Providing Nutrition for Adult Learners

Providing Nutrition for Adult Learners

Providing nutrition for adult learners is an important way to help ensure that session learning outcomes are maximized. Thanks to neuroscientific research on the brain and learning, there is scientific proof to substantiate the saying, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Starting in childhood, the importance of eating a balanced diet made up of the major food groups is taught to students. They are also often warned of the results of using or abusing drugs, alcohol, and caffeine and not eating balanced, nutritional meals. Even so, these early lessons are often overlooked or ignored when trainers design their sessions for adult learners.

 To make sure that you and your learners operate at peak potential, and that effective learning occurs, you should consider various factors related to nutrition as you prepare your sessions.

Here are four important points to remember related to learners and food:  

1. Many trainers provide food and refreshments in the morning, at lunchtime and for breaks. This is a great idea as long as you provide the right foods, include variety and allow ample breaks between 60-90 minutes apart so that learners can take advantage of whatever you provide.  

2. Since there are many people who fail to eat breakfast you should provide food when participants arrive. This can benefit them and you. Studies show that the brain needs complex carbohydrates found in fruits, grains, cereals, and bread to effectively function. To assist in fulfilling this need, you might want to ensure that you offer a variety of non-sweet as well as sweet items (e.g. muffins, croissants and bagels) along with fresh fruit. Simply offering donuts and other sweet pastries often overload learners with simple carbohydrates (e.g. sugar) that provide a spike, then a letdown as energy levels subside. On the other hand, if you want to provide a quick stimulant and pump up sugar and performance levels for an activity or task, consider providing candy, cookies, brownies or other sweet treats at various times.  

3. If you are providing lunch, consider what you will serve carefully. Keep the meal light and healthy and ensure that you provide proteins in the form of fish, shrimp, or chicken instead of heavier red meats. Avoid turkey since it has a natural chemical called l-tryptophan that acts as a sedative and relaxes participants after lunch. Also, you can provide a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits.  

4. In mid-afternoon, you may want to replenish nutrition levels by providing complex carbohydrates, such as fruit, juices or grains. If you supply sweets, make sure that you also provide non-sweet alternatives. Also, if you provide popcorn, pretzels, or other snack foods, take it easy on salts and oils.  

The key to nutritionally stimulating the brain is to plan ahead and make sure you think about the diverse needs of all your learners. By applying brain-based learning research to your learning environments, you can help adult learners maximize their learning potential. You can also help ensure the transfer of what they experience in a session back to their workplace or life situations.

For additional information on how to develop more effective and creative adult learning environments or incorporate effective nutrition into your training events, check out The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning and Feed Your Brain for Learning

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