We just finished talking about nutrition and the students’ brain. But how does nutrition affect you as a teacher?
When you’re an educator, you’re constantly on the move during the school day. So…you might grab a candy bar from the vending machines to sustain you until lunch. Or you have meetings after school so you reach for chips and a soda to tide you over until you make it home for dinner.
Whatever you’re able to grab fast can oftentimes be the wrong food choice. These unhealthy choices can affect your teaching performance – producing a lack of energy and an inability to concentrate on educating your students. Just as you can see how nutrition plays a role in your students’ learning, it has the same outcome for you as the educator. Edutopia.com says, “The brain consumes calories, too, about 600 per day on average. Food choices that support cardiovascular health — a diet primarily consisting of non-starchy vegetables and fruits, healthy oils and fats, a variety of protein sources, and selected whole grains — are also good for the brain and may enhance cognitive functioning across the lifespan.”
Here are some tips/goals to feeding your brain better this year:
- EAT BREAKFAST – This seems to be a no-brainer but a lot of people go without eating breakfast. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day as it literally wakes the body and replenishes the body of nutrients it lost overnight. The energy breakfast provides keeps you alert going into the day. Edutopia says , “Beginning with a healthy breakfast can mean the difference between a full morning of energetic teaching and starting to feel droopy by 10AM.”
- WATER – Stay hydrated. You know this already but it’s still worth repeating to stay hydrated during the day and avoid sugary drinks. Teach.com suggests, “Keep a water bottle with a fruit infuser at your desk. You can refill it a few times for naturally flavored water that won’t integrate a ton of unnecessary calories into your diet.”
- MEAL PREP/PACK YOUR LUNCH! – Not just a fad, meal prepping is nothing new. It’s the same exercise your mother’s may have done planning for lunches and dinners for the week. This time you’re just doing it for yourself as an adult. The purpose is to have food already on hand to grab. Healthy food at that. There is a bonus: you’ll also save money you would have spent at the vending machines or in the cafeteria.
- HEALTHY FOODS FOR HEALTHY MEALS AND SNACKING – So…what to include in your meal prep? Healthy foods of course! Healthy foods include berries, leafy green veggies, whole grains, nuts, and protein. There are so many food sites and recipes that can show you what foods to choose and how to prepare great meals and satisfying snacks. Once you get in the habit of healthy eating – you’ll be able to spot these foods with no trouble!
Now, those are tips for eating but healthy habits also incorporate other necessary lifestyle changes. Exercise being at the top of the list. As an educator you already exercise the mind, but exercising the body is just as important. Studies show that 30-45 minutes of exercise per day is necessary for healthy bodies. So…get moving! In an extremely stressful occupation like teaching, it’s important to exercise as it also helps with stress and the effects of stress on the body.
Sleep is also necessary. My mother, a retired educator, worked long hours and well into the evenings – so I know many educators do not get adequate sleep. However, eight hours of good sleep is essential to brain functioning and healthy bodies – and you need focus and concentration in the classroom!
There are different methods for achieving and mastering any one of these goals this year. It won’t be easy to make these lifestyle changes in the beginning, but if you can stick to it long enough (they say it takes seven days to create a habit), you’ll be better off for it in the long run!