As kids grow up they need a healthy balanced diet, not only to promote physical development and well-being, but also to aid and support brain functions, memory, and concentration.
The brain absorbs nutrients from foods, just like any other part of a child’s body. Therefore it’s vitally important that we help children to get the right start in life by making sure they eat good nutritional food.
Some of the “superfoods” that can help a child boost their brainpower include:
– Fatty Fish. Fish that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids help with brain growth and function, so fish are an important part of the diet to aid in improving mental skills. Some fish that are high in Omega-3 include: Alaskan Wild Salmon, Trout, Atlantic Mackerel, Sardines, Anchovies, Black Cod (Kabeljou), Oysters, Tuna, and Mussels.
Be creative and include tuna, sardines, or anchovies on whole wheat bread as a healthy afternoon snack for your kids when they come home from school.
– Eggs. Not only are eggs a wonderful source of protein, but their yolks have choline, an important nutrient for memory development. And a bonus is that most kids love eggs!
No need for super creativity here; eggs are such a versatile food that can be used in a wide variety of dishes and methods of preparation. Combine scrambled eggs with salmon in a wrap for a truly superfood snack!
– Peanut Butter. One of the all-time kids’ favourites is also superfood! Peanut butter is packed with vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects nerve membranes and it also contains thiamine, which is good for the brain, and glucose which gives energy.
Peanut butter also needs very little preparation for children to eat it easily. But if you want to get creative you can try using it as a base for meat sauces in Thai-style recipes – it is super yummy and healthy.
– Whole Grains. Whole grain breads and cereals provide glucose, an energy source the brain needs and children should be encouraged to eat whole grain instead of refined white bread. Whole grains also contain B vitamins, which are good for the nervous system.
Add whole grains to most meals by switching to whole grain breads, wraps, and crackers.
– Oats. Oats are an excellent source of energy and brain “fuel.” Oats are packed with vitamins E, B complex, and zinc to help kids’ brains work their best.
Oat porridge can be a delicious and nutritious base for almost any topping such as fruit, berries, nuts, and honey.
– Berries. Speaking of, berries can help improve memory and are packed with vitamin C and other antioxidants. Seeds from berries also contain omega-3 fats that help with brain function. Look for strawberries, cherries, blueberries, and blackberries – the more intense the colour of the berry, the more nutrition it has.
Berries are also a versatile food that can be used in many dishes, as toppings, or eaten on their own. And most kids love berries, so this will not only be an easy food to feed them, it is also a healthy alternative to sugary snacks!
– Beans. Despite their bad reputation beans are excellent for brains since they have energy from protein, complex carbohydrates, fibre, and vitamins and minerals. Kidney and pinto beans are good choices as they contain more omega-3 fatty acids than other bean varieties, which are important for brain growth and function.
Beans can be used as salad toppings, as fillers for wraps, or combine kidney beans with lean beef mince and crunchy mielie tortillas for a Mexican-themed dinner.
– Colourful Veggies. Vegetables with a rich, deep colour are an excellent source of antioxidants to keep the brain cells healthy. Some of the best vegetables to use in a nutrient-rich diet are: tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, or spinach.
Make salads fun with cute cherry tomatoes or replace potato fries with sweet potato instead. Spinach can be added to quiches and bakes for kids who are fussy eaters.
– Dairy. B-vitamins are necessary for growth of brain tissue, neurotransmitters, and enzymes, and dairy products are a good source for these nutrients. Low fat milk or yogurt is great sources of protein and carbohydrates for the brain. Dairy is also an excellent source of vitamin D, which children and teens need in greater amounts than adults.
Low-fat cheese sticks make a great to-go snack and are a good source of calcium. Cream cheese and salmon are also very good food buddies and can be combined in many different ways.
– Lean Beef. Beef is an excellent source of iron, which helps kids maintain energy and focus in school. Beef is also a good source of zinc, which aids memory. Vegetarian kids can get their iron from black bean and soy burgers. Beans contain non-heme iron, which needs vitamin C to be absorbed, so combine veggie burgers or beans with good sources of vitamin C such as peppers or orange juice.
Remember that establishing a healthy and nutritious diet early on in a child’s life will not only give them the developmental head-start they need, but it will also cement a base foundation for good eating habits throughout their lives. This in turn will have enormous benefits for them in the long run for continued health and wellbeing.
Also keep in mind that the superfoods outline above are also good for adults and should be included as part of your regular diet too!