It is important to re-establish the right rhythms with a diet that promotes concentration and physical and mental efficiency and ensures good quality sleep
Forced isolation, remote lessons: in the last months of the last school year, the daily routine of our children and teenagers was completely disrupted. And when it does, the return to school – unlike in previous years – will not be configured as a simple resumption of teaching activities, but will prefigure new spaces and ways. “Physical distancing, especially for older kids, will be difficult to maintain. As well as the use of the mask for all hours of school. It is important that the situation is constantly monitored ”, explains prof. Giuseppe Mele, President of Simpe (Italian Society of Pediatricians). "This could also happen with the help of the pediatrician school doctor, a now forgotten figure".
It will be a very unusual start to the year, then. To get back on the right foot, it is important to re-establish the right rhythms, return to a balanced diet that can promote concentration and physical and mental efficiency and ensure good sleep quality.
Rule number one?
A good breakfast. “Which must represent 20% of the total calories consumed during the food day”, explains prof. Apples. “It has to be simple, but complete. Based on sugars (carbohydrates) that provide energy, fibers and proteins ".
Among the carbohydrates you can choose between cereals, bread and rusks. These must be combined with a protein food such as milk or yogurt. And then fresh fruit, a juice or a genuine jam. "It is good that the meal is balanced, healthy and above all digestible, because getting heavier means losing concentration", continues the doctor. “In the backpack, then, you can bring fruit, an excellent source of fructose, which represents the energy needed to meet the mental commitments of the morning, to be consumed as a snack”.
Healthy and varied lunch
The midday meal is the classic one of our Mediterranean diet. “More fish than meat, – advises prof. Apples – vegetables and pasta ". A diet that must be healthy, balanced and above all varied in order to also take in all those substances that can help keep mood, concentration and memory high. We are helped by tryptophan, an essential amino acid precursor of the so-called "feel-good hormone", serotonin. There are many foods in which it is contained. These include chicken, dark chocolate, milk, eggs, bananas, nuts, oats and spinach. Fish, on the other hand, especially blue fish, is an excellent source of polyunsaturated fatty acids: omega 3. These "good" fats are real friends of the brain. In fact, several studies have found a link between essential omega 3 fatty acids and an increase in memory and cognitive abilities.
Magnesium and niacin and allies of the brain
"Among the friendly substances of brain efficiency, there are also magnesium and niacin". Magnesium contributes to the normal functioning of the nervous system and psychological and muscular function. It also reduces tiredness and fatigue and contributes to normal energy metabolism, thus helping to transform the nutrients contained in food into energy. Cocoa, oilseeds and nuts and lentils are rich in this mineral. Niacin, on the other hand, is found in whole grains, legumes, eggs and fish. And when extra help is needed, a natural supplement containing tryptophan, niacin or magnesium (in the bisglycinate form, which allows the mineral a high absorption capacity in the intestine) can help. “All those who have a concentration of these substances do very well especially from 7-8 years onwards. They are essential and help a lot, ”says the doctor.
The importance of sleeping well
“Before starting school – advises prof. Apples – you need to get back to good winter habits, forget summer and put children and teenagers to sleep at the right times ". Children who sleep little and badly often recognize themselves because they have discomfort or behavioral disturbances during the day, at school and in the family. Among the precautions to be taken, there is certainly to avoid a heavy and high-fat dinner, so it is better not to offer small fried or very heavy foods in the evening, preferring instead foods that contain tryptophan. A nice cup of lukewarm milk in the evening, before bed, is an excellent way to promote rest. Instead, no tablets, TVs and computers, to be turned off at least an hour before going to bed. The light of electronic devices, in fact, alters the production of melatonin, the hormone that promotes rest, 'busting' the sleep-wake rhythm of children and teenagers: for this reason it is appropriate to start at dinner time to reduce the exposure to very bright lights. A quiet, not too hot room with crisp sheets can further help promote a good sleep. "And in case you don't sleep – concludes the pediatrician – melatonin, lemon balm or chamomile are natural aids that can help you fall asleep a lot and are harmless products".