brain scan

Healthy Students are Better Students

by Karen Bakies RD LD FAND

Research shows that improved nutrition — starting with breakfast — coupled with increased physical activity may lead to improved academic performance.

Using MRI scans, researchers have looked into the brains of students and are finding that cognition is impacted by the quality of foods kids eat and by physical activity.

Compared in the image above are two brain composite scans —  one showing brain activity of students while sitting quietly and another scan showing brain activity after 20 minutes of physical activity, like recess. The scan taken after the exercise shows improved cognition.

As a registered dietitian, people often ask me how to improve their children’s diets. The truth is small steps can make a big difference. Be sure your child eats breakfast every day. Find out if your school offers breakfast — it’s a great alternative for busy families. If your school does not offer school breakfast, consider asking them to do so.

Here are some other helpful tips:

  • Be a role model: Eat well and move more. Don’t let good habits, like eating breakfast and being physically active every day, slip away during the summer months.
  • Try new foods: Encourage everyone in your family to try healthy foods that may not be as familiar to them.
  • Make plans: Join your child at school to experience school lunch or breakfast firsthand to learn more about school meal programs.
  • Inquire: At the start of next school year, reach out to your child’s principal to ask about your school’s wellness policy and ask what you can do to help make sure it’s communicated, implemented and monitored.

Child health is a priority for everyone including parents, educators, school administrators, and the community. We can work together to help students succeed in the classroom. The bottom line is healthy students are better students.

Karen Bakies RD LD FAND

Karen is a registered dietitian and is the Nutrition Affairs Director for the American Dairy Association Mideast. A scientist at heart, she seeks out quality nutrition research to share with others in a profession she is passionate about. Karen is a mother of three and enjoys cooking, gardening, running and traveling.

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