Eating well | Education Support

Eating well

We need to eat well for our prefrontal cortex (rational brain) to work and allow us to perform to the best of our abilities. Often when people feel irritable, are in a mood or they are finding it hard to concentrate it is because their prefrontal cortex needs refuelling as it has a short battery.

Our minds and our bodies are greatly influenced by what we put in to them and so thinking of ourselves more as a machine that needs to be well oiled, with enough gas in the system, makes absolute sense.

Scientific research also shows that healthy eating and maintaining an appropriate weight can ward off many diseases like heart disease, diabetes and others. If you are carrying around more weight the stress on your body is increased. Also, being overweight contributes to other unhealthy behaviours as you are less likely to exercise or be active resulting in an increase likelihood of eating more, drinking and smoking.

Teachers are role models for children and so it is even more important for them to create healthy eating habits for their class to mirror. This can feel hard when a busy schedule can mean eating lunch or having healthy snacks throughout the day can get missed.

Often, we can feel flooded with the do’s and don’ts of eating that make us slip into denial. However, small changes to our habits can make a large difference:

  • Cut down on sugar.  Adults should have no more than 30g of free sugars a day, (roughly equivalent to 7 sugar cubes).  The government recommends that free sugars – sugars added to food or drinks, and sugars found naturally in honey, syrups, and unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies and purées – should not make up more than 5% of the energy (calories) you get from food and drink each day
  • Eat the right number of calories.  As a guide, an average man needs around 2,500kcal a day and an average woman, around 2,000kcal a day to maintain a healthy body weight
  • Just over a third of what you eat should be starchy foods such as potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and cereals
  • Eat more fibre; around 30 grams a day; choose wholegrain varieties and eat potatoes with their skins on for more fibre
  • Fish is a good source of protein and contains many vitamins and minerals. Aim to eat at least two portions of fish a week, including at least one portion of oily fish. Oily fish contains omega-3 fats, which may help to prevent heart disease
  • Eat less salt – no more than 6g a day for adults
  • Eat 80 g of fruit. E.g. a large slice of fruit like pineapple or melon; an apple, banana or pear; 2 smaller fruits like plums or tangerines; 7 strawberries or 20 raspberries; 1 handful of grapes or 30g of dried fruit
  • Eat 80 grams of vegetables. E.g. three heaped tablespoons of peas, beans or pulses; three heaped tablespoons of vegetables like sliced carrots, mixed vegetables or corn; four heaped tablespoons of cooked green vegetables like cabbage and spring greens;  two spears of broccoli or one medium tomato; a dessert bowl of salad greens
  • Balance your diet  (eat a blend of carbohydrates, protein, vegetables, fruit and fibre)
  • Cut down on E numbers and processed food
  • Have 6-8 glasses of water a day
  • Don’t miss breakfast, it is more likely to make you hungrier later
  • Switch unhealthy snacks to nuts, fruit and slower releasing energy sources e.g. bananas and avocadoes.
  • If you are struggling to lose weight go to a group like slimming world, or see a therapist to help deal with the psychological issues of unhealthy eating

Research shows that eating the rainbow in fruit and vegetables is a quick and easy way to get a good balance of nutrients.  In fact, the variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables have enormous healing powers.  Many of them bring their own distinctive colours. (Advice from the British Health Foundation)

Public Health England Eatwell Guide 

What can you do if you are feeling overwhelmed:

Ask yourself: