Students in grades 3 through 11 will take the reading, math and science portions of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test beginning Monday and officially extending through April 26.
While teachers work on prepping their minds, parents need to work on prepping their stomachs.
For brain food, nutritionists say it's best to steer clear of the sugary, white-flour breakfasts, at least not without a protein pairing of some sort. Sugars tend to spike blood sugar and leave them hungry too quickly.
Your best bets: oatmeal (even the brown sugar kind) because it gets absorbed slowly by the body. Also a protein and whole grain combo like eggs with toast, peanut butter and fruit with a glass of milk. Smoothies are also a fast breakfast and a way to sneak in protein, extra fruit and maybe even a spoonful of wheat germ.
The Hillsborough School District simplifies matters by offering free breakfast to all students.
"Eating breakfast at school is a win-win for parents and students," said Ginain Grayes, marketing specialist for the district's student nutrition program. "It ensures the child will obtain a nutrient-packed breakfast and it's one less thing parents have to worry about in the morning."
Grayes confirmed that if you can't eat breakfast at school, you need to eat nutrient-packed items including whole grains, low-fat dairy and protein — especially fruits and vegetables.
Another option for students, at least for Monday, is getting a free breakfast at McDonald's. Participating restaurants in Tampa Bay and around the state are inviting students taking the FCAT to a free breakfast on the first day of testing from 6 to 9 a.m. This year, teachers are also being offered the complimentary breakfast, redeemable by showing a valid teacher ID card.
The breakfast includes an Egg McMuffin, a choice of 1 percent milk or a small orange juice, and a package of apple slices. Nutritionists say it's a pretty healthy choice. And did we mention free?
Another tip? Send in a snack for your child. Or even better, help the teacher out and send in some snacks for the class for the middle of the morning such as apples, whole grain crackers, nuts and cheese snacks (rather than sugary treats or white-flour crackers).
But the best ingredient for success is rest. Research has found getting one hour of vigorous exercise during the day will help them fall asleep faster. So let them play hard before dinner and set the stage for at least 9 hours of sleep.
Sharon Kennedy Wynne can be reached at (727) 893-8595 or [email protected]