There are many ways educators can reduce the effects of the poor diets that some kids are eating these days. A brain-based learning approach would be…
1. Role model. Eat well and talk to kids about your own decisions in class when it’s appropriate. Avoid being “too preachy” but remember, you are an authority figure to most kids.
2. Include nutritional information to parents in any of the open houses or school newsletters or school websites. My favorite book for kids is “Brain Foods for Kids by Nicola Graimes. For adults, learn about how nutrition affects your own brain in “The Edge Effect” by Eric Braverman.
3. Do food-related class research projects. Divide your class randomly in half. Each does something different. Use simple tasks to measure pre and post. Let students discover the difference on their won bodies and mind.
4. Include nutritional information in units on science, the body, health and physical education. There are plenty of ways to slip it into the curriculum.
5. Work with the school cafeteria staff. Provide a few snippets from the best books. Let them ask you for more information.
Do you think about the brain at your school very often? Is your school cafeteria helping or hurting your kid’s academic performance? Many who are still unwilling to read the research claim that what you eat doesn’t matter very much. They are wrong.
Many early studies were not done with a strong experimental protocol or they were done on malnourished kids. But more recent ones have used the “gold standard in research (blind studies, large sample sizes, cross-over design) and they have found that school nutrition does matter.
Recently, two large and high-quality studies (both randomized, double-blind), used a total of 780 typical, healthy school aged children. All were given either a combination of vitamins and minerals, a supplement of omega-3 essential fats EPA and DHA, or the vitamins and minerals with the omega-3 fats, or a placebo on 6 days a week for 12 months.
At the start of the trial, the children were tested for blood levels of all of these nutrients, all of which significantly improved when they were retested after 12 months. The schoolchildren on the vitamins and minerals had significant improvement in tests of verbal learning and memory. (Osendarp SJ et al., Am J Clin Nutr. 2007).
Another study was testing diets for an eight-week trial comparing a low carb high fat diet (LCHF) with a conventional high carb low fat (HCLF) weight loss diet. Researchers found that the people on the low carb diet lost more weight than those on the low fat diet.
But they also had better processing speed in the tests–their brains worked faster! (Halyburton AK et al., Am J Clin Nutr. 2007).
Hint… DO NOT listen to the naysayers. They are behind in their science. Yes, nutrition does matter! This is just another example of brain-based learning at work.