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.
Did you know that by feeding your child the right type of foods you can actually improve his concentration and mood at school? Dr. Jennifer Greenfield, Managing Partner at the Center for Chiropractic & Wellness in Raleigh, NC, says “The best foods to boost a child’s brain power contain omega 3 fatty acids, because they help maintain memory, focus and mood. They also help maintain healthy blood vessels, circulation and immune system function.”
What type of foods contain omega-3 fatty acids? Dr. Ann G. Kulze, MD (DrAnnwellness.com) says that omega-3 is found in oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines) walnuts, canola oil, flaxseeds, omega-3 eggs, wheat germ, and small leafy green. Kulze adds that, in addition to omega-3 fatty acids, consuming monounsaturated fats (extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, nuts/seeds and avocados) also promotes healthy blood flow to the brain.
Deborah Enos, NC, and author of Weight a Minute! says, “The rule is to make sure your child is eating fat, carb and protein at every meal and snack. This will boost their brain power and concentration and keep them full longer. We all know that concentration goes out the window when a kid has a grumbling tummy.
So, what should you feed your hungry kid?
Brainy breakfast foods
“As a mother, I can tell you that I can see a noticeable difference in carpool, between my son and the boys who either don’t eat breakfast or eat cereal,” says Julia Harvey, an expert on obesity and author of Awaken the Diet Within. “Many studies have shown that children who eat a well balanced breakfast before school perform both better academically and socially.”
Glucose provides fuel to the brain, and according to Kulze, beans provide one of the most steady and prolonged sources of glucose out there. “They’re a rich source of nutrients, including B vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids, and polypehnol antioxidants, that play a key role in brain functioning.” Kulze says her kids love breakfast burritos, which include whole wheat tortillas, eggs, and refried beans.
Kulze says another great source of brain fuel (glucose) is oatmeal (steel cut is best.) “A bowl of oatmeal topped with cinnamon, pecans, brown sugar, and a healthy spread (like Smart Balance) is an awesome breakfast for fueling the brain.”Jackie Keller is mom to two high school kids and founding director of Los Angeles’ health food company, NutriFit, LLC. Keller, a nutrition expert and wellness coach for over 20 years, has worked with celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, and says boosting your mental prowess needs to include brain-powering whole grains.
“Favorites in my house include whole grain waffles with a strip of turkey bacon or lean turkey sausage, and whole grain bagels, to name a few.”
Enos says eggs are the way to start the day. “The fat/protein in the yolk can help calm the brain down and allow your kids the ability to focus and improve their concentration. This comes from the yolk, not the white, so avoid eating only whites (or egg beater type products),” she adds.
If you want your kids to avoid a mid morning crash, Chef Gordon Carlson, an instructor in Stratford University, says “Stay away from high sugar for breakfast.”
Power food ideas for lunch and snacks