Healthy school lunches are important to provide fuel for students’ brains to support their learning.
Did you know the adult brain makes up about two percent of body weight but consumes around 20 percent of the body’s energy? At four years of age, a child’s brain is growing so rapidly it burns two thirds of the energy their entire body uses at rest. While the brain’s energy demands peak at around four years of age, a child’s brain continues to grow and develop.
New research suggests that the quality of food consumed over a lifetime affects the structure and function of the brain including learning, memory and emotions.
All cells in the body, including brain cells, use glucose to fuel cellular activities. The body breaks down glucose from the food we eat and then delivers it to the brain via blood. Experiments with people and animals have shown that when neurons in a region of the brain fire, local capillaries dilate to deliver more blood than usual, along with extra glucose and oxygen. This applies to students as they learn, which is why breakfast is so important for students so their brains get the energy they need to fire on all cylinders.
So why not eat a diet full of sugar and give the brain a boost? Foods high in sugar and saturated fats contribute to oxidative stress, which damages cell membranes.
In addition to glucose, the brain needs fats to maintain neurons and help transmit information between the brain cells. Foods high in omega 3 fatty acids, such as oily fish, are great for this but other healthy fats, such as avocado, also help.
The brain is made up of around 75 percent water, so keeping students well-hydrated with water will support healthy brain function.
But food alone does not optimise the brain’s growth and learning capacity. Research found that moderate exercise improves students’ ability to focus. In one experiment, students who walked on a treadmill for 20 minutes before an exam performed better academically than children who read quietly before the exam.
Rory’s School Lunches
Rory’s School Lunches menus provide a good range of healthy foods to support healthy brain development and brain function. We understand parents don’t always have time to prepare home-cooked school lunches so we make home-style cooking. We use herbs and spices to add flavour instead of artificial flavour enhancers. For example, our Tandoori Marinade contains the spice turmeric, which has been found to affect brain cognition.
To help students and parents make healthy food choices we use a traffic light system on our menus.
- Green Foods can be eaten every day. Green foods are lower in saturated fat and sodium and include salads, hot meals with lean cuts of meat and low-fat cheeses and dressings.
- Amber Foods are more processed than green foods. They may contain higher levels of saturated fat, sugar and sodium than green foods. Students are encouraged to choose carefully from this section. Amber products should not dominate student’s choices.
- Red Foods are highly processed, energy dense and poor in nutrients. Remember, red foods should only be eaten occasionally so limit your intake.
An over-emphasis on healthy eating can lead to food wars. The occasional treat incorporated into a varied and healthy diet can provide a bit of fun so long as the majority of your child’s diet is made up of ‘green’ type foods.
Include These Foods To Optimise Your Child’s Brain Health
This list of nutrient dense foods will fill your child up, boost their brain function and stabilise mood and concentration.
- Protein: Eggs, quality unprocessed meat and fish, nuts and nut pastes (watch small children – choking hazard), legumes and quality oils and fats.
- Carbohydrates: whole grains like oats make a great breakfast to fuel your child’s brain.
- Fruits and Vegetables: fruits and vegetables from a range of colours served raw or steamed
- Dairy: whole milk, cheese and naturally cultured yoghurt.
For sweet treats, consider quality dark chocolate (70%+), which contains beneficial flavanoids and antioxidants.