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Nutrition | Boost Grades with Good Food

Boost Grades with Good Food

If you want to help your kids do better in school, you can start by providing them with healthy food. A new study has found that a high-quality diet is linked to a higher level of academic performance in schoolchildren.

The researchers surveyed 5,200 fifth-graders and their parents for the study, published in the Journal of School Health, and used the information to calculate a score for each child’s diet that represented nutrient content; food variety; balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrate; and the amount of saturated fat, salt, and junk food eaten. Academic performance was measured using a standardized reading and writing test.

Children who had the highest diet quality scores—and therefore the healthy diets—were 41% less likely to fail the literacy test than children with the lowest diet quality scores, which indicated poor diets. Variety and adequate nutrition were linked with academic performance, and children who ate more fruits and vegetables and fewer calories from fat did better on the test.

“Dietary adequacy and variety were the specific factors found to positively influence academic performance, highlighting the value of eating a diverse array of foods in order to reach recommended levels of intake for nutrients and foods,” said study coauthor, Dr. Paul Veugelers, at the School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Canada.

Previous research showing that eating a healthy breakfast can help children do better in school influenced the widespread implementation of school breakfast programs. Other studies have found that being overweight or obese has a negative influence on academic performance, suggesting that school programs emphasizing both healthy eating and physical exercise might have the best effect on raising achievement in school.

Tips to build your kids’ brainpower

Parents can take the following steps to improve their children’s likelihood of doing well in school:

• Make sure your children get to bed on time and get plenty of sleep.

• Start them out with a healthy breakfast, including whole grains and fruits.

• Pack healthy foods to take to school, including whole grain bread for sandwiches, vegetables, fruits, and nuts and seeds.

• Make dinner a family affair and keep it wholesome and varied, introducing new foods to kids on a regular basis.

• Turn off the television, computer, and video games and encourage your kids to be active.

Establishing good habits early in life will help your children to be successful now and in the future.

(J Sch Health 2008;78:209–15)

Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.

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The health information contained in this site is not intended as medical advice and should not be considered a substitute for appropriate medical care. Any products mentioned in studies cited in Healthnotes articles are not necessarily endorsed by Bastyr. As with any product, consult with a natural health practitioner to discuss what may be best for you.

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