Give junior best nutrients to stay fit and study well during a time of physical, mental and emotional stress.

School exams are an inevitable part of every child’s school journey. Such periodic assessments can bring along a lot of stress to both kids and their parents. Your child’s fears can run high when we place too much importance on academic success.

Do make sure your offspring are well nourished during these stressful periods. After all, healthy kids are happier and better learners, too. Here are strategies to make sure your little ones eat well during and beyond their exams.

1. Make sure to have breakfast

It is well-known that kids who eat breakfast concentrate better, score better at maths and are less fidgety. Breakfast helps your child learn better, even when it’s not their exams. Come up with easy-to-eat breakfast menus that include grain foods and protein. Simple meals include buns or oatmeal with milk.

If your little one is too stressed to eat, serve them a glass of ready-to-eat cereal with milk as drinking may be easier than eating on some days.

2. Take hearty main meals

Despite their hectic schedule, kids need ample nourishment. Pack healthy meals for your little one’s school lunch or on their way to class. Offer a balanced diet at dinner and encourage supportive family interaction, so that it’s a warm and relaxing family meal.

Nourishing, hearty mains will help your child take a break from the learning and fill his tummy with nutrients to support the rapid growth and development that go on through childhood, despite exams.

3. Energise with healthy snacks

Kids have small tummies but great nutrient needs! Snacking on healthy foods and drinks can help your little ones pack in vital nutrients when they are between meals. A sandwich, a bowl of noodles or porridge, or a serving of fruit with a glass of milk are simple yet nourishing snacks that are easy to put together.

4. Power up with protein

The special chemicals that help the neurons (brain cells) talk to one another are made up of proteins. Small portions of wholesome proteins will help your child's body receive the amino acid building blocks to kick-start those neurons. Lean meat, skinless poultry, eggs, beans, and milk are good protein-packed choices.

5. Include carbohydrates

A working brain needs carbs to fuel its activities. Grains, fruit and milk provide vital carbs to rev up the neurons needed to cope with the rigour of exams.

It is well-known that kids who eat breakfast concentrate better, score better at maths and are less fidgety. Breakfast helps your child learn better, even when it’s not their exams.

6. Incorporate “good” fats

Brain cells are largely made up of fat molecules. An infant’s brain is about a quarter the size of an adult’s. It grows to about 80 per cent by age 3 and 90 per cent by age 5.

Because of this rapid brain growth and development, young children need high levels of good polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fats in their diet.

7. Serve vitamin-packed foods

Do remember to include vitamin-packed foods in your kids’ meals. Though only really tiny amounts of these vitamins are needed, they are all vital to children’s health and development.

Like little sparks that stoke a big fire, these vital nutrients are essential to keep the body functioning at its peak. To maintain a balanced diet for your child, make sure to read food labels and compare similar products to pick those that deliver more vitamins per serving.

8. Add important minerals

A healthy child needs quite a few minerals including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and iron. Each plays important roles individually and in some cases, they support each other’s function.

Studies have shown that young children who were iron deficient or anaemic in early childhood may suffer physical and mental developmental issues.

9. Aim for more fibre

Fibre in the diet helps to keep bowels regular. Prebiotic fibres have the unique ability to feed the “good” probiotic bacteria in your child’s large intestine, thereby ensuring the “bad” ones do not thrive. These also break down into a special fuel to nourish intestinal cells and help build up your child's immune defences indirectly.

During periods of stress, eating regular and healthy meals and snacks will help your child stay nourished, so do make an effort to ensure that your kids enjoy their meals and snacks. You should also ensure that they have time to relax.

Help your child develop a healthy relationship with food even as they cope with exam stress. This will go a long way in helping your child to maintain a healthy weight when they become adults.

* This article first appeared in Abbott Family.

Photo: Abbott Family

Brought to you by Abbott Family

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