Is the Western Diet Benefiting Or Education?

By Bessie Kimelfeld

Nutrition plays a large role in our child’s overall development, but a recent topic that needs more attention is the effect nutrition has on our children’s learning habits. Research shows that the western diet, filled with high glycemic foods, is contributing to poor education outcomes in our country. According to an article in Today’s Dietitian by Chrissy Carroll, the United States is at an average in reading and science and below average in mathematics as compared to other countries around the world. Perhaps by targeting the main problems in the Western diet and adding substitutes, academic performance can be improved and positive health outcomes can be achieved as well.

The best way to improve academic performance with nutrition is by starting off your day with a balanced breakfast. A balanced breakfast doesn’t simply mean eating a sugary cereal in the morning. Rather, it encourages avoiding food with a high glycemic index that spike glucose levels and will wear a child’s energy off quickly mid-class so that he is hyper in the beginning of class and then dozing off and cranky in the middle. A study was done in which students who ate oatmeal for breakfast versus sugary cereal performed better on standardized tests. This is likely due to the fact that concentration improves when sugar is stabilized.

Recommended low-glycemic index food are:

  • Low-fat yogurt topped with whole grain cereal and fruit
  • Tomato, avocado, and cheese on whole wheat toast
  • Whole grain, low-sugar cereal, and milk, and a piece of fruit
  • Steel-cut oatmeal with sliced apples and nuts
Last Spring, I tutored a student for two hours at a time. I gave him a ten-minute break between his lessons, during which time he would almost always eat candy. My student was, consequently, always hyper during his lessons. One day, his grandmother fed him soup during his break and I noticed significantly better behavior, and he even scored 100% on his quiz that day. There have been numerous situations where, during tutoring and learning at THINK&Co., I have witnessed students performing better after healthy snacks. When students eat better, they perform better. By continuing to be aware of our children’s nutrition, we are bettering their education and the future of our health in the long run.

It may be easy to consider the common factors, like teachers, schools, and study time, when trying to find the best solutions for our kids but sometimes, a big help can come right from your own kitchen.
Happy healthy learning!
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