Carla Abate of Rebel Roots Nutrition is helping us figure out the best fuel for our kids. Find her on Instagram @rebelrootsnutrition and rebelrootsnutrition.com. She’s got some amazing recipes on her website!
Here’s inspiration and quality information from Carla, a certified Master Nutrition Therapist (MNT) and postpartum doula.
Feeding Your Kids Toward Academic Success
It’s a constant challenge to prepare lunches for the week and do so with a nutritional mindset. Afterall, it’s disappointing when lunch boxes return full of quality wasted food. But our children’s learning depends, in part, on the food they eat during the school day. As a parent myself, I too have struggled to keep the dream alive to feed my family well, all while sticking to a budget and time limit, and offering options that my kids will actually eat. It can feel like an exhausting, fruitless effort, but as a nutrition therapist, I am devoted to meeting this challenge and sharing my process with other parents. One of the first steps toward fueling our children wisely, is to understand the role of carbohydrates.
Blood Sugar Regulation for Academic Success
Certain foods and food combinations have a greater ability to raise blood sugar than others. While fat and protein do not raise blood sugar as much as carbohydrates do, even different types of carbohydrates have varying effects. The more processed and refined carbohydrates are (think white bread, crackers, and cookies), the faster blood sugar rises, spiking insulin (the hormone that admits sugar into cells for energy), and resulting in excess sugar that will be stored as fat. This is one of the leading mechanisms responsible for the rise in childhood obesity.
When we continually allow blood sugar to soar and crash, we disrupt other hormones such as our stress hormone cortisol. The dramatic blood sugar crash that often follows a high carbohydrate meal, signals the stress response, and corresponding release of cortisol. The chronic stimulation of insulin and cortisol can eventually lead to resistance to these hormones further disrupting other metabolic processes.
While insulin and cortisol resistance are extreme, and often unobservable consequences of eating overly processed and refined carbohydrates, the following are some of the more obvious and relatable consequences likely more familiar to parents.
“Hangry” effect-low blood sugar resulting from simple carbohydrates can produce irritability and moodiness.
Poor concentration-fat and protein are satiating macronutrients that promote the feeling of fullness. When these are lacking, hunger persists making it difficult to focus on other tasks.
Constant hunger-when we aren’t eating nutrient-dense foods, our bodies are also not getting the signal that they are nourished and overeating ensues.
Other-Headaches, fatigue, and general lack of well-being.
Diet and lifestyle recommendations:
- Replace simple carbs with fiber-rich complex carbs such as whole grains, vegetables, and some fruits-fiber slows sugar absorption.
- Pair carbs with fat and protein at each meal to slow the blood sugar surge. Avocado, coconut, grass-fed butter, nuts and seeds are great sources of healthy fat.
- Focus on carbs in the form of fresh vegetables that include additional micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols. Many vitamins such as the B vitamins play a role in energy metabolism.
- Support the microbiome with probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods-many pathogenic strains of bacteria feed on sugar and can be kept in check by introducing beneficial microbes present in fermented foods such as yogurt, miso, and sourdough bread.
- Get your kids moving-exercise is known to increase insulin sensitivity. Take family bike rides or get your kids involved in sports.
Remember, carbohydrates in the form of whole foods provide the most nourishment. These typically contain an array of nutrients that interact with one another and function to address more than one biological process. For example, zinc is essential to the formation of active vitamin A, and while it plays a major role in immune regulation, it also participates in insulin synthesis, release, and storage. Additionally, our fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, K and E) require fat for absorption further making the case to balance your macronutrients at every meal.