You can almost hear the collective GROAN from both students and parents! Common Core testing is right around the corner and EOG’s are trailing close behind. So what’s a parent to do? How can you give your kid every advantage, every chance for success when they sit down to take those all too important tests? You fuel both their bodies and their minds with the right stuff.
The research tells us that when kids eat the right combination of foods with the nutrients that matter most, it positively affects their attention, memory and cognitive function. They are more focused. More engaged. More alert. Ready for whatever life (or the standardized test) throws their way. In the same way athletes maintain careful diet regimens for peak physical performance, we can help our children reach their top learning potential.
So, what works? Foods rich in omega-3s, whole grains, iron, antioxidants, and protein. And water. LOTS of water to stave off dehydration and help the body better use all those great nutrients.
What doesn’t? Sugar, fast food, and meals high in calories but low in nutritional value.
So, if you’re ready to get ready for testing season (and healthier kids all year long) – let’s take a look at some meal ideas that will help them knock it out of the park intellectually and have you feeling like a grade-A parent for serving up just what your children need to succeed…
- Eggs (a great source of protein, choline, and omega-3s): Scramble them up, add a little low-fat shredded cheese and roll them into a whole wheat tortilla for a quick, on-the-go breakfast!
- Oatmeal (whole grain, high in fiber & protein): Let your kids get creative with some of their favorite add-ins such as nuts, berries, and cinnamon!
- Berries: Those little beauties (especially blueberries) are popping with antioxidants and polyphenols!
- Lean Meat Sandwich: Put their favorite lean fixings on some healthy whole-wheat bread or wrap (folate)!
- Seasonal Fruit: Considered ‘nature’s candy’ – choose high-fiber seasonal fruits to keep kids regular and make sure they are getting plenty of antioxidants. Make fruit fun to eat by cutting it into shapes, serving it on skewers, or making a colorful ‘salad.’ Want the most nutrition from kids’ favorite fruits like apples and pears? Keep the skins on!
- Seeds and Nuts: Make like our squirrel friends with these healthy treats which are rich in protein and fatty acids. Add whole mixed seeds and nuts to lunch boxes – or even try a sandwich made with sunflower seed butter for a change of pace.
- Cereal: Fuel up with some whole grain cereal brimming with folate, protein, and complex carbs for a natural energy jolt.
- Greek Yogurt: This full-fat, high-protein powerhouse has just what the brain needs to fire on all cylinders. Fat is good for the brain and the extra protein is good for energy and a healthy metabolism. And when you let kids mix their yummy yogurt with berries or a few dark chocolate chips? They’ll think it’s a TREAT! Score!
- Lean Beef: Full of iron and zinc, it gives our kids a great dose of muscle-building protein.
- Fish: This heart-healthy staple is loaded with healthy fat and those brain-powering omega-3s that help kids’ bodies and minds work at optimum capacity.
- Greens: Get a little color on that plate! For a fun, delicious veggie treat (filled with folate and vitamins), entice your kids with kale chips. Fun to make – and delicious to crunch.
As parents, life hands us a lot of choices. A lot of juggling. A lot of weighing out crazy schedules vs. healthy lifestyles. The trick is to find healthy tweaks that work for your family – to make it fun and keep it interesting. The bottom line? We raise kids whose bodies and minds are running at full capacity. When they eat better – they test better. They sleep better. They are less grumpy and more joyful. And we get to rest easier too knowing we did our best by them. Isn’t that what we ALL want?
About the Author
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic – A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.