to argue that chocolate syrup is a liquid and is brown, just like gas is. But it is not what your car or vehicle requires to fuel its engine. Your child has an “engine” just like your car or vehicle does in some ways – fill it up with the wrong things and it won’t be able to go where it needs to and get what needs to get done. A child should be filled with healthy protein, whole grains, dairy, vegetables and fruit. Then just watch all of the amazing things your child can do!