We asked Claudio Maffeis, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Verona, for some advice on how to properly manage a child’s diet and lifestyle during this period.
“In the past, children spent their summer holidays much more active than their winter holidays. In the absence of school hours, they did not sit at TVs and computers, but played outdoors, thus maintaining their health,” explains Professor Maffeis.
However, today everything has changed. After school hours are over, children spend a lot of time at home, in front of the TV or Playstation. They get up late, eat more during the day and as a result of this pastime become prone to obesity.
Keep the rhythm
While going back to school may not be very pleasant for a child, it has its health benefits. This brings a certain rhythm to his life and helps to make nutrition more correct.
“When a child returns to school, he has a schedule according to which he must organize his life. Unlike the summer period – when the regularity of nutrition is disturbed, you can eat late and eat more harmful foods, because there are no strict rules – the school allows you to return to life regimen, which helps to restore the natural biorhythms of the child and has a good effect on his weight, ”says pediatrician.
The five course rule
One of the most important rules to follow when returning from vacation is the student’s diet. “Children should eat 5 meals a day: breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks,” warns Dr. Maffeis. For both adults and children, it is very important to have a full breakfast, especially when the child is faced with great mental stress. “Multiple studies show that the mental performance of those who regularly eat a good breakfast is much higher than that of those who skip breakfast.”
Indeed, the latest research conducted on this subject at the University of Verona and published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that children who skip breakfast experience deterioration in visual memory and attention.
It is necessary to allocate enough time for breakfast, and not jump out of bed at the last minute. “Our children go to bed too late, sleep little and have great difficulty waking up in the morning. It is very important to go to bed early and have a light dinner in the evening in order to have an appetite and want to eat in the morning, ”advises the pediatrician.
Food that helps
Breakfast should be complete: “It should be rich in protein, which can be obtained with yogurt or milk; fats, which can also be found in dairy products; and slow carbohydrates found in whole grains. The child can be offered whole grain cookies with a spoonful of homemade jam, and some fruit in addition to this will provide him with the necessary vitamins and minerals.
Taking into account visits to circles and sections, children spend about 8 hours a day studying. It is very important that their lunch and dinner are not too high in calories, otherwise it can lead to obesity: “It is necessary to avoid lipids and monosaccharides, which are found mainly in various sweets, because these are extra calories that, if not burned, lead to obesity,” the doctor warns.
Nutrition for the brain
It is very important to maintain the water balance of the brain – an organ that is 85% water (this figure is even higher than in other parts of the body – blood consists of 80% water, muscles 75%, skin 70% and bones 30%) . Dehydration of the brain leads to various consequences – from headaches and fatigue to hallucinations. Also, dehydration can cause a temporary decrease in the size of the gray matter. Fortunately, just one or two glasses of water is enough to quickly correct this situation.
A study published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that those who drank just half a liter of water before concentrating on a task completed the task 14% faster than those who did not drink. Repeating this experiment with people who are thirsty showed that the effect of drinking water was even greater.
“It is very beneficial for all people, and especially for children, to drink clean water regularly. Sometimes you can treat yourself to decaffeinated tea or juice, but look carefully at its composition: it is better to choose undiluted juice from natural fruits, which contains as little sugar as possible, ”advises Dr. Maffeis. It is also helpful to consume freshly squeezed juices or smoothies that you can make yourself at home, but without added sugar: “Fruits already have a natural sweet taste on their own, and if we add white refined sugar to them, such a treat will seem too sugary for children.”
How much water should a child drink?
2-3 years: 1300 ml per day
4-8 years: 1600 ml per day
Boys 9-13 years old: 2100 ml per day
Girls 9-13 years old: 1900 ml per day