A healthy and natural based diet might be more important than you think to your child’s academic performance at school. Good nutrition promotes early brain development and builds a stronger immune system against viral infections and diseases. Numerous studies have found links between children’s health and their ability to perform well in a school environment. It was discovered that children with healthier diets were able to function much better at school than those with unhealthy diets.
But defining a healthy diet and knowing what to include or what not to include can be confusing. To help you filter through all the information out there, we comprised together a list of tips on creating a nutrition and diet plan for your child.
4 nutrition tips for your child’s diet
1. Increase intake of iron
Low level of irons can lead to poor academic performance and slow brain development. A well balanced diet should include foods that contain iron such as red meat and other plant-based foods. Hong Kong expatriate children that have been found to have iron deficiency experienced the following:
- Poor memory
- Slow verbal processing
- Low attention span
In some cases, iron deficiency can also lead to anaemia or learning disabilities such as ADHD. However, iron supplements are readily available in many pharmaceuticals and can be used to combat iron deficiency. We also recommend fish oil tablets as they help to boost omega-3 levels and have been found to improve children's attention span.
2. Avoid preservatives & artificial colouring
Parents should aim to include foods with as little preservatives and artificial colouring as possible. Foods like processed meats, canned goods and soft drinks all have high levels of preservatives and should be avoided. Studies have also found that artificial colouring and preservatives result in increased levels of hyperactivity in children. Not only will your child have a harder time focusing in school but they could be at risk to other diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure or heart disease.
We recommend that the next time you pack a lunch for your child, try using food products with natural ingredients rather than prepackaged foods and soft drinks.
3. Promote probiotics
Probiotics help to keep the gut healthy from other stomach related diseases and is usually found in yoghurt. Most children’s immune systems are relatively weaker when they are younger so it is important to make sure that they have a good intake of probiotics in their diet. Since a strong immune system means a healthier child, your child will spend less days absent from school or childcare.
If your child is experiencing upper respiratory tract infections, we also recommend that you consider using a combination of probiotic supplements with Echinacea (a herb), as it has been found to improve gut health.
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D has been found to help prevent viral illnesses and strengthen the immune system. The main source that provides us with vitamin D is the sun, but it can also be taken in supplement form. A particular study in Japan found that children with higher levels of vitamin D were less likely to contract Influenza A and recommended a high intake to strengthen children’s immune systems. So to protect you and your children from viral illnesses you should try to increase your exposure to the sun.
Need more help?
In an environment like Hong Kong, air pollution and common disease outbreaks are a threat to your child’s immune system. If your child often falls sick it could lead to more absences from school and affect their academic performance. But by exercising regularly and having a balanced diet, your child will be in his or her best state at school to study and focus.
If you would like to find out more on creating a well balanced nutrition plan for your child, OT&P’s nutritionists can create detailed dietary plans based on your child’s health needs. Or if you are concerned that your child may be experiencing health-related issues, you should consult with a general practitioner immediately.