Food for Thought

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Thousands of mid-Michigan kids are now taking the MEAP test, something they've spent hours in the classroom preparing for. But now, it's not the teachers doing the prepping, it's parents and what they serve for dinner and breakfast.

There is no magic when it comes to helping your child prepare for a big test like the MEAP. But there is science at your disposal – an understanding of how the food a kid eats may directly translate into a good performance. Kids, parents and school administrators understand that idea.

News 10 talked to Kathryn Shultz, a dietician at Ingham Regional Medical Center, about what that means.

The answer, in short, is the same good foods that are part of a balanced diet. It includes lean meats, fish, and complex carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables and whole grains.

For instance, fish contains Omega-3 fatty acids, which help the brain make electrical connections between neurons. Complex carbohydrates take the body longer to break down, so a child's blood sugar doesn't shoot up, and then crash abruptly.

Simple carbs, like processed grains, white bread, sugar and many foods marketed for breakfast, can leave a child hungry at a critical time.

"It's difficult to concentrate when you're hungry," said Schultz.

But what's really food for thought, isn't food at all. It's water.

"A dehydrated brain can impact memory, and you need memory to take the MEAP," said Schultz.

Many kids and adults neglect to drink enough water, especially in the winter. A lot of parents are also puzzled about how much water is enough water for their kids.

Schultz offers this formula: take the weight of your child and divide it in half, and that number equals the number of ounces of water your child should drink everyday. For instance, a 100-pound child should drink about 50 ounces of water a say.

Medical experts say plenty of water, a good solid diet, plenty of sleep and a good word from you before your child heads off to school, is exactly the right formula to help your child score big on the MEAP.