Think very carefully what you give your child for breakfast and lunch if you want to help them concentrate all day. Perhaps there are better things for breakfast than cereals or porridge.
There was a very interesting study done in The Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA in 19991 in which they took a group of 12 obese teenage boys, divided them into 3 groups, fed them breakfast and lunch of 3 different glycemic indexes (GI)2 then noted down what, when and how much they chose to eat over the following 5 hours.
The high GI meal consisted of instant wholemeal oatmeal with glucose and an artificial sweetener (this would be like Ready Brek) cooked with milk and added lactase; the medium GI meal consisted of steel cut wholemeal oats with added fructose cooked with milk (ie porridge) ; the low GI meal consisted of a 3 egg vegetable omelette with fruit. The latter was remarked on since it contained more protein and fat and less carbohydrates.
The boys were instructed to ask for a food platter as soon as they felt very hungry. They could eat as much or as little as they liked from the food platter and were free to ask for further food platters.
This test was done 3 times.
- Following 2 meals of instant oats the first food platter was asked for 2.6 hours after lunch
- Following 2 meals of steel cut oats, the first food platter was asked for 3.2 hours after lunch
- Following the 2 omelette and fruit meals, the first food platter was asked for 3.9 hours after lunch
The approximate amount of calories consumed after the 2 meals:
- Instant oats: 3,810
- Steel cut oats: 2,472
- Omelette: 1,779
The study also measured the hormones related to hunger and showed the huge differences between the 3 types of meal. It clearly demonstrated much more stable blood sugar levels following the omelette meals.
Within half an hour, blood sugar levels were:
- Instant oats: 1,300pmol/L
- Steel cut oats: 1,200pmol/L
- Omelette: 700pmol/L
Unstable blood sugar leads to things like mood swings, lack of concentration, hyperactivity then sleepiness, extreme hunger: ie things that we don’t want to feel when trying to concentrate and learn things.
Quoting from the discussion part of the paper; “These results suggest a reason why conventional diets have such poor long-term outcomes. High GI hypocaloric [low calorie] diets would tend to exacerbate hunger, leading eventually to overeating. By contrast low-GI diets may lessen hunger and improve long term compliance.”
This study was done in 1999 – yet how many of us still think that porridge is the best breakfast?
So to help a child concentrate at school, a breakfast of protein and fat in the form of nuts/coconut will serve that child much better than even porridge will. And every effort should be made to minimise the amount of simple carbs eaten at lunch time. Frankly a good amount of suitable protein, eg ham, cold roast beef, cheese etc, could be rolled in a stout lettuce leaf instead of bread – mayonnaise could be added for more flavour. The child could have a raw carrot to eat instead of a bag of crisps – plus any other raw vegetables the child likes. If the child is slim, then sometimes oatcakes could be added. This sort of thing is a basis for a much healthier lunch box than brown bread sandwiches and I actually guarantee your child’s performance at school will increase. As will their behaviour at home, unless you greet them with sweets or cakes, of course.
However, I would caution against giving the same meal every morning (or lunch) or food intolerances will develop.
Of course, if you, the parent, would like to lose a few pounds and/or increase mental performance, you could eat the same way as your child. See the page that best represents your current life – homemaker or professional.