Essay: The Link between Diet, Nutrition, Learning and Development

Many foods and snacks served in schools these day do more harm than good to children and teenagers. This is because the foods are loaded with sugars, caffeine, sodium and other chemicals that keep children from performing to the best of their abilities. Too much sugar can make kids jittery, tired and unfocused, impacting their ability to learn and get good grades.

A recent study revealed that diets high in saturated fats can actually impair memory, which is very unfortunate since foods high in saturated fats make up much of the school lunch menu. Foods such as french fries, cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets are lunchroom staples in most schools nationwide. The foods may satisfy their hunger but it diminishes their cognitive abilities when they return to the classroom. These high fat foods also contain high amounts of sugars which can cause rapid drops in energy. When sugar or glucose is ingested, the body releases insulin. Sometimes the glucose levels are too high for the insulin to effectively do its job and kids experience an after lunch crash.

Other bad foods include white or refined breads, sugared desserts and soda pop. All of these contribute to a loss of energy rather than an increase. Medical studies have shown that diets high in glucose can lead to kidney disease, deteriorating eyesight, hardening blood vessels and nerve damage. A common disease is the on set of diabetes. Some lesser side effects of bad diet include irritability, lack of focus and fatigue. These days, it is estimated that one out of every three children suffers from obesity. In the United States, both overweight and underweight kids are considered malnourished. Malnutrition does not necessarily mean that there is a lack of food. It also means that there is sometimes too much food. Both situations are a sign of the lack of the right kind of nutrients.

While most children in America take in large amounts of calories they are generally missing essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients necessary for strong healthy bodies and brain development. Malnutrition affects the brain, impacting emotional and stress reactions. Children diagnosed as having malnutrition usually have learning disabilities as well as other medical complications. Developing language skills, motor skills and personal social skills also suffer. Some of the worst foods for these children were found in the school cafeterias and on school lunch menus.

Many school districts having been made aware of the links between diet, nutrition and learning ability have begun to change the foods available to kids during the school day. Many are choosing to change the selections in vending machines or choosing to remove the snack machines altogether. Fast foods such as french fries and wholly processed foods are being removed and replaced with fruits and vegetables, salads, whole grain breads and leaner proteins. This switch in nutrition is already being seen in the classrooms where kids are more energized and able to focus better.

Schools are now going to work on parents to make them more aware of the foods they are serving to their kids at home. Many experts say kids function best on smaller meals throughout the day and snacks every three or four hours. These small meals instead of three large daily meals keeps kids from getting hungry and allows the body to function properly.