Nutrition is a key ingredient in a child’s development. Nutrition plays an important role in long-term development but also in the day-to-day learning activity of young children. As a 2007 study pointed out the effects of nutrition are not limited to under nourished children, which clearly must be addressed, but also extends to children that many would consider well fed. They found statistically significant cognitive gains among all children who were given a vitamin and mineral supplement.
Recognizing the fundamental role of nutrition plays in the educational setting the U.S. Department of Agriculture just released a new proposal this week that changes the requirements for subsidized school lunches. The proposal was combined with new legislation extending the requirements to all school based lunches not just subsidized programs to improve nutritional standards for all school children and hopefully improve learning and development.
The proposal, though still in the early stages, changes the current standards to include more fresh fruits and vegetables and limits the amount of transfats and non whole grains served. While not blockbuster and likely still a couple of years from taking effect, the change highlights the importance of nutrition for a child’s learning and development.
As parents this is hopefully not news. It should be, however, a reminder that we (as parents) contribute to our children’s education and development in many important ways. Understanding all of the ways we can set our children up for success is the first step, making it a habit is the second and most important step. Most of us recognize the importance of healthy eating, but we also know how hectic the day can become when juggling work, kids, and any thing else life sends our way.
Morning times are probably the most challenging for most parents but most important for our children’s nutrition. The chaos that is the morning time generally determines at least two meals – breakfast and lunch. A small amount of planning can go a long way toward improving the morning time routines. Here are a few suggestions that may help alleviate the morning time stress and get you and the kids out of the house with a healthy meal in hand and stomach.
- Plan for the chaos when shopping: At the grocery store we all have grand plans and great meals in store, but those take time. Pick out items that are fast and nutritious for the morning. Ideally, they are items that are portable (ie a banana and whole grain peanut butter toast) having fast and healthy options available makes it much easier.
- Bedtime stories & brown bags: Add to your bedtime routine. Reading to our kids is critically important so why not go for the one two combination and involve your kids in packing their lunch for the next day. It’s an opportunity to have fun and involve your children in their own healthy development.
- Start early: Our children watch us from the very beginning. Create healthy habits from the very beginning, as they are much easier to reinforce and maintain than to create once they are older.