Neuronutrition for Optimal School Performance

Neuronutrition for Optimal School Performance

School is increasingly competitive. Eating for performance can provide your student with an advantage.

School is increasingly competitive. Eating for performance can provide your student with an advantage.

Is your child falling behind in school?

Is your teen unable to concentrate in class?

Are you concerned that your child may have a learning disability?

Are you a college or university student constantly stressed, fatigued, and feeling out of control?

Now that the school year is well underway, you may have noticed that your child is suffering in the classroom or lagging behind his peers. Perhaps he’s hyperactive and cannot sit still long enough to allow new material to sink in. Maybe your teen’s teacher(s) have contacted you about concerns with behaviour issues or inattention. Or maybe your worried about your college student’s poor eating habits while constantly burning the midnight oil.

If so, the right nutrition can make all the difference!

What your child eats impacts learning

As a high school math teacher for the last 10 years, I have seen what students typically eat for lunch, and have witnessed first hand exactly how these foods have affected students in the classroom.

I have spoken with students about what the food they eat does to their brains and bodies. Some listen, but most don’t seem to care. Granted I have spent the majority of my teaching career at the high school level where not seeming to care is the over-riding attitude. Regardless, I am often appalled by what kids so-willingly put into their growing bodies.

It all starts in elementary school. I have seen countless lunchboxes with a huge range of  food choices. Some are healthy and I make a point of commending those kids. I know how challenging it can be to get a child to make the right food choices, especially when the school offers bake sales and “hot lunch” days. 

When I grew up, we had “Hot Dog Days” where parent volunteers would come in and serve up hot dogs, milk (chocolate, of course), and donuts. You had to pre-order and pay upfront. It was an exciting day that happened maybe three times over the course of a school year and almost every kid participated. Ah - thinking about it takes me back…those were the days! 

Of course, now I know better and avoid commercial hotdogs with their processed white bun counterparts. 

But “Hot Dog Days” are still around, only they have evolved. Today, in British Columbia schools, at least in my city, seemingly every other week is the offering of a “Hot Lunch.” Students have the opportunity to pre-order and buy a hot lunch supplied by one of the local fast food establishments. Choices often include subs, sandwiches, soup, hot dogs, pizza, pasta, tacos, and the like. Though slightly better than burgers and fries, choices still come on refined white bread or buns with juice and milk options. Still refined. Still poor-quality ingredients. Still offered with dessert - chips, donuts, cupcakes, cookies, etc.

But my worst experiences with school lunches has to be at the high school level. Most high schools are located within walking distance of some sort of fast food place. And if not, by the time kids reach the higher grades they, or their friends are able to drive, and venture wherever they please.

The high school where I usually teach is well within walking limits of a plethora of fast food restaurants, 2 popular coffee/donut shops, and an establishment that sells candy in bulk. 

Let me translate this and put it in perspective for you, as most students do not bring a bag lunch with them in high school. 

Many students buy food (cinnamon buns, pizza, muffins, or hot plates) at the resident cafeteria or go without eating at all - which has its own negative consequences. 

But most students often return to school for their afternoon classes after they have eaten a pizza, sub, or burger with fries washed down with a massive sugary soda. Some may even return with their lunch still in the bag (or box) to eat on campus. Others may make an additional stop, after downing their burger, of course, at the store that sells bulk candy. There, they fill up a bag or two of pure sugar to snack on and share with classmates during their afternoon classes. Sadly for others, this IS their lunch of choice. Finally, other students will venture to the coffee shops and return with extra-large sugar-laden coffee, hot chocolate, or frappuccino to help them “get through” the afternoon.

Regardless of their choice - burger, pizza, candy, or donuts and coffee - they all spell trouble. They are poor choices for anyone to make, but for a growing teen who needs to nourish his or her body and brain, this can spell disaster!

Sugar causes a rapid rise and fall in blood sugar levels, which can lead to insulin resistance, weight gain, and any number of inflammatory diseases. It’s also destructive, addictive, and creates habits that are hard to break. Moreover, sugar causes our brain function, learning, memory, and attention span to suffer.

