By Samantha Malone – GIS PE Teacher
As a PE teacher, I advocate healthy living, not just through exercise but also through good diet and nutrition. It is impossible to exercise yourself out of a bad diet! Research shows students learn better when they’re well nourished. Healthy eating has been linked to higher grades, better memory, more alertness, faster information processing and improved health leading to better school attendance. Does your child have a healthy active lifestyle? Do you? Are they getting all the nutrients they need to reach their full potential? Probably not!
It would be foolish to neglect all the information available on what we should and shouldn’t be eating. The days of turning a blind eye to our food choices are over. The food industry has become manipulative, often renaming ingredients to confuse its consumers. The whole system is broken.
Our generation sees nothing wrong with using fish DNA in tomatoes or harvesting potatoes with spider DNA. Food industries only care about profit, they seem willing to sacrifice even children’s health for their own monetary gain. We need to address the issue one small step at a time. The question is, with so many studies and so many articles out there, who do we trust and who do we believe. How do we sort the fact from fiction?
For starters stop believing everything you read. For an article or study to be considered sound, you must question everything that they are trying to prove. Who wrote it, who funded the research, was it a double-blinded study, how many people or subjects did it involve? This kind of cynicism, prevents time wasted on reading bogus facts, inaccurate articles or manipulated studies.
Be wise to the food manufacturers too, they often hide controversial ingredients by referring to them with technical names that people don’t know. For example, in Malaysia, MSG (monosodium glutamate) is called E621 and sugar can be marketed as “high fructose corn syrup” or “evaporated cane juice” – sounds natural, but it’s really just sugar.
So how can I help my child become a better learner? You need to start by fueling them with nutritionally dense foods; foods that are packed full of vitamins and minerals. And yes, we all know this is no easy task, what child in their right mind would choose spinach over a snickers bar? We have to start with small steps, try to not run before we can walk. Fuel them with premium foods; go organic wherever possible. Understand the basics, that if it grows naturally then it is probably good for you. Processed food must be avoided at all costs, avoid packaged food with more than five ingredients, especially if you cannot pronounce what’s on the label! Fats are GOOD, get your head around the idea that children and adults need fats to help the brain function and of course that elephant in the room – sugar. It is a big no no….full stop. It will be difficult, but try and cut down as much as possible.
Fruit juice may say “100 percent juice,” “organic” or “no sugar added,” it doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Offer water instead and add slices of cucumber, berries or orange to taste. Small steps, one at a time, will ensure that you are giving your child the tools needed to unlock their true potential. Nutritionally dense food will utilise your child’s brain power. FACT! If we want our children to thrive, we have to choose to be chronically healthy not chronically sick.