Eating for Brain Power
Eating the right foods can improve your child’s school performance, memory, and concentration. The brain is the first organ to absorb nutrients from our food, so make sure they are rich in brain-boosting properties! At Meadow Montessori, we want our students to have every possible advantage. Here are some tips for what foods to include in your child’s diet, and how to encourage kids to eat them.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
You’ve probably heard that omega-3 fatty acids are the gold standard for overall health. Did you know they are essential for brain growth and function? Salmon is a fantastic source for these fatty acids. While some people turn to tuna, it’s not as high in omega-3s, and canned albacore tuna contains more mercury than canned salmon.
If you have a picky eater, serve salmon in unexpected ways. Add some canned salmon to tomato or a healthy soup mix. Make salmon salad instead of tuna for sandwiches. Mix canned salmon with mashed potatoes, coat with egg and breadcrumbs, and sauté in olive oil.
Other sources of omega-3s are shrimp, flaxseeds, soybeans, and walnuts. Add ground flaxseeds to smoothies or cereal for an easy boost.
Eggs are high in protein, and egg yolks contain choline — a nutrient that helps memory development. To encourage your child to eat eggs, try making breakfast burritos, an egg-and-toast dinner (breakfast for dinner — yum!), or a fried egg with cheese on an English muffin.
Other good sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, legumes, nuts, and dairy products.
Iron helps with our neural processes. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects nerve membranes. Both of these brain-boosting nutrients are found in peanut butter. Most kinds of peanut butter contain iron. Be sure to check the label. Add more peanut butter to your child’s diet by dipping apples or bananas in it.
Glucose and B-Vitamins
Whole grains supply the brain with glucose and B-vitamins. These ensure a healthy nervous system. Whole grains can be found in cereals, whole-wheat couscous, low-fat popcorn, tortillas, and more.
Folate, or B-9, encourages healthy cell and tissue growth. Lima beans, spinach, broccoli, carrots, and peas are all good sources of folate. Unfortunately, kids aren’t generally keen on those foods. Blend small amounts into smoothies or chop finely and add to macaroni and cheese, so your child reaps the benefits of B-9!
Vitamin B-12 is a multitasker. It turns food into energy, and it is important for both red blood cell production and the central nervous system. All of these are important to overall brain health. You can find B-12 in eggs, meat, poultry, and dairy products. Families that are vegan or vegetarian should consult their pediatrician as veggie sources of B-12 are not readily absorbed.
Start the day out right for your whole family with a brain-boosting breakfast before school!
Fun experiment: Not all fruits float. Fill a large bowl with water, ask your child for their predictions, and then experiment. (Bananas, apples, watermelons, strawberries, and lemons are examples of fruits that float.)