What do the foods your children eat have to do with the grades they bring home? Surprisingly, more than many people think.
Research shows that certain vitamins and nutrients support brain health and development. That means the snacks, meals and supplements your child consumes can give them an academic edge, in the classroom and in life.
Lauren Zimet, director of the Early Insights Healthy Foundations Program and a mother herself, understands how food can empower the body and brain. Here are Zimet’s top picks for brain foods that can help support your child’s learning and development.
Protein for breakfast and lunch will not only curb hunger pangs throughout the school day, but will also help sustain mental energy and level moods. Kid-friendly protein ideas include eggs, organic chicken/turkey/beef, non-GMO nitrate-free turkey bacon, and beans. Have leftovers from last night? Dinners in the U.S. traditionally have more protein than other meals, so eating last night’s leftovers in the morning is a fun brain-boosting breakfast option.
Some examples of healthy complex carbohydrates to incorporate into your child’s diet are brown rice, quinoa and oats. These types of carbs elevate levels of serotonin in the brain, which has a calming effect. Need bread? Look for organic options so you can feel confident your child is consuming the nutrients they need and not the additional chemicals that are commonly found in conventional breads and grains.
Did you know the brain is about 60 percent fat? That means when your kids eat healthy fats, it can support brain function. Pack snacks with nuts, seeds and avocado. When cooking, replace unhealthy hydrogenated oils with healthier options such as extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil. Eat more meals with cold-water fish like salmon to get more omega-3 essential fats, which play an integral role in promoting cellular health and brain development.
Mighty nuts and seeds
These nutritional powerhouses provide generous amounts of calories, fats, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Kids can enjoy making their own healthy seed-nut snack mixes, then package in baggies or small containers. Also, try swapping traditional peanut butter for other nut butters like almond or cashew for a healthier take on PB&J.
Omega-3 fish oil supplements are becoming more and more recognized as part of a healthy family diet. They are a convenient source of the omega-3s – especially EPA and DHA – that are so crucial to optimal brain health and function. It’s important to know where your fish oil comes from and how it is purified. Nordic Naturals specializes in purified, molecularly distilled oils that come in various formulations, including a variety of options for children. Learn more at www.nordicnaturals.com.
Vivacious veggies and fruit
Real, whole foods like fresh fruits and vegetables support brain health while calming the nervous system during times of stress. Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are full of antioxidants and vitamin C, which research shows helps regulate cortisol, a hormone responsible for stress. And don’t forget bananas! Not only are they full of potassium, but they also help the body produce hormones that help reduce stress and promote better sleep.
By paying a little attention to the foods your child eats, you’ll be set for a healthy start to a brain-smart school year!