Diet and Education – Are they related?

(Co-Written with Njideka Raleke-Obiora and Simran Daryanani)

Education is something that most of us are concerned about, and as an organisation working with children, it is important to us too.  Often, the approach to dealing with poor academic achievement is to throw more money at the problem, or instill more discipline.  However, could it be as simple as changing your child’s diet?

As part of our #ChildDevelopment Wednesday Theme, Njideka from Fair Life Africa Foundation did some investigating, to inform the organisation’s practice with impoverished children, through its Disadvantage to Advantage Initiative, and also to help all the Mommies and Daddies out there.

Did you know that poor nutrition can affect a child’s performance in school?  Did you also know that the word poor nutrition is not only typical to families who have no money?  Any child could be poorly fed if adequate care is not taken to balance his/her meal.

So many parents get frustrated when their child is not performing well at school and one measure that readily comes to mind is registration for extra classes or private lessons.  However, the real contributing factor could be as simple as feeding and we are often ignorant of this.

From our research, we found out that a child needs foods rich in basic nutrients such as calcium, potassium, iron zinc and vitamin C.  A child who lacks these nutrients might not be able to give his full potential in academics.

Foods high in sugar have been found to affect a child’s concentration is school.  An Ideal breakfast consists of foods high in protein and fibre (like whole grains and low-sugar cereals) which can boost a child’s energy and immunity and help him/her be alert at the start of the day’s learning.  Being hydrated is equally as important so fresh juice is better than packaged juice and good old water is always the best.  Skipping breakfast should not be an option.  A child who skips breakfast becomes cranky and too tired to pay attention at school.

Prepare your child’s lunch and pack it for them to take to school. This is to ensure that they eat good proportions of energy giving foods high in protein and vitamins.  Processed foods and fast foods, which they would end up buying otherwise, are high in preservatives can lead to obesity.

Healthy snacks like carrot sticks and fruit are advisable for evening treats.  It helps to maintain the concentration during homework time.  Packet noodle soup is not advisable as a snack or a meal.  A dinner that is filling, yet nutritious, ensures a good night’s sleep. Frozen fast foods or heavily greasy foods like pizza and pies should also be avoided.

We hope this is as helpful to our friends as we find it.  Before panicking about your child’s performance at school, take a moment and evaluate his/her diet.  You may find that a small tweak in their diet may just make all the difference.