Two Juglans regia walnuts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“Give the body junk food and the brain is certainly going to suffer,” comments nutritionist Bethany Thayer, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
It is statements like that that renews my horror every time I remember sacks of junk food at the ex-hubster’s house, made available for my then 4-year old.
Experts ask parents, “‘Want your child to do better in school? Take a close look at his or her diet. Certain “brain foods” may help boost a child’s brain growth — plus improve brain function, memory, and concentration.'”
The brain is called a very hungry organ. Thayer explains that “it is the first among the body’s organs to absorb nutrients from the food we eat.”
WebMD presents these top ten brain foods that will help kids get the most from school. Their experts also provide preparing and serving suggestions:
1. Salmon, an excellent source of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA – both essential for brain growth and function. Research has shown that people who get more of these fatty acids in their diet do better at mental skills tests.
Suggestion: Make salmon salad for sandwiches. Serve on whole-grain bread, which is also a brain food.
2. Eggs, the yolks are packed with choline, which helps memory development.
Suggestion: Send your child off to school with a grab-and-go breakfast egg burrito. Try a poached egg on top of a toasted English muffin topped with a slice of low-fat cheese.
3. Peanut butter, the vitamin E in peanuts is a potent antioxidant that protects nervous membranes and the thiamin helps the brain use glucose for energy.
Suggestion: Dip apple slices in peanut butter. Or top off your favorite salad with a handful of peanuts.
4. Whole Grains provide glucose which the brain is in constant need of.
Suggestion: Make sure that whole grain is a main ingredient in your child’s cereal. A low-fat popcorn would be a fun, healthy snack. Use whole-grain bread for sandwiches.
5. Oats/Oatmeal are very nutritious grain for the brain. Loaded with fiber, oats provide fuel for and keep a child’s brain fed all morning at school.
Suggestion: Top hot oatmeal with pretty much anything, eg. applesauce or cinnamon, dried fruit and soy milk, fresh banana with skim milk.
6. Berries. All those berries around us. It is claimed that the more intense the color, the more nutrition you get from berries, which have high levels of antioxidants.
Suggestion: Toss berries into a green salad, or add chopped berries to a jar of salsa for excellent flavor surprise.
7. Beans. They keep a child’s energy and thinking level at peak all afternoon if they enjoyed them with lunch. Kidney and pinto beans contain more omega-3 fatty acids than other beans
Suggestion: Sprinkle beans over a salad, or mash vegetarian beans and spread on a tortilla. Add beans to spaghetti sauce and salsa.
8. Colorful Veggies. Vegetables with rich, deep color like tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, spinach are the best sources of antioxidants that keep brain cells strong and healthy.
Suggestion: Try sweet potato fries. Cut up in wedges or sticks. Baby carrots and tiny tomatoes fit nicely into lunch bags.
9. Milk & Yogurt. They are packed with protein and vitamin B which are essential for growth of brain tissue, neurotransmitters and enzymes.
Suggestion: Vitamin D-fortified juices are easy ways to get these essential nutrients. Cheese sticks are great snacks.
10. Lean Beef is one of best absorbed sources of iron, a mineral essential for helping kids concentrate and stay energized at school. For vegetarians, black bean and soy burgers are great iron-rich meatless options.
Suggestion: For dinner, grill kebobs with beef chunks and veggies. Or stir-fry a bit of beef with kids’ favorite veggies. Grill black bean or soy burgers.