Good nutrition aids learning.  Key nutrients help the brain stay focused and alert, such as iron, zinc, DHA and flavonoids.  Other nutrients can distract and inhibit the brain, such as sugar and caffeine.  What’s in your kid’s lunch box? Is it helping or hindering your child’s ability to learn?  The right foods can fuel your child on their way to the top of their class.
Food Recall 
You’re child’s ability to remember the day’s lesson is dependent on their iron and zinc status.  Both iron and zinc are important minerals for memory.  A study out of India reported in 2011, that children (ages 6-11) with low levels of zinc and iron were more likely to have memory deficits.  Supplementation of iron and zinc improved the children’s memory.  Kid-friendly foods rich in zinc and iron include fortified breakfast cereals, chicken, hummus and soymilk. 
Brain Superheroes
Apples, berries and citrus are common lunch box items.  Flavonoids found in such fruits are neuron-superheroes.  They protect and enhance the ability of neurons in the brain to function.  No wonder we give a teacher an apple – its brain-friendly food.
Stress Protector
Snack cakes, fruit-snacks and cookies are common lunch box items that are hard on the brain.  These foods are high in fat and carbohydrate.  Such a diet causes oxidative stress in the body that damages neurons and the ability for signals to pass through the nervous system.  Luckily, researchers have discovered that a well-known fighter of oxidative stress, vitamin E, has proven positive effect on learning and memory in high-fat, high-carbohydrate diets.  Wondering about some great lunch box sources of vitamin E?  Try seeds, kale, spinach, avocado, and grape tomatoes.
Spoonful of Sugar
It’s well known that kids today consume a lot of sugar.  According to a 2008 research paper, soft drinks are the leading source of added sugar of children.  In fact, 56-85% of school-aged children consume at least one soft drink a day.  There are as many as 9 cubes of sugar in a soft drink can. Consuming a lot of sugar increases a child’s risk of obesity and related illnesses.  Yet, perhaps the greatest concern is how sugary foods are taking the place of nutrient-rich, brain-boosting nutrients in children’s diets. 
Up to Something Fishy
What are you two up too? Fishy-classroom behaviour is thought by some to be caused by sugar and additives, but research studies have yet to confirm.  However, fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) are associated with behaviour of school-aged children.  Evidence shows that children with higher omega-3 levels have decreased levels of inattention, hyperactivity and emotional difficulties. 
One Fish, Two Fish
One of the types of fat found in fish, called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), has been linked to improved brain function and development.  In June 2013, researchers from the University of Oxford reported that in school-aged children (ages 7-9) a low blood level of DHA was associated with poorer reading abilities.  Can’t get a tuna fish wrap into their lunch box without serious drama?  Try various kid-friendly fish oil supplements from gummies, to capsules, to liquid smoothies.
 
Grade A Breakfast
What makes a good breakfast?  One your child will eat.  The weekday morning routine can be hectic but, no matter how late you are its important to make breakfast a priority.  Scientists have established that mental performance in children deteriorates when they miss breakfast.  Finding it hard to get breakfast into your little ones?  Take a smoothie in the car ride, pack seed-fruit-seed mixes for the bus, or even try setting the alarm clock for ten minutes earlier.  When choosing what types of food to include in breakfast focus on complex carbohydrates, protein and fruit (or vegetables), while avoiding sugary foods. 
Goodnight Moon
Getting a good night sleep is also important to a child’s ability to be at their best in school. According to a paper published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology in June 2013, children who don’t get enough sleep have everyday life difficulties including academic struggles and challenging behaviours.
Sleepy-Head
Don’t forget protein – a slow burning fuel will help keep their heads off the desk in the afternoon.  Try hard-boiled eggs, nuts, seeds, bean-salads, cheese or yogurt.
Lunch Box Tips
Make it fun – they are kids after all.  Make beans a lunch-box favourite by sending a fun spoon to eat them with.  Make veggies exciting by using different colours, and including a dip, such as hummus. Let them slurp their yogurt – include a straw. Use colourful, small reusable containers to pack finger foods like cherries, wholegrain crackers and cubes of cheese.  Let them choose – kids who pick what goes in their lunch are more likely to eat it. For optimal results, give them two options of healthy items they could have in their lunch and have them choose.  If they are old enough, let them pack it themselves.  For more great ideas, ask another parent – together we can make lunch boxes better.  
Great Back to School Recipes!
Kid-Friendly Breakfast Smoothie
1 banana
1 cup Organic Orange Juice (not from concentrate)
1 cup frozen organic berries (strawberries are our family’s favourite)
1 scoop of a green powder supplement
1 tbsp. of liquid fish oil (or 3-6-9)
1 scoop of whey protein isolate 
1 capsule of probiotics (crack open, pour powder into blender, discard capsule)
1 cup organic vanilla yogurt
Combine in blender.  Mix until desired consistency. Serve in a fun cup with a silly straw for most kid-friendly appearance.  Change juice and berry choice to suit your child’s likes/dis-likes.  Makes 3-4 servings.
Carrot Walnut Muffins
¼ cup oil
¾ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
½ cup applesauce
½ tsp. vanilla
¾ cup wheat flour
½ cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ cup walnuts
¼ tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Mix liquid ingredients together. Add dry slowly to the wet mixture, stirring just until mixed (to not over stir.  Add walnuts.  Scoop into lined muffin tin and bake for 20 minutes. Makes about 1 dozen muffins.
Chickpea Salad
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 cups mixed raw vegetables in small diced pieces
(Suggested vegetables are red, orange and yellow peppers, cucumber, zucchini, carrot, whole cherry tomatoes)?
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley? (option for parsley-friendly kids)
1/2 cup of vinaigrette of choice (olive oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic are an easy at-home vinaigrette)
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, toss well and refrigerate overnight. Options include adding cooked vegetables (broccoli, asparagus).

References:
DHA – Cognition/Behaviour
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23826114
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20172688 
Iron and Zinc – Memory 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20972302
Flavonoids – Neuron Health
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20955649  
Soft Drinks Kids
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18220450 
Vitamin E – Memory and High Fat-Carb Diet
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23769690 
Sleep – Children
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23797147 
Bellisle, F. Effects of diet on behaviour and cognition in children. BJN 2004; 92(2):S227-232.