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Nutrition Affects Learning

New research shows that even mild under nutrition is a barrier to learning. Malnutrition can even affect learning before slowing down growth. Here are some facts about malnutrition and learning.

Under nutrition increases the risk of illness, its frequency and severity. In conjunction with being absent from school, illness impairs learning as sick children do not interact well with their environment.

Under nourished children lack traits that make healthy children successful. Poorly nourished children tend to be less physically active, less curious, less attentive, less independent, less responsive socially, and more anxious. These traits keep them from developing reading, verbal, and physical skills, among others.

Iron deficiency and resulting anemia occur among significant numbers of children. Anemic children do not do well on math, reading, vocabulary, problem-solving, or psychological tests. Even mild iron deficiency causes fatigue and a shortened attention span.

Feeling hungry, perhaps from missed meals, affects learning. Hungry children tend to be irritable, disinterested in learning, nervous, timid passive, and unable to concentrate.

Head Start of Lane County's cycle menu ensures that daily nutritional needs are met.

Healthy Eating

Eat with your child during mealtimes and snacks.

Encourage children to taste all food served.

Help your child to learn to recognize new foods and know how they are grown

Encourage your child to drink three to four servings of low fat milk each day.

Avoid high sugar, high fat foods (sweet desserts, Kool-Aid, soda pop, chips, sausage, etc.)

Encourage your child to eat vitamin C rich foods. These foods significantly improve the absorption of iron from the intestinal tract.

Check to see that your child receives a last one high vitamin C food every day and a vitamin A food at least three times a week to help your child grow and be healthy.

Encourage your child to participate in active play so that the child's appetite will be good and your child will feel like trying new foods when you introduce them.

High Iron Foods
Beef, pork, liver
Dark turkey meat
Dried beans and peas
Dark leafy greens
Whole grain bread
Figs, prunes raisins
Dried apricots
High Vitamin C Foods
Citrus fruit
Dark leafy greens
High Vitamin A Foods
Sweet potato
Winter squash
Dark Leafy Greens
Dried apricots


Using More Fruits and Vegetables

DOUBLE SERVINGS Wyou serve fruit, use double the normal serving sized for vegetables.

BREAKFAST Eat fruit on cereal or muesli (not just bananas but also apples, grapes, berries, peaches, and mandarin oranges).

DINNER Have all-vegetable-based meals (vegetable chili or stew) or ddd vegetables to favorite entrees (tacos, spaghetti, pizza, lasagna).

SNACKS Eat fruit as a snack. Try eating dried fruit instead of candy and drinking fruit or vegetable juice instead of soft drinks

DESSERT Have fruit salad for dessert (layer a fruit parfait with yogurt or add a few chocolate shavings or nuts to a bowl of fruit). Make frozen fruit kabobs for kids (use pineapple, bananas, strawberries).

PARTIES Take raw vegetable platters to parties (include raw sweet potato sticks, asparagus, green beans, jicama, red pepper rings, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, in addition to the more common carrot and celery sticks).


The 5-A-Day Challenge

More is better when it comes to fruits and vegetables.

Eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables is the simple "5 A Day" message, and a smart strategy for better health. Fruits and vegetables taste great, give you energy throughout the day, and in general, are:
• colorful and crunchy
• easy to prepare
• low in fat
• low in calories
• cholesterol free
• full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber

The "5 A Day Challenge" is a simple and easy way to help improve your health. By taking the challenge, you will see how easy it is to add fruits and vegetables to your eating plan - first for a day, then for a week, and ultimately for a lifetime. Invite a group of friends, family members or coworkers to challenge you in eating more fruit and vegetables - and in sharing good health!

Most people eat about three servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Use the following tips to build your fruit and vegetable intake up to the minimum of a day:

Start the day with fruits and vegetables. A 6-ounce glass of 100 percent juice, such as orange or grapefruit, and a sliced banana or berries on your cereal can give you a delicious, low-fat, high-fiber head start.

Fruits and vegetables are portable. They can give you a quick boost of flavor and energy anytime. Pack an apple or a bag of carrot sticks, raisins, or dried apricots in your glove compartment, purse, or briefcase. On the run? Keep fruits and vegetables within easy reach. Put a bowl of fruit on the counter in the kitchen. Make sure fruits and vegetables are clearly visible when you open the refrigerator.

Cut up your favorite vegetables to store in recloseable plastic bags. If you see it, you may be more likely to want some.

Stock up for the week. Keep a variety of fruits and vegetables - fresh, frozen, canned, dried - in your refrigerator, cupboard, and freezer.

