Meal Planning Helps Kids Succeed In School

National health and diet expert Dr. Ian Smith shares tips and menu ideas.

Education Nation is NBC News' initiative to engage the country in a solutions-focused conversation about the state of education in America.  In doing my part, I was fortunate to have Dr. Ian K. Smith as my guest this week to talk about food and kids.

A nationally known medical expert on both and health and diet related issues, Dr. Smith has been featured on a number of television programs and nation publications.  He is also the author of seven books, including the #1 New York Times Bestseller Extreme Fat Smash Diet, the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Fat Smash Diet and his newest, EAT: The Effortless Weight Loss Solution.

Dr. Smith shared a number of basic tips and menu suggestions that will help with school day meal planning for our children to give them well balanced breakfasts and lunches.   The right diet is key to our childrens’ growth and development both inside and outside the classroom.


• Try to include foods from at least 3 food groups for a balanced healthy meal

• A nutritious breakfast should have a balance of complex carbohydrates and protein -- think grains, plus dairy plus fruit

• Eat good carbs for good brain function -- carbs are the body's primary source of energy and the brain especially depends on carbs to function properly.  Carbs are also essential for the repair and maintenance of brain cells

• Proteins are also important for brain function.  Brain cells communicate with one another via chemical messengers called neurotransmitters, which are usually made of amino acids, the building blocks of protein

• Studies have shown:

- Breakfast eaters are likely to achieve higher grades, pay closer attention, participate more in class discussions, and manage more complex academic problems than breakfast skippers.

- Breakfast skippers are more likely to be inattentive, sluggish, and make lower grades.

- Children who eat a breakfast containing both complex carbohydrates and proteins in equivalent amounts of calories tend to show better learning and performance than children who eat primarily a high protein or a high carbohydrate breakfast. Breakfasts high in carbohydrates with little protein seem to sedate children rather than stimulate their brain to learn.

- Children eating high calcium foods for breakfast (e.g., dairy products) showed enhanced behavior and learning.

- Breakfast sets the pattern for nutritious eating throughout the rest of the day. When children miss breakfast to save time or to cut calories, they set themselves up for erratic binging and possibly overeating the rest of the day.


Breakfast Ideas

• Low-fat cheese melted on 100 percent whole grain or wheat toast with a piece of fruit

• Low-fat cream cheese on a 100 percent whole-grain bagel, orange juice (not from concentrate)

• Peanut butter and banana slices on an english muffin (whole grain), milk (low-fat)

• Fruit smoothie made with yogurt

Lunch Ideas

• Tuna or turkey on 100 % whole wheat bread with lettuce and tomato, piece of fruit and milk (low-fat)

• Tortilla wraps with shredded cheese, chopped chicken, and cut vegetables

• Egg salad, 100% whole-wheat bagel, and fruit

• Whole-grain roll with butter or margarine, 2 hard boiled eggs, and carrot sticks

• 8 ounces of low-fat yogurt, whole-wheat crackers, and fruit

• 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter, whole-grain crackers or bagel, and fruit or vegetables

• 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese or hummus, whole-grain crackers, and cherry tomatoes

• Bean-based soup or stew in a thermos, whole-grain roll with butter or margarine, and dried fruit


You can find more information about Dr. Ian Smith, his books and weight loss programs at:

Thanks to Dr. Smith for stopping by and sharing this valuable information.  If you have any questions or comments, please send me an email at or follow me on facebook.

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