School is back in session and for some children the stress and anxiety of being able to focus and pay attention is very frustrating. There are some things we can do as parents and grandparents to help them relax, focus and enjoy school. This is my 32nd year to teach and I have seen first-hand the struggle parents and students go through for a successful school year. Many parents and students don’t like the effect of medications that can help with ADD or ADHD, yet the children struggle to do their best in school. So the question becomes, “What can I do?”. Whether you use medication or not, here are some things to include that can make concentration and focus improve and anxiety decrease.
First and foremost always is nutrition. Get rid of processed foods, sugar and hydrogenated fats. Next, try eliminating some common food allergens to see if they could be adding to the problem. The most common offenders are gluten, dairy, nuts, eggs and soy. Once you have done this, you’re left with nutrient dense whole foods to nourish the brain and body. The number one thing to add to the diet and plenty of it to improve attention and focus is good healthy fats like those found in grass-fed beef and poultry. Farm fresh eggs, if not an allergen, also contain good healthy fats. Avocados, nut butters, seeds, nuts, coconut oil and olives are great plant-based options of healthy fats. Pistachios are especially good as they are a prebiotic to feed the healthy bacteria in the body. These fats taste good and make a good start for a healthy lunch you can pack for your child. Next is protein, which includes many of the foods listed above. Also, include fatty fish like salmon, sardines and anchovies. Homemade meatballs and a good dipping sauce are another way to add in some good fat and protein in a lunch box. Many kids love a sandwich-on-a-stick which can pack a ton of fat and protein without the gluten in bread. There are many uncured natural lunchmeats at the grocery store that you can alternate with olives, fresh veggies and fruits to make an eye appealing and healthy part of their lunch box. Be sure to include as many bright and colorful vegetables as possible in the lunch to give them plenty of vitamins and antioxidants. Think of creating a rainbow in their lunch to give them a huge variety of nutrients. A great treat to add into the lunch is a fat bomb. These are delicious and taste like candy without the sugar. They are packed with fats to give the brain a good boost. A very easy and tasty one is
1 cup of unsweetened nut butter like almond
¼ cup maple syrup
3 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 Tablespoon of MCT oil or powder (opt)
1 scoop of collagen proteins like Great Lakes from Amazon
Mix these ingredients all together and roll into balls. You could coat them with coconut (unsweetened) or ground nuts, seeds or any other healthy topping.
Kids will truly look forward to this treat in their lunch.
Nutrition isn’t the only tool, there are herbs that can help with focus and attention as well. Gotu Kola is an herb that has lots of B vitamins and helps with mental clarity and reduces anxiety. A fun fact, the ancient Chinese say if you eat one leaf a day, you will live to be 300 years old. Lemon Balm is an herb that tastes great as a tea and really does relax and calm you. It would be a great addition to the lunch box in a thermos. Milky Oats, ginseng, brahmi and pine bark are others that researchers say are showing promise with attention deficit disorder.
Essential oils can also play a role in helping children have more focus and performing better in school. Chamomile and vetiver essential oils help to reduce scattered thoughts and are calming. Orange, neroli and bergamot help to melt away the brain fog and improve clarity. Finally, the wonderful smelling geranium can reduce the anxiety some students experience.
Another tool to help with ADHD and ADD is supplementation. A very good fat supplement is fermented cod liver oil. It doesn’t taste near as bad as it sounds and really provides some great brain boosting properties. Some other supplements to look for on their own or in a multi-vitamin are B vitamins, magnesium, calcium, zinc, Gaba, and vitamin D. A good probiotic will help with the gut bacteria and not only keep their immune system strong, it will also help with brain function.
Helping our children and grandchildren do well in school is no easy task, but by cleaning up the diet and beefing up your arsenal of tools, we can make the task a little easier. All of these suggestions may not work, but keep trying these different tools until you find a combination that works for you and your family.