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Nutrition for Academic Success

We’re excited to welcome a guest contributor and one of our own community members,
Lea Wetzell who works as a certified Nutrition Specialist. She’s got some wonderful tips for quick and easy breakfast ideas to get your child’s day off to the best start before they begin their school day.

There is a lot you can do nutritionally to help your child focus in school. Here are three key tips to help support a well-nourished brain.

Starting the day out right by having a balanced breakfast including real protein, real carbohydrate, and real fat such as eggs cooked in real butter and hash browns. This breakfast is going to give your child’s brain the nutrients and fuel they need to pay attention. Our brain is made up of 60-70 percent fat and growing brains need a steady supply of healthy fats (ex, butter, unprocessed coconut oil, unrefined olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds) to support brain development and keep blood sugars steady throughout the day. Time can be short on busy work/school days and breakfast may need to be quick to make. Cooking an egg bake on the weekends can be super helpful for a healthy, weekday breakfast.

Secondly, trying to support your child to eat real foods and minimize processed foods containing food additives (artificial food colors, flavorings, and preservatives) is very helpful for the brain. Clinically, food additives have been shown to heighten symptoms such as: short attention span, distractibility, restlessness, lack of attention to detail – all things inhibiting the brain’s ability to focus. Hidden food additives can often be found in kid-friendly foods including fruit snacks or roll-ups, granola bars, flavored yogurts, chips, crackers, and candies. When choosing snack foods, look for snacks that feature ingredients you completely understand and a bonus if it is labeled free of artificial food colors, flavorings, and preservatives. Making your own snacks can be a great way to ensure you are avoiding food additives. Kids often love making and eating energy balls/bars. There are many ways to make them, and most recipes are very adaptable to your child’s particular tastes.

The essential fatty acids omega-3s are crucial for brain development. There are many studies and meta-analyses connecting the biological need for omega-3s especially for the brain. One example is a randomized controlled trial showing that supplementing children (aged 7–9 years) who were underperforming in reading with 600 mg of DHA (from algal oil) improved parent-rated ADHD-type behavior. (1) Wild-caught salmon, pastured eggs, and grass-fed beef are great sources of omega-3s to include in your child’s diet. Supplementing with high quality liquid fish oil is one of the best ways to ensure your child is getting enough omega-3s.

Egg Bake Recipe Download: to be prepared Sunday and reheated weekday mornings.
Protein Ball Snack Recipe

Richardson A.J., Burton J.R., Sewell R.P., Spreckelsen T.F., Montgomery P. Docosahexaenoic acid for reading, cognition and behavior in children aged 7–9 years: A randomized, controlled trial (the DOLAB Study) PLoS ONE. 2012;7:e43909. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043909.

Lea Wetzell is a certified nutrition specialist and Momma to Oliver + Lucy. She uses whole food nutrition to help patients create a path to wellness. She received her M.S. in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut and is a licensed nutritionist through the Minnesota Board of Dietetics and Nutrition. She is also nationally recognized as a certified nutrition specialist through the American College of Nutrition, an association composed of medical and research scientists to further nutrition research.