Kids don’t only need a balanced diet to keep their bodies healthy; they need nutritious food to help their brains develop too. The brain absorbs the food we eat, and you can help your child’s cognitive skills, memory and concentration by giving them these six food types, which are packed with nutrients.
Photo credit: Markus Spiske
- Colourful vegetables
These are a great source of antioxidants, which help with brain cell health.
- Sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, kale and pumpkin are excellent choices
- Baby carrots and sugar snap peas are quick and easy snacks
- You can hide them in pasta sauces, smoothies or soups if your child isn’t keen on trying them
- You could describe it as eating a rainbow – and get your kids to paint them to make the concept extra fun. Just make sure you know how to remove paint stains from clothes before you start! Click here to discover how to remove paint stains from clothes and get painting!
Packed with antioxidants and vitamin C, berries can help with memory. The seeds contain omega-3 fats, and these help with brain function too.
- Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and cherries are great options
- The sweet flavour makes them popular with kids as snacks
- Replace sugary, processed desserts with berries on yogurt or berry smoothies
- Whole grains
The glucose in whole grains provides energy for the brain, essential for concentration and focus. They are low GI and slowly release glucose into the bloodstream.
- The B vitamins in whole grains are also beneficial for the nervous system
- Wholegrain breads, wraps and crackers are better than processed equivalents
- Swap ‘white’ versions for ‘brown’ wholegrain cereals, pasta, rice and granary bread
Oily fish is an excellent source of vitamin D plus omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain function and growth. This improves kids’ focus, mental skills and memory.
- Sardines, tuna and salmon are all rich in omega-3 fatty acids
- Salmon is a particularly good choice, as it is a healthier alternative to tuna
- Try making salmon sandwiches on whole wheat bread or sardines on toast
- If they’re not keen, try grilled fish: it can be dipped into your child’s favourite sauce
Dairy products like yogurt, cheese and milk are full of B vitamins, which are necessary for brain tissue, enzyme and neurotransmitter growth. They also contain vitamin D.
- Full fat yogurt helps brain health and has more protein than other yogurts
- Add toppings to encourage your child to eat yogurt, such as blueberries or dark chocolate chips; both contain polyphenols, which encourage blood flow to the brain
- For snacks, give your child low fat cheese sticks for a great source of calcium too
Egg yolks contain choline, which aids memory development. Eggs are also a great source of protein and contain nutrients that help children concentrate.
- Try everything from egg sandwiches to devilled eggs to encourage your kids to eat them
- Combine eggs with vegetables in a homemade breakfast burrito
- For lunch, add scrambled eggs to a wholegrain tortilla: the protein-carbohydrate combination will keep kids going until dinnertime
These are just six of the food types that help brain development in children, and with so many ways to serve them, you’ll be able to feed these to your kids every day.
Written by guest writer: Ame Rukwongsa