School exams are an inevitable part of every child's academic journey. Such periodic assessments can bring along a lot of stress to kids and parents too. Expectations and fears run high when we place much importance on academic success.
Do make sure your kids get their daily nourishment during such stressful periods. After all, healthy kids are better and happier learners too. Here are 10 ways to make sure your little ones eat well during and beyond their exam week.
Take breakfast daily
It is well established that kids who eat breakfast concentrate better, score better at maths and are less fidgety1. Breakfast helps your child learn better, exam period or otherwise. Set up easy-to-eat breakfast menus that include grain foods and proteins. Simple meals include buns or oatmeal with milk. If your little one is too stressed to eat, serve up a glass of ready-to-eat cereal mix with milk – as drinking may be easier than eating on some days.
Include hearty mains for lunch and dinner
Despite the hectic schedule, kids need ample nourishment. Pack healthy meals for your little student to eat for lunch at school or on the way to a class. Make dinner a warm and relaxing family meal that helps to balance out his diet and allows for supportive family interaction. Nourishing, hearty mains will help your child take a break from the learning and fill his tummy with nutrients to support the rapid growth and development that go on through childhood, despite exams.
Energise with healthy snacks
Kids have small tummies but great nutrient needs! Snacking on healthy foods and drinks can help your little ones pack in vital nutrients in between main meals. A sandwich, a bowl of noodles or porridge, a serving of fruit with a glass of milk are ideas for simple snacks that are nourishing and easy to put together.
Push for protein power
The special chemicals that help the neurons (brain cells) talk to one another are made up of proteins. Small portions of wholesome proteins will help your child's body receive the amino acid building blocks to kickstart those neurons. Lean meat, skinless poultry, eggs, beans, and milk are good protein-packed choices.
Include carbohydrates (carbs)
A working brain prefers carbs to fuel its activities. Grain foods, fruit and milk provide vital carbs to keep the neurons revved up to cope with the demands of exam rigors.
Keep the 'good' fats
Brain cells are largely made up of fat molecules. An infant’s brain is about a quarter the size of the brain of an adult. It grows to about 80 per cent by three years and 90 per cent by five. Due to this rapid brain growth and development, young children need high levels of ‘good’ polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fats2 in their diet.
Serve up vital vitamins
Do remember to include vitamin-packed foods in your kids’ diet. While vitamins are needed in really tiny amounts3, they are all vital to health and development of children. Like little sparks that stoke up a big fire, these vital nutrients are essential to keep the body functioning at its peak ability. So read food labels, compare similar products to pick those that deliver more vitamins per serving, to build a balanced diet for your child.
Include important minerals
A healthy child needs quite a few minerals including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and iron. Each of them has important individual roles and in some cases, they support the function of each other. Studies have shown that young children who were iron deficient or anemic in early childhood may suffer in terms of physical and mental development4.
Aim for more fibre
Fibre in the diet helps to keep bowels regular. The prebiotic fibres have the unique ability to feed the 'good' probiotic bacteria in your child's large intestines5 thereby ensuring the 'bad' ones do not thrive as well. They also break down to special fuels that help nourish intestinal cells and indirectly help build up your child's immune defences.
During periods of stress, eating regular and healthy meals and snacks will help your child stay nourished and also provide periods of well-deserved relaxation. Take extra effort to ensure that your kids enjoy their meals and snacks. Help your child develop a healthy relationship with food and eating even as they’re coping with exam stress. This will go a long way to helping your child maintain a healthy weight through adult life as well.
1WebMD. Retrieved on August 26, 2015, from: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/healthy-breakfast-ideas.
2Health Promotion Board of Singapore. Retrieved on August 26, 2015 from: http://www.hpb.gov.sg/HOPPortal/health-article/5634.
3Ibid. Retrieved on August 26, 2015 from: http://www.hpb.gov.sg/HOPPortal/health-article/2652.
4Mayo clinic. Retrieved on August 26, 2015 from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/iron-deficiency/art-20045634.
5WebMD. Retrieved on August 26, 2015 from: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrition-vitamins-11/probiotics.