Do you ever think about how dependent your school-aged children are on you as parents? They rely on you for food, shelter, clothing, transportation, answers to endless questions…The list goes on and on. Within that list is brain development. Maybe not in the same sense as clothing and shelter. But indirectly, the formation of your child’s brain is dependent on you. Not just through teaching and observation of behavior, but also on the fuel provided through nutrition.
Food affects our minds in incredible ways. It can help us concentrate or be less focused; it can give us energy or make us tired. Successful lunchtime nutrition can begin with planning. Kids need brain food to help them do their best in school.
Sometimes as a parent it feels like your plate is already full (not just your food plate). Keep reading to find out some simple examples of brain food and how you can incorporate it into your child’s life.
What is Brain Food?
It’s basically self-explanatory- food for your brain. Growing children need an adequate amount of nutrients so that their immune systems are healthy, they have strong bones, and their minds are healthy.
Most processed foods that are, let’s admit, super easy to make and pretty cheap, and are full of refined sugars without much nutrient value. Too much sugar in a meal or snack can lead to a quick spike in your child’s blood sugar that stimulates excess insulin-and then a blood sugar crash. Your child suddenly has no energy–not what he needs to feel in the middle of the school day.
Educate Your Child
A great way to get your child on board in food changes is to teach them about what foods are harmful and why, and what foods are beneficial and why. Teach them which processed foods cause the blood sugar spikes and crashes leaving them feeling sluggish. Explain to them how a balanced diet will help them to concentrate and learn better at school.
There are endless recipes and food ideas that help with concentration and mental energy. As you explore them, explore them with your child. You can begin your exploration now, by looking through some food ideas below.
Breakfast for the Brain
Oatmeal: This breakfast can be made versatile with different kinds of milk, fruits, or nuts and seeds. What’s terrific about oatmeal in comparison to sugary cereal is that it has more fiber and less processed carbohydrates, slowing uptake and avoiding insulin surges. This helps with concentration and also can lower cholesterol.
Eggs: Eggs can also be served in a variety of different ways, depending on how your child likes them–scrambled, fried, on toast, in a burrito, made into French toast, etc. Eggs contain protein and lipids (fats) that help decrease cravings and appetite, and also help with concentration and energy. Win, win, win.
Snacks for the Brain
Berries: Berries like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries all contain antioxidants that help with metabolism. When they are in season, and they are a great option for a fresh local snack. Otherwise, they can be frozen and enjoyed throughout the year. They can also be a source of quick energy containing a fair amount of simple sugars while still providing healthy nutrients.
Bananas and Nut Butter: This is an easy snack to pack for your kid before school. Slice up some bananas and put some peanut butter or almond butter in a container. They’ll enjoy putting the nut butter between the two banana slices before they devour it. This snack contains protein, carbohydrates, and fats that are necessary for the brain.
Lunches for the Brain
Tuna: The part of your child’s brain that involves memory and attention span can be aided by Omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids can be found in deep water ocean fish–including tuna, which is paired well with whole wheat bread and pickles. It’s tasty, fun, and will help your child stay focused during the school day.
Pizza: While processed foods such as frozen pizzas may contain a variety of preservatives and also suffer some degradation in the preservation process, freshly prepared pizza can be a balanced source of dietary requirements including lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and fatty acids to necessary for brain development and metabolism. By preparing the pizza in the home the night before, he can be enjoyed the next day at lunch and help maintain focus and concentration.
Dinners for the Brain
Chicken Nuggets: The chicken nuggets that you might buy at a fast food restaurant or from the frozen food section will contain a fair amount of saturated fats and processed carbohydrates. Try making your own chicken nuggets with good quality chicken breast, buttermilk, and whole grain breadcrumbs. You can find a recipe here. You can even get your children involved in the preparation to make them more excited about understanding their food and how it affects their health.
Beans: Beans come in many varieties and even if you have a picky eater, they most likely will like at least one of them. Some common popular varieties include black, garbanzo, or pinto. Beans provide and sustain energy and help control blood sugar levels due to a balanced composition of protein, fiber and complex carbohydrate. They can be incorporated in a variety of different regional and ethnic favorites: burritos, stews, chilis, enchiladas.
Diet high in saturated fats and refined sugars tend to be readily absorbed and contribute to decreased concentration, decreased energy, and obesity. By incorporating a variety of foods that utilize proteins, complex carbohydrates, and unsaturated fatty acids, you can improve overall health and well-being including scholastic performance, concentration, and energy.
Changing the diet of your child can be intimidating, but we hope that with these suggestions for new foods, you are excited to try some new recipes with your child. We care deeply about your child’s health and development, so if you have any questions about anything we’ve written, feel free to contact us.