A healthy and natural diet, along with good eating habits might be more important than you think to your child’s academic performance at school. Good child nutrition promotes early brain development and builds a stronger immune system against viral infections and diseases. Increasing iron intake, avoiding preservatives and artificial colouring, intake of probiotics, and increased exposure to vitamin D
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 could function much better at school than those with unhealthy diets.
But defining a healthy diet and knowing what to include or not to include can be confusing. To help you filter through all the information, we compiled a list of tips on creating a nutrition and diet plan for your child.
4 Tips for child health and nutrition
1. Increase intake of iron
Low iron levels can lead to poor academic performance and slow brain development. A well-balanced diet should include iron foods such as red meat and other plant-based foods. Hong Kong expatriate children who 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 boost omega-3 levels and have been found to improve children's attention span.
2. Avoid preservatives & artificial colouring
Parents should include foods with as few 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 more challenging time focusing in school but they could be at risk for 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. Starting young will also encourage better eating habits as children grow up.
3. Promote probiotics
Probiotics help to keep the gut healthy from other stomach-related diseases and are usually found in yoghurt. Most children’s immune systems are relatively weaker when they are younger so it is important to ensure they have a good intake of probiotics in their diet. Since a strong immune system means a healthier child, your child will spend fewer 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 primary source of vitamin D is the sun, but it can also be taken in supplement form. A study in Japan found that children with higher vitamin D levels 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?
Air pollution and common disease outbreaks threaten your child’s immune system in an environment like Hong Kong. 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 the best state at school to study and focus.
If you want to learn more about 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. If you are concerned about your child experiencing health-related issues, consult a general practitioner immediately.