As parents one of our major concerns is how well our children perform in school. Our worries often lead us to consult therapists, tutors, and other specialists. Good nutrition is another important, powerful tool to help our kids reach their potential. Studies show that certain types of fats in the diet might actually improve brain function.
Today, Judy Caplan, Registered Dietitian and author of the children’s book Gobey Gets Full – Good Nutrition in a Nutshell (www.gobefull.com) and Nutrition Editor for FAMILY Magazine, shared tips on Nutrition and School Performance during the FAMILY Magazine and Moms Like Me segment at 9AM on WUSA9 News Now.
Take a look at your child’s overall food preferences and assess the quality of fats in his/her diet. Some studies show that increasing healthy Omega 3 and monounsaturated fats in your child’s diet is good for brain function.
Why do we want to feed kids more fat?
Fats are important for brain function and hormone development, but not any type of fat. It needs to be healthy fat from Omega-3-fatty acids and monounsaturated fat. The problem is many children get too much of the wrong fats called trans or hydrogenated fats. Some researchers think this imbalance might play a role in decreased brain function.
What foods contain these healthy fats?
Monounsaturated fats or MUFA’S are found in olive oil, olives, sesame seeds, avocado and nuts like almonds, pistachios, and peanuts. Salmon, tuna, and sardines are high in Omega-3-fatty acids. Ground flaxseed is also high in Omega 3’s.
What is a hydrogenated fat and why should they be avoided?
Hydrogenated fats are solid at room temperature. Oils start out liquid. Food manufacturers shoot hydrogen into the oil to make it solid. Food companies rarely hydrogenate the healthy fats like olive oil and sesame oil because of expense and taste, but rather the cheaper and less healthy oils like corn oil and soybean oil. Eating too much trans fats and too little healthy fats can cause a ratio imbalance of the healthy and unhealthy fats and researchers think this discrepancy causes problems.
How does this translate into eating?
Kids need more nuts and natural nut butters, the kind with the oil on top (refrigerate after opening). If your school has a no nut policy, then serve those foods at home. Cook with olive oil; pack olives as a snack; dip veggies in hummus made with tahini or sesame paste; snack on guacamole and baked chips. Serve more fish – smoked salmon (nitrite free) on a whole wheat bagel with low fat cream cheese; grilled salmon, pan seared halibut, grilled shrimp, and other fatty fishes like tuna, though experts currently recommend limiting tuna to a few times a month due to elevated mercury levels.
What should be avoided?
Avoid anything with hydrogenated fats or partially hydrogenated fats. These fats are found in commercially fried foods like French fries, nuggets, and in commercially prepared products like frozen foods, cereals, candy and baked goods. It is also recommended to cut back on saturated vegetable fats like palm kernel oil as well as excess amounts of animal fat. Generally kids will benefit from a more plant based diet with lots of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, healthy fats, moderate amounts of protein, and a little junk just to keep them happy!
For more articles and resources about “Nutrition and School Performance,” visit the FAMILY Magazine web site – www.washingtonFAMILY.com.