Start Smart This School Year

Start Smart This School Year

Every morning millions of American children start their school day sitting down to eat a breakfast that will most likely cause them to feel relaxed, calm, and less worried. Sounds great! That same meal, however, may also cause them to feel less motivated. The standard American breakfast has been labeled as too sweet and unhealthy at times because it is full of simple carbohydrates such as those found in pancakes, waffles, muffins, bagels, cereal, and sugary drinks. These choices may seem convenient and innocent, but what if what you are feeding your child is causing more harm than good?

The Effects of Sugar

In the book Healing ADD, best-selling author and psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen describes how to control the mind and mood with food. He explains how sugary meals are known to increase serotonin and rapidly increase insulin, which then causes low blood-sugar levels in a short amount of time. Therefore, by the time your child arrives at school, he or she could be feeling tired, confused, or inattentive or even possibly be too happy and relaxed to get any work done. What if instead they ate something different that led to feeling more motivated, driven, and focused? Wouldn’t that be a smarter way to start the day? Smart carbohydrates are known to slowly increase serotonin and include foods like sweet potatoes, apples, blueberries, carrots, quinoa, and chickpeas. In addition, protein-based meals tend to increase dopamine levels in the brain and create energy and help children to focus. These foods include beef, poultry, fish, eggs, seeds, nuts, and cheese. Additional smart foods include avocados, lima beans, liver, salmon, and shrimp.

What Our Countries Eat

I invite you to consider being creative and thinking outside of a boxed breakfast by introducing your child to a non-traditional selection. Children all over the world eat items that may seem foreign to American youth, but they still enjoy the meal just the same. In Turkey, they eat olives. In Jamaica, they eat mushed plantains. In Korea, they eat fermented cabbage. In fact, most countries eat a breakfast that is more savory than sweet. Perhaps a smart start to your child’s morning can make all the difference in his or her world.

I hope you find this tip helpful. If your child is having difficulty with attention and focus despite changing to a smarter diet, talk with your pediatrician about consulting with an occupational therapist for help. Have a playful day!

Amy Baez, MOT, OTR/L

Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and Founder of Playapy. For more information about Playapy services and products, visit or email [email protected].