Children’s brain health and emotional health affects every decision they make every moment of every day. When our children’s brains are nourished with whole foods they function at a very high level.
Nutrition is more important than we think when it comes to your child performing better at school and life. Below are some healthy foods to assist in your child’s brain growth, brain function, memory and concentration.
1. Alaskan Salmon
Fatty fish like salmon are an excellent source of the omega-3 fatty acids. DHA and EPA are both found if fatty fish are essential for brain growth and function – especially DHA. The best sources of fatty fish that are high in omega-3’s oils are salmon, mackerel, anchovies and sardines. When purchasing fish in tins limit your amount and purchase in the health section of the store. When choosing tuna look for “skypjack” as opposed to “albacore” which has more mercury.
Lunch Idea: Instead of tuna sandwiches make salmon and mix with “real” mayonnaise, plain yogurt or avocados. Add organic raisins, chopped celery and carrots. A wonderfully healthy bread is “Silver Hills” Squirrely. It is sprouted, organic and children love the taste. Always choose a bread that has at least 4 – 5 grams of fiber per slice.
There are so many wonderful nut butters that contain vitamin E a wonderful antioxidant for the brain plus B vitamins for the brain and nervous system. A wonderful alternative to peanut butter is almond butter and only choose those nut butters that contain the “nut” only. Do not purchase a nut butter that contains partially hydrogenated oils or sugars as they are detrimental to your health.
- Lunch Idea: Many schools do not allow nut butter therefore have it for breakfast or an after school snack. Purchase organic jam or add sliced banana to that nut butter sandwich. You can also dip apple slices in nut butter or just eat a handful of nuts as a wonderfully healthy snack.
3. Whole Grains or Alternative Grains
The brain needs a constant supply of glucose and whole grains, not white can provide this. The fiber content helps to stabilize blood sugar which is an important source of fuel for the brain. Whole grains also contain B vitamins which nourish the nervous system. As mentioned before a healthy slice of bread contains 4 – 5 grams of fiber.
- Lunch Ideas: Purchase sprouted breads and tortillas with lots of fiber. A wonderfully healthy cracker is “Mary’s Cracker” and three tasty alternative grains for pasta are Kamut, Quinoa or Spelt. Rice or Whole Wheat pastas can spike sugar levels and drain energy.
4. Oats/ Oatmeal
Oatmeal is a favourite to many and steel cut oats are best. Shy away from quick oats which spike blood sugar levels. Oats are a wonderful energy source for the brain plus the fiber helps to regulate sugar levels and hunger. Oats are rich in Vitamin E, B vitamins, potassium and Zinc which are all important to mental health.
- Lunch Ideas: Add Oatmeal to a thermos with an alternative milk like Almond Milk or Cashew Milk instead of Cow’s Milk. You can add anything to oatmeal like bananas, apple and cinnamon, dried fruits, nuts and seeds. Many like the taste of quinoa instead of oats and the protein content is better!
When purchasing eggs, organic is always best as their nutrient content is higher. Eggs re a wonderful protein source plus the yolk is full of choline which helps with memory development. Children’s brains need lot of healthy fats. Eggs are high in tryptophan, an amino acid that’s a building block of the “happiness” molecule (and neurotransmitter) serotonin
- Lunch Idea: A quick lunch could be a breakfast egg burrito, egg salad sandwiches and of course the faithful hardboiled egg. Try a homemade McMuffin made with a fried or scrambled egg on a “Silver Hills” english muffin or bagel topped with a healthy cheese.
6. Organic Beans
Beans are a wonderful choice for everyone because they are full of protein, vitamins and minerals plus complex carbohydrates and fibre which allows for a steady fuel source for the brain. When blood sugar spikes and drops the brain has no fuel source and concentration is lowered.
- Lunch Ideas: Garbanzo (chick peas) beans can be eaten as a snack anytime plus baked with added cinnamon or spices like Cumin for a snack! Add beans to any salad, soup, spaghetti sauce or casserole. Beans are a very important part of anyone’s diet who is cutting back on meat.
Free radicals are the enemy when it comes to damage of brain cells but the high levels of antioxidants found in strawberries, cherries, blueberries and blackberries protect these cells from this type of damage. Flavonoids found in berries play a role in improvements in numerous cognitive skills including memory, learning, and decision making
- Lunch Ideas: Fruits of all variety are a wonderful part to any lunch. You can also add berries veggies like: sliced sweet cherries with broccoli or strawberries with green beans. Toss berries into a green salad. Add chopped berries to a jar of salsa for an excellent flavor surprise. You can also add berries to yogurt, hot or cold cereal or dips.
8. Organic Veggies
Tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, spinach -- vegetables with rich, deep color are the best sources of antioxidants that keep brain cells strong and healthy.
- Lunch Ideas: Try sweet potato fries: Cut up in wedges or sticks. Toss them in beaten egg whites with a bit of olive oil and tumeric etc. and then bake them in the oven (400 degrees, 20 minutes or until they start to brown). Organic carrots and tiny tomatoes fit nicely into lunch bags. Kids love spinach salads with lots of stuff in them -- like strawberries, mandarin oranges, sliced almonds. Sneak all sorts of chopped veggies into spaghetti sauce, soups, and stews.
Avocados are high in tyrosine — an amino acid that’s a precursor to dopamine — the brain chemical that keeps you motivated and focused. They improve blood flow to the brain and are anti-inflammatory. The brain normally uses glucose for energy, but it is quite happy to burn healthy fat as a “super fuel.
Lunch Ideas: Cut up pieces and add to lunch, dip organic Tortillas or Mary’s Crackers in guacamole or use sliced avocados instead of mayonnaise on sandwiches.
Most parents would be amazed at how little water kids take in at school. Water is an overlooked food and most children just don’t drink enough. Dehydration, even a very mild case, makes kids listless, lethargic, and irritable--not exactly the best frame of mind for learning and memorizing. Too little water creates false hunger in children, so they make poor food choices.
- Lunch Ideas: Water should always be the first choice for hydration. Add organic lemon, lime or orange slices for taste. Stay away from any beverage that contains sugar!
Where can I get more information?
Feel free to contact our Nutritional Expert, Shawn M. Nisbet (Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Certified Fitness Consultant, Yoga Teacher and Master Nordic Pole Walking Instructor).
Stay tuned for monthly tips from Shawn on our blog!