Fixing a meal in a hurry? The microwave is a quick and easy way to prepare vegetables while preserving nutrients. Pop a potato in the microwave at the end of a hectic day, and top it with salsa for a quick meal. Add microwaved broccoli and corn to your zesty spud and you've got a colorful, tasty and nutritious meal. For dessert, have a scoop of low-fat frozen yogurt topped with fresh berries or sliced peaches.


Tips for Parents

Be flexible. For variety substitute different foods from the same pyramid group. If your child prefers carrots, or peaches to apricots that is great. All fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and minerals (a variety is important however so that a variety of vitamins and minerals are eaten).

Keep offering different fruits and vegetables, even if they are rejected at first. Usually a child will try a new food if they are served without them being forced to eat it.

Encourage your child to experiment with different tastes and textures. Children learn about foods by tasting, touching, and smelling. Offer your child different shape, sizes and textures of foods to stimulate interest. Let the child help fix foods into a variety of sizes or shapes.

Do not worry about how much your child eats at a single meal or even in a single day. Over a week, the choices should even out - and provide a balance of nutrients that best meet his or her needs.


Picky Eaters

  • Offer three meals and two healthful snacks a day with enough time between to build up an appetite.
  • Do not pacify with snacks while standing in line at the supermarket or give food to a picky eater an hour after lunch.
  • Give your child as much or as little food as he/she wants at each meal or snack.
  • If your child insists on the same food day after day, do not fight it. Offer other food as well.
  • Serve small portions of new foods. If they are not accepted, try again another time.
  • Make mealtime happy. Do not force, bargain, lecture or reprimand.
  • If mealtime behavior is unacceptable, send children away from the table for the remainder of the meal rather than turn your dining table into a battle zone.
  • Offer only water between meals and snacks. Save milk and juice for meals. Soda pop for special occasions only.
  • Serve small portions - they can ask for more if wanted.
  • Set a good example for your children. Do not expect them to eat spinach if you do not.
  • Distractions such a TV, arguments, playing at the table may interfere with a normal appetite.
  • Lack of exercise may be a cause of poor appetite.
  • Buy nutritious foods. Children cannot eat candy, chips, and soda if they are not in the house.


Fat Reduction Tips

  • Increase the use of vegetables and fruit and use only small servings of meat and poultry.
  • Buy lean cuts of meat and trim off all visible fat.
  • Remove the skin from poultry.
  • Refrigerate soups, stews, and gravies before eating, and remove the fat.
  • Roast and broil meats on a rack so fat will drip away
  • Never fry!
  • Use lower-fat or nonfat spreads and salad dressings.
  • Look for "low-fat" and "nonfat"claims on food packages.
  • Use vegetable oils and margarine in moderation when cooking.
  • Sprinkle lemon juice and herbs/spices on cooked vegetables instead of cheese, butter or cream based sauces.
  • Enjoy reduced fat or nonfat cheeses.
  • Drink nonfat or one percent milk.
  • Try lowfat yogurt or nonfat sour cream and chives rather than regular sour cream and margarine on baked potatoes.
  • Substitute reduced fat or nonfat mayonnaise for the regular variety.


Good sources of calcium

  • All dairy products, except butter.
  • Dried peas and beans
  • Most dark leafy greens (beet and turnip tops, kale and collard)
  • The soft bones of canned fish.
  • )ne glass of milk has approximately 300 mg calcium and 1/2 cup of beet greens about 80 mg of calcium


Good sources of iron

  • Red meats, such as beef, pork, dark meats of chicken and turkey, liver and liverwurst
  • Dry beans, split peas, and lentils
  • Dried fruits, such as raisins, prunes, and dried apricots
  • Dark green and leafy vegetables, like mustard green, collard greens
  • Whole wheat and enriched breads, grain and cereal products.


The iron from foods can be absorbed better by the body if eaten with foods that are good sources of Vitamin C, such as:

  • Oranges, grapefruit, other citrus fruits and their juices
  • Broccoli, raw cabbage, cauliflower, greens
  • Cantaloupe, strawberries
  • Tomatoes and tomato juice


What is a Serving?

Eating five or more servings a day is easy. One serving is less than many people think. One serving is:

  • One medium fruit, such as an apple, banana or orange.
  • 1/2 cup cut-up fruit, such as fruit salad.
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit, such as raisins, prunes, apricots, or dates.
  • 3/4 cup or 6 ounces of fruit or vegetable juice, such as grapefruit or tomato.
  • 1/2 cup raw or cooked vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, or zucchini
  • 1 cup raw, leafy vegetables such as romaine or green leaf lettuce.