Exam time is always a difficult time for your children. In Greece, one of the most difficult exams are the “PanHellenic” exams, that are almost here! Since this topic seems to be at the forefront these days and I hear so many parents talking about it and worrying about their children… I thought I would offer you a way you can help them by changing some things in their diet, that will increase their levels of energy and concentration. This way they will be able to cope better during this very demanding period of their lives… Since the level of fatigue and stress must be quite high, you can change some small things in their diet and see quite a few positive results in both their health and mood!
So, what are the foods that help improve their levels of concentration and what are the changes in diet that will benefit them?
1. Add an avocado to his / her breakfast or lunch!
It’s not just a fad…. It is truly a very nutritious food that is also very tasty, in my opinion. It can be cooked in many different ways but it can also be eaten raw (in pieces or in a creamy texture) along with your food. Avocados contain good monounsaturated fats and it is also rich in many B vitamins. Specifically, it contains vitamin B6 – which helps the process of producing energy - and pantothenic acid (B5), which plays a significant role in the decrease of stress and anxiety levels. Another vitamin it contains is vitamin E – which has antioxidant properties and helps protect your cells from free radicals.
2. Make a smoothie with yogurt, raspberries and strawberries!
Blackberries, raspberries and strawberries are rich in both antioxidants and vitamins and also very low in calories! They can make a very healthy midday or afternoon snack. They contain large amounts of vitamin C, fiber and anthocyanins, that seem to help your memory and overall brain function. But because children need a meal that will also satiate their hunger and give them energy, it is good to combine these berries with some Greek strained yogurt and make a super creamy smoothie, just like the recipe below! A snack like this can offer young students the energy they need on a daily basis!
3. Physical exercise is much more essential than you can imagine!
Due to your children’s demanding program, it is hard to add physical exercise to their daily schedule, but it is truly a necessity for them, especially at such ages. The percentage of physical activity, especially for girls at this age, is quite decreased. Did you know that? More specifically, physical activity can not only lower anxiety and stress levels but also help change the image teenagers have of themselves in a positive way. As you can see, the more someone is on good terms with themselves, the more self-confident they are and this in turn, makes them feel strong and powerful and they can do it all! What does this mean? That physical activity can and should be a part of children’s lives always, since it does not distract them from their goals, but quite the contrary, it helps them achieve them also!
4. Avoid sweets and croissants!
Especially at school, children have easy access to lots of processed foods. Actually, it seems that 25% of the calories children consume come from foods that don’t have the necessary vitamins and minerals their bodies need. Teach your children to take homecooked food to school with them and eat healthy snacks even when they’re not home. Healthy snacks are the ones that are both rich in proteins and fiber, while containing low percentages of sugars and saturated trans fats.
5. Add flax seeds and fish to your children’s diets!
Walnuts, seeds like chia seeds and flax seeds and fish are foods that are all rich in omega-3 and 6 “good” polyunsaturated fatty acids. These are essential for the body and it is very important for us to receive them from the foods we consume since our bodies can’t synthesize them on its own. Both of these fats also play a very significant role in the production of energy as well as the better functioning of the brain. Aren’t the qualities of these fats truly remarkable?
Try adding some of the following recipes to your children’s diets and I believe that along with the changes in diet mentioned above, you will have done the best that you can to help them achieve their goals.
It is very important to remember all of the things mentioned above and to try make them a way of life, especially if you want to see beneficial changes in memory function, concentration and the energy levels for your children. A healthier life style in general, with foods that offer us all of the nutrients our body needs to function in the best way possible every day, will help our overall performance and this is a fact that is very important to teach young adults!
This article was written in collaboration with Kitchen Lab’s Nutritionist Anna Maria Volanaki, MSc, BDA, SENr.