Did you know that by age three, a human will have around 1,000 trillion connections in their brain! By providing nutrient-rich food, parents can ensure their kids’ brains — and their bodies — have the necessary fuel to do the best job possible.
Here are some healthy food ideas to add to your child’s diet:
Eggs are an excellent source of protein and offers all nine essential amino acids. Your body needs these amino acids to create hormones, skin, and tissues. Egg yolks are also full of choline, which can help with memory development and overall brain function.
Tip: Make homemade egg muffins at home by putting a fried egg on top of a toasted English muffin, with a slice of cheese and tomato. Having a bunch of hard-boiled or deviled eggs in the fridge make for a handy snack, too.
Greek yogurt, like all yogurt, is an excellent source of calcium, potassium, zinc, and vitamins B6 and B12. Choose full-fat Greek yogurt because the fat helps keep brain cells in top shape for sending and receiving information. Greek yogurt also contains double the protein of regular yogurt, which helps your child feel fuller longer.
Tip: Mix berries, oats, and honey into Greek yogurt for a hearty and delicious breakfast. Or use it instead of cream, sour cream, or mayo in many savoury recipes for a healthy alternative.
Fish is a great source of the omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA. These fatty acids support a healthy heart and are essential for bodies to function. Research has shown that DHA promotes cognitive development, particularly when it comes to hand-eye coordination, attention span, and social skills. To get the most benefits, choose a fatty fish like salmon.
Tip: Instead of using tuna in sandwiches, try using canned salmon instead. You can spice it up by adding chopped celery, carrots, raisins, or mayo.
Berries are not only delicious, they’re a goldmine when it comes to nutrition. Berries can help improve and maintain memory, and are packed with antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C, and E. Strawberries and blueberries are great sources of folate and potassium, while raspberries contain phosphorus and selenium. All berries are excellent sources of fibre.
Tip: Throw berries into cereal, oatmeal, and salads. Or just eat them as-is for a refreshing, healthy snack.
Whole grains are all about glucose, which the brain and body uses as fuel to function. It’s also full of fibre and vitamins and minerals, such as iron, copper, zinc, and magnesium. The fibre helps to maintain a steady blood sugar level in your child’s body instead of causing sharp spikes like with refined sugar.
Tip: Switching out white bread and tortillas for whole-grain varieties is an easy way to incorporate this brain food into your child’s diet.
Green, leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and lettuce provide lots of fibre, folate, iron, calcium, and vitamins C and K. Folate helps make red blood cells and is especially important for infants, children, and pregnant women. Vitamin C helps with immunity and repairs tissues, while vitamin K helps with blood clotting. Leafy greens are also a great source of antioxidants, which help prevent damage to your skin, immune system, and brain.
Tip: While it may be hard to get your child to eat greens, try blending them into smoothies with fruit and milk. Add spinach to omelets and lasagna, or make kale chips.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are packed with protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, fibre, and minerals. They also contain healthy unsaturated fat, which helps support the brain and nourishes red blood cells. Though technically legumes, peanuts and peanut butter also offer health benefits: antioxidants and thiamin, which helps the body convert food into fuel.
Tip: Combine nut butter, celery sticks, and raisins for a fun “ants on a log” snack. Or sprinkle seeds and nuts over salads.
Beans are an inexpensive source of protein and are rich in fibre. They also provide complex carbohydrates, which helps keep blood sugar levels stable and prevents tiredness and irritability. If that weren’t enough, beans are full of antioxidants, which protect cells from damage.
Tip: Add beans to salads, soups, and stews. Or mash them up and include them in your burritos and tacos.
Not only will oatmeal keep your child full and energized throughout the morning, it’s rich with nutrients. Oats contain lots of vitamin E, vitamin B, potassium, zinc, which helps maximize brain and body functioning. It’s is also a good source of magnesium — key for enzyme production.
Tip: There are lots of ways to jazz up hot oatmeal. Mix in fruit jam, add applesauce and cinnamon, or top it with fresh fruit and honey.
While water may seem like a no-brainer (pun intended), it has a lot of competition from other beverages, like juice boxes and other sugary drinks. Having ample supplies of water ensures your child’s brain can function at its best. If the brain doesn’t get enough water, its cells start to lose efficiency. Water also flushes out toxins in the body and helps carry nutrients to internal organs.
Tip: Water bottles come in all sorts of fun designs, so letting your child pick out one they like may encourage them to use it more. Adding a colourful or curly straw to regular cups and bottles can also make drinking water seem more fun.
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