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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Health


Good Nutrition and Learning Go Hand-in-Hand


Research shows children who are nutritionally fit are more likely to have the energy, stamina and self-esteem that enhance their ability to learn.


Parents can help ensure that their child is well-nourished and ready-to-learn by considering a few basic nutritional steps according to Tammy Roberts, nutrition and health education specialist, University of Missouri Extension.


The most important step is to start the day with a healthy breakfast according Roberts.


"For children and teens, a morning meal is especially important. Studies have shown those who eat a morning meal tend to perform better in school, score higher on tests, have higher school attendance, less tardiness, better concentration and muscle coordination and are less likely to be overweight," said Roberts.


One way to get a child to eat before going to school is to make breakfast fun. Keep quick-to-fix foods on hand or get breakfast foods ready the night before, such as mixing a pitcher of juice.


“If kids say they are not hungry, start them out with something light like juice or toast and send them off with a nutritious mid-morning snack,” said Roberts.


Meals served at school contribute significantly to kids overall nutrient and energy needs.


School meals are usually regulated through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and are designed to supply about one-third of a child's nutrition needs.


"Parents can play a role in helping a child choose healthy meals. Keep the school lunch menu in your kitchen, go over it with your child, and talk with your child about making choices in the cafeteria line," said Roberts.


If a child prefers to take lunch to school, let the child help plan and prepare it.


“When children are involved, chances are they will resist trading their carrots for cookies,” said Roberts.


Pack meals that are easy to prepare and fun to eat as well as nutritious. A few examples are sandwiches, raw veggies, crackers, string cheese, whole fruit and yogurt or pudding.


For after-school snacks, choose foods that supply needed nutrients. Stock up with ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables, animal crackers, popcorn and cereal. Your child will appreciate the availability of quick healthy snacks.


"Proper nutrition is crucial for social, emotional and psychological development. Teaching children how to eat healthy will enable them to establish a foundation of good nutrition and healthful lifestyle habits that will benefit them for the rest of their lives," said Roberts.


Tammy Roberts, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Barton County, University of Missouri Extension
Phone: (417) 682-3579



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Last update: Tuesday, September 01, 2009