Not eating enough protein before school can lead to poor brain function, bad mood, and greater hyperactivity. A high quality protein breakfast is one of the simplest, healthiest things you do for your kids. Protein will activate the chemicals messengers in the brain allowing for greater focus.
A high-protein breakfast elevates the chemical messengers dopamine, acetylcholine, and other neurotransmitters much more than a high-carbohydrate breakfast of cereal, orange juice, and banana. The high-carb breakfast will elevate the hormone insulin, raise the chemical transmitter serotonin, and inhibit your child’s ability to concentrate and have lower energy as well.
When large quantities of glucose are present in the blood, cells in the brain that are responsible for alertness, energy use, and memory become blocked. Eating protein has the opposite effect because the amino acids in protein will stimulate those cells that get blocked by glucose, making one feel energized and have better cognitive function.
The amino acids in high-quality protein foods provide the building blocks for the chemical messengers that allow for optimal cognitive function. This means your child will be motivated and energized, but not hyperactive or inattentive. Enthusiasm and focused energy will allow a child to engage in learning, while being under control.
Research into diets for the treatment of clinical ADHD show that a high-protein diet can improve symptoms and produce better behavior, attention, and social function. Use of a high-protein diet came out of the practice of treating childhood seizures with a ketogenic diet that is very high in fat and low in carbs. Ketogenic diets shift the source of energy for the brain from glucose to fat, which is converted into ketones that are then used for energy in the brain.
This is hard to maintain, and better behavior and health results have been found with a modified ketogenic diet that is high in protein, relatively high in fat, and low in carbs, with most carbs coming
from low-glycemic sources such as fruits and vegetables. This kind of high-protein diet will prime the neurotransmitters for optimal function, and help keep glucose moderate, but enough for the brain to sustain cognition and behavior.
If you start your children eating a clean high-protein diet you can focus on teaching your kids about why protein is so important for their success and performance. However, if you want to shift your kids away from cereal and higher carbohydrate foods to a protein-based diet, try making it a compromise. Allow your children to indulge in their favorite cereal or high carb snack after dinner, and before bed when feeling relaxed is more desirable. Replace their regular breakfast with protein like eggs, sausages, and yoghurt or cottage cheese.
Data shows that kids who eat protein for breakfast have superior nutrition, are less likely to be overweight, have better test scores, perform better athletically, and have higher overall education levels than kids who eat a poor quality breakfast or skip it all together. By adding more protein into your children’s diet, they will experience a nutritional shift that allows them manage their behavior, maintain focus and perform at a higher level.