The right food can make all the difference in your child’s day. Good nutrition not only helps bodies grow strong – it can also help kids focus and even improve their behavior. what else can we offer our children to optimize their chances of having a good day at school? Here are Brain Foods for Kids to include in your child’s diet weekly, from 12 months of age.
Brain Foods for Kids
Oats, cereals & wholegrain bread
Packed with carbohydrates, whole grains provide essential glucose and energy to fuel the brain. They are also full of B-vitamins, which nourish a healthy nervous system. Numerous studies have shown that a breakfast filled with whole grains improves short-term memory and attention when compared with refined carbohydrates or no morning meal at all. Whole grains are found in oats, granary bread, rye, wild rice, quinoa, and buckwheat. Wholegrain foods are also high in fiber, which regulates glucose supply into the body.
So why not try and start your child’s days with wholegrain cereals or oats? Wholegrain crackers with tasty toppings such as cheese, mashed avocado, or banana are a great treat; hummus or a bean dip with wholegrain pitta is an easy and quick idea for lunchboxes, or swap rice or couscous for whole wheat couscous for dinner.
Beans are the Best Brain Foods for Kids. High in protein and packed with vitamins and minerals, beans are an excellent food choice for your kids. Kidney and pinto beans contain more omega-3 fats than other beans which we know are important for brain growth and function. Not only do they release energy slowly which keeps them filled with energy, but it will also help them concentrate in the classroom if they’re enjoyed at lunchtime.
Sprinkle mixed beans over salad, try them mashed and spread on a pitta pocket or add them to shredded lettuce and cheese to make the perfect sandwich filler. Mixing beans in spaghetti sauce or swapping them occasionally for meat will also make a good dinner choice.
Eat more beans: Sprinkle beans over salad and top with salsa. Mash vegetarian beans and spread on a tortilla. Mash or fill a pita pocket with beans — and add shredded lettuce and low-fat cheese. Add beans to spaghetti sauce and salsa. Infants love mashed beans with applesauce!
Full of folate and vitamins, spinach and kale are linked to lower odds of getting dementia later in life. Kale is a superfood, packed with antioxidants and other things that help new brain cells grow.
How to Serve It: For some kids, greens are a hard sell. So rather than serving a salad, you may want to try some different ideas:
- Whip spinach or kale into smoothies for snack time.
- Add spinach to omelets or lasagna.
- Make kale chips. Cut kale from stems/ribs, drizzle with olive oil and a bit of salt, and bake.
Fatty fish like salmon is an excellent source of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA — both essential for brain growth and function, says Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD, a Los Angeles nutritionist, and ADA spokeswoman.
In fact, recent research has also shown that people who get more of these fatty acids in their diet have sharper minds and do better at mental skills tests.
While tuna is also a source of omega-3s, it’s not a rich source like salmon, Giancoli tells WebMD.
Apples and Plums
Kids often crave sweets, especially when they’re feeling sluggish. Apples and plums are lunchbox-friendly and contain quercetin, an antioxidant that may fight a decline in mental skills.
How to Serve It: The good stuff is often in the skin of the fruit, so buy organic, wash well, and put the fruit in a bowl for quick snacks.
Milk, yogurt & cheese
Milk, yogurt, and cheese are so nutritious and are packed with protein and B-vitamins which are essential for the growth of brain tissue, neurotransmitters and enzymes which all play an important role in the brain. Another benefit is these foods are high in calcium which is vital for the growth of strong and healthy teeth and bones. Children have different requirements for calcium depending on their age, but you should aim to include two to three calcium-rich sources a day. Read more information about calcium requirements.
Eat more dairy: Low-fat milk over cereal — and calcium- and vitamin D-fortified juices — are easy ways to get these essential nutrients. Cheese sticks are great snacks.