Food is fuel - and for growing kids getting the right type of fuel for their bodies can make the difference between waking up with energy and getting through a sluggish day at school. There's an entire menu of brain rich foods that can help improve your child's performance at school, increase their memory and help them focus.
Leanne Ely, CNC, (savingdinner.com) says the first thing parents should consider when packing a healthy lunchbox is to watch the fat content.
“Many parents are surprised to learn that cheese is the number one source of saturated fat in kids’ diets.” Ely says start with whole grains
when doing a lunchbox makeover.
“Whole grains are a better source of fiber and keeps kids feeling full longer. They also have important nutrients such as selenium, potassium, and magnesium.”
Enos suggests turkey, pita chips and hummus
for lunch. “This combo is an amazing brain booster for the afternoon. Turkey also provides a good solid protein that will increase the focus and concentration of your child.” Enos adds, “The fat from the hummus can serve to help slow your child down, allowing them to concentrate in class. The pita chips are a good source of carbs, which is the gas for your child’s car, and will keep them rolling along throughout the afternoon.”
Kulze says a chunk light tuna
is a good lunch choice because it’s filled with essential amino acids which the brain requires a constant supply of. “It’s also an excellent source of omega 3 fats, the superstar fat that provides a fundamental role in all aspects of brain function.”
contains extremely potent antioxidants called flavanols that have been shown to enhance blood flow in the brain,” says Kulze. “The chocolate also provides sugar to supply the brain its glucose for fuel.” (Kulze further explains that the fat in chocolate slows down the absorption of the sugar leading to a more gradual glycemic response.) She adds that a, “Small amount of caffeine and other natural stimulates that boost focus, mood and cognition.”
Foods such as avocados
contain powerful antioxidants that boot brain power, as do omega-3 fatty acid foods, such as salmon and walnuts. “Equally important though is to minimize or eliminate refined carbs and refined white sugars, instead choosing whole grains and natural sugars such as fruit, honey, and maple syrup sparingly,” says Greenfield.
Antioxidant rich foods such as berries, plums, oranges, red/green grapes, cherries, kiwis, red grapefruit, garlic, kale, spinach, brussel sprouts, broccoli, avocados, red peppers
, and purple onions,
to name a few, protect the brain from free radicals, according to Kulze.
“Dehydration leads to fatigue, irritability, and most importantly lack of concentration,” says Keller. “Be sure your child is well-hydrated, and water is best,” she adds. Other drinks to consider may include fruit smoothies that contain brain building antioxidants and flax seed or wheat germ.
Foods to avoid
White flour products
– white rice, white potatoes, white sugar and sweets, which according to Kulze lead to rapid fluctuations in blood glucose/insulin and impair memory, learning and mood.
Carlson suggests avoiding foods that contain Sodium Nitrite
– bacon, some lunchmeats, etc. “One side effect is short term memory loss.”
Havey says, “Nothing deletes brain power more than a crash mid-day after loading up on sugary cereal, candy bar and soft drinks.”