dults often hear what they should be doing to improve their health. But many of these known wellness behaviors are important for kids, too, and two University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) experts say school success depends on making the right choices.
Health habits, such as eating and sleep patterns, are linked to academic success, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Your brain can’t work if you’re not consuming enough calories, and in general that’s not a problem,” explained Krista Casazza, Ph.D., R.D., assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences. “But when kids go to school without eating breakfast, their cognitive function can be affected.”
Casazza suggests kids start the day with fruits, proteins and whole grains. Avoid sugary cereals because they cause a sugar high, then a crash.
“A balanced breakfast will fuel the body for a long period and help sustain their attention level through lunch, when they need to eat well again,” Casazza said. “This will hold them until dinner, and they won’t snack ravenously after school.”
Lack of sleep can lead to problems with attention and memory in the classroom, affect impulse control and mood regulation lead to anxiety and even depression,” Avis said.
Avis said kids ages 6-12 should get nine hours sleep nightly as should adolescents ages 13-18 — but typically they average little more than seven hours per night.