Food For Thought

Secrets about snacks that can help your child succeed.



Food For Thought

Breakfast, lunch, and snacks in the afternoon can all affect how your child studies and, in turn, test performance. Here's a crash course on refreshments that can refresh your child's mind.

What's the Big Deal About Breakfast?
Is your child up as soon as the alarm rings, eating breakfast before school every day? Or is she more likely to hit the snooze button repeatedly before rolling out of bed and rushing off to school without any food? If the second choice accurately describes your child's morning routine, the good news is that it's not an uncommon habit. Who really wants to get out of bed and eat breakfast when you could be getting more rest by sleeping an extra twenty minutes?

As it turns out, sleeping in and skipping breakfast will probably leave your child more tired during school than waking up a bit earlier and making sure to eat. That morning munchfest is totally essential for energy — and this is especially key leading up to a test.

Why? By having a morning meal, your child's body gets the necessary vitamins and minerals to foster concentration and help absorb information. Think of it this way: it's pretty tough to learn the dates of the Civil War with eyes drooping closed. Lack of a meal increases the likelihood of daydreaming and sleepiness during class and test time.

So encourage your child to turn off her alarm on the first buzz and dig into the breakfast of academic champions every morning. It'll boost memory skills, alertness, and it could translate into test success. Of course, studying is vital to your child's success, but having breakfast definitely helps!

A Week's Worth of Ideas for Morning Meals Leading Up to Test Day

Monday: Cheerios with a banana sliced up. Stick to low sugar cereals, like Cheerios or Crispix, and add some fruit to naturally sweeten it. Cereal is filling, easy to make, and tastes good — the perfect way to start the week.

Tuesday: Scrambled eggs with wheat toast. Eggs are a good source of protein, and with a slice of toast, your child will have a combination of nutrients that'll provide extra oomph all morning.

Wednesday: Whole-wheat bagel with jelly or cream cheese. Multi-grain or whole-wheat bagels are more nutritious than plain white ones, and a tablespoon of jelly or cream cheese is a better choice than heavy butter. Plus, bagels are great for an on-the-go breakfast if your child is rushing to get to school for extra studying.

Thursday: Yogurt with granola. Your child will get a big dose of calcium from the yogurt — try adding granola on top for a satisfying crunch.

Friday: Oatmeal with brown sugar and cinnamon. Oatmeal is truly a winner — it has a mix of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates, which will keep kids energized and alert during the test. Sprinkle oatmeal with a bit of brown sugar or cinnamon to make it sweeter; better yet, add some fresh berries!

A Balanced Lunch Helps a Bunch!
Here's how to make your child's noontime noshing more nutritious. As with breakfast, eating the right food at lunch gives your child energy to prevent an afternoon crash. And the right food will feed kids' brains, too, feeding them the right information to help them succeed.

It may seem easier to allow your child to purchase food in the cafeteria than worry about packing lunch at home. But some of the choices found in the lunch room — pizza, burgers, chicken fingers, French fries, and the candy machine — are high-fat or high-sugar foods that will leave kids sluggish and not at all in test-mode. For the healthiest, smartest meal, have your child break out the brown bag.

Thinking Inside the Lunchbox: Do's and Don'ts for Packing a Brain-Boosting Lunch

Do balance the lunchbox with selections from the food pyramid. Pack some whole grains (brown rice, an English muffin, whole wheat pita bread), fruits and veggies, dairy (cheese, yogurt, milk), and meat (turkey, ham, chicken) or meat substitute (tofu, tuna fish, peanut butter).
Don't forget to pack a snack: a baggie of pretzels, a cookie, Jell-O pudding, or a handful of Wheat Thins.

Do pay attention to beverages. Water and milk are good. Sodas and high-sugar fruit juices are not.
Don't discard the thermos. Pack hot soup or chili during cold winter months to prevent brain freeze.

Do dip in! Put some ranch dressing, honey mustard, or salsa into a Tupperware container and zip some baby carrots, cucumber slices, celery sticks, and broccoli florets into a Ziploc bag to add crunch to lunch.
Don't leave out your child's favorite tastes. If she loves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, just substitute the white bread with wheat bread, which is healthier.

Do make a fruit salad. Apples, pears, peaches, plums, and raspberries (all full of fiber) are the best choices for boosting brainpower.
Don't encourage trips to the vending machine. Tell kids to wait 20 minutes before snacking, which is how long it takes for their stomach to realize it's full. Remind them being overly full during study sessions or tests will also make concentrating tough.

Munching for Your Mind
Ahh, snacks. Some kids swear that the "sugar-high" and caffeine boost from candy, chocolate, or soda actually helps the studying process because it gives them energy. But it's just temporary, and what goes up, must come down. In most cases, too much sugar or caffeine will end up zapping your child's energy. She could also end up with a headache, and in general, be left in a state that's rather useless for absorbing test information. Encourage kids to snack with moderation — one chocolate-chip cookie is fine; six may lead to a stomachache or urge for a nap.

Try serving up these snacks that are both delicious and healthy. This menu of munchies will keep your child's mind alert, stomach satiated, and taste buds thrilled.

Super Snacks For Studying

  • PB and A. Cut an apple into wedges and spread some crunchy peanut butter on it.
  • Smooth Studier. Blend a cup of milk, two cups of your child's favorite fruit, and a cup of ice. Stick a straw in the glass and you have a super smoothie!
  • Cheese, Please! Cube some cheese and stick toothpicks in them. Serve with crackers.
  • It's Berry Good. Take a handful of berries — blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, or sliced strawberries — and mix them with plain or vanilla yogurt. Yum!
  • Skinny Dipping. Nothing beats noshing on carrots and ranch dip when you need something crisp.
  • Pop Star. Pour your child's favorite fruit juice into the ice cube tray and freeze for mini-popsicles.
  • Go Nuts! Create a nutty trail mix, with cashews, peanuts, bagel chips, pretzel sticks, and M&Ms. Shake it up, and serve in a bowl.
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