The same can be said about refined and processed carbohydrates, as they are quickly turned into sugar in the body. So wether students gnaw on sugary candy or pizza, their ability to learn is affected.

Even though I do not allow this type of food into my classroom, it does not prevent students from eating it during their lunch break or slamming it back before they enter my room. The aftermath is very noticeable, and typically results in one of three things happening.

One, students crash after their sugar rush, get tired, and are only interested in taking a nap. They cannot focus on what is being taught or carry through with what the teacher is asking of them. The afternoon becomes clouded as they force themselves to keep their eyes open.

Two, the sugar hypes them up and they cannot sit still. Even if allowed to move around the room, their brain (and body) is moving a mile a minute and they cannot focus. A new lesson is being taught? Forget about being able to concentrate on it!

Third, if they happen to be sensitive to sugar’s effects, as most people with allergies, learning disabilities or autism are, the sugar lights their brains on fire. They cannot control the beast that hijacks their brian and rises from within, so they often become oppositional. Behavioural outbursts and defiance usually result. Not only can they not control their behaviour, but however their outbursts manifest themselves, all other students in the classroom and the teacher are affected. 

What can be done about it?

Regardless of how sugar affects students, it does affect them. In my opinion, and I’m sure most of you would agree, none of the above three choices is a good option. Moreover, for children with allergies, it may not only be sugar, but other “healthy” foods that may be causing similar symptoms. 

If you need help figuring out what food or foods may be triggering your child’s outbursts or challenges in the classroom, regardless of his or her age, now is the time to take action. I can help you determine which foods may be triggering outbursts or inattention, and create a plan focused on neuronutrition to fuel your child’s body and brain.

If you are a college or university student who “needs” caffeine to help you get through the day, who must eat on a budget - which often translates into resorting to fast food - or who has no time to cook a healthy meal, I can help. We can look at a realistic eating plan that can provide powerful nutrients to optimize your brain function so that you can concentrate and focus on what’s important. Part of that can include caffeine alternatives so you do not need to feel dependent on coffee to get you through the day. 

With a focus on proper neuronutrition for you and your needs, you will have more energy, more focus, your ability to retain new information will improve and you may just get the leg-up on your competition. In today’s competitive school and work environments, this can make the difference between landing that dream job or not.

If you’d like to get started today, here are 3 tips to help you regain focus and energy while fuelling your brain so that it can work better for you.

Tips to optimize learning and improve brain function

  • Ditch the refined starches and sugars - White refined sugar not only provides no nutritional value, but wrecks havoc on blood sugar levels, creating moodiness, irritability, fatigue, and an inability to focus. It also robs your body of valuable B vitamins needed for optimal brain function and attention.

  • Choose nutrient-dense whole foods instead - Spend most of your time shopping around the perimeter of the grocery store where the fresh fruits, veggies, and meats are. This means you’ll spend less time in the middle aisles where the boxed, pre-packaged, refined, and processed foods lurk. Dark green and colourful fruits and vegetables are your best choice to provide nutrients that will keep you going - without that caffeine!

  • Add brain-healthy fats to your plate daily - If you feed your brain the healthy fats it needs to thrive, it will work much better for you. By brain-healthy fats, I’m referring to avocado, avocado oil, and wild fish loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids. 

Your brain (the only one you’ve got) is what will give you the competitive edge in today’s marketplace - both at school and in the workforce. So fuelling it with the right nutrients will help both you and your brain go further, reach higher, and achieve your goals more efficiently. 

The benefits of neuronutrition at any age cannot be understated.
— Kelly

It all starts in childhood.

Make sure your child is receiving the right nutrients to fuel his brian. 

For more information about neuronutrition, to receive brain-healthy meal plans, or to set up an appointment to discuss how I can best help you optimize your child’s ability to learn, contact me or visit today.

As always, I’d love to hear from you. Comment below with ways you keep your child eating right to optimize their brian function and learning. 

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