Back to School! Be careful about your student’s diet when they go back to school, as it may have been overlooked during the summer holidays!

We sometimes neglect to maintain a healthy diet for ourselves and our families during the summer break. Every so often, such as when we are planning a holiday and while we are travelling, we may overdo things or maybe miss a meal or two rather than keep to our regular diet and routine.

In the first days back at school, it is important to make sure students move towards healthy and proper nutritional habits. What they eat affects not just their physical and mental development, but also their academic performance as well.

Be sure to develop proper breakfast habits!

One of the most critical issues these days is when a child does not want to eat breakfast. No one can question that this meal is essential for a child’s growth and development. This is because of the time that passes between dinner or an after-dinner snack and breakfast, which is usually between 8 to 12-14 hours. Three to four hours after waking up, if a child does not eat breakfast, his or her body begins access its reserves to meet its energy and nutrition requirements. This may not cause any problems in terms of energy, but it may be critical for the vitamin and mineral supply of the body. For this reason, a meal is necessary after a long period of not eating, and breakfast can satisfy the requirements not just for growth and development but for school performance as well.

Equally as important as having breakfast is ensuring that it contains nutrients. For all age groups, consuming a variety and sufficient volume of nutrients is key to a balanced diet. This is especially important for children, who are at an age of growth and development, making breakfast even more crucial and essential for success at school.

Studies show that school performance is higher for those children who start the day with a breakfast prepared with ingredients from different nutrient groups. A sufficient breakfast positively affects a child’s ability to learn as well as his or her brain development. It is well known that children who have had breakfast are more successful in school. They can solve problems more easily since they tend not to suffer from concentration problems in class. They are also able to sustain their performance in class and during physical activities, and tire much later and have superior muscle function.

Did you know that being overweight or obese is common in Turkey, particularly among school-age children? And that our country comes top of the list of European countries in that respect?

These are the results

Overweight children are more susceptible to diabetes and coronary diseases when they reach adulthood. For this reason, it is vital to manage body weight while still young. Similar to missing breakfast, it is crucial to not skip lunch or dinner. Main meals are integral to including the appropriate amount and required diversity of nutrients in your diet. It is widely acknowledged that children who have not had breakfast tend to snack more on junk food at school. Among children, hidden hunger is as significant an issue as being overweight. Children who do not have breakfast and miss main meals are often worse off than those who rarely skip a meal, in terms of vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, growth and development.

Sustaining high physical and mental performance throughout the day is only possible when healthy snacks and proper main meals are eaten. This is part of why it is crucial that no meals are skipped. Nutrient intake should be divided between three main meals and two snacks each day.

According to Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative in Turkey (Ages 7 to 8)

The way to reduce the likelihood of a nutrition-related disease in adulthood is to start teaching a child how to have a healthy diet at an early age. Did you know that a child who does not eat breakfast nor know the importance of having proper and balanced main meals during their pre-school and primary education years are at higher risk of diabetes, heart problems and hypertension in adulthood?

Why is nutrition education at an early age essential?

Click to read Balanced Nutrition Workshop Final Declaration!

Did you know that a child who grows up in a family that smokes is more likely to start smoking? It is futile for a father who smokes to tell his child never to do so. Similarly, it is very hard for parents who do not have breakfast at home or who skip main meals to convince their children to adopt proper eating habits. Children copy their parents and teachers.

If children are served meals at their school, then you should try to make sure the menus are prepared under the supervision of a dietician. Children who attend schools with classes all day should be reminded that it is best if they take to school lunch boxes that have been prepared at home. Once again, the need for healthy snack choices should be highlighted. However, one should be very careful about the inclusion of perishable food, especially those items containing proteins such as meat, eggs, milk and cheese. These items may spoil easily at room temperature, especially in the summer months, exposing children to the risk of serious food poisoning.

It is also worthwhile to carefully prepare and manage what goes into the lunch box, for instance, by using the sample menus prepared and sent to schools by the Ministry of Health. At recess and lunchtime, children may consume cheese, eggs and fresh vegetables, plus drinks such as milk, ayran and fresh fruit juices.

1- Ayşe Baysal. Nutrition, Hatiboğlu Publications.


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