Following on from the article I added a while back on diet and development, I decided to create a quick piece on the 10 top brain foods for your little one and some fun ideas on how to incorporate them into your kitchen.
I hope you find something that works for you and your family… enjoy!
First of all, let’s take a look at the four main ways in which food can boost brain power…
What it is: Choline is a nutrient that is essential for brain development and memory function, and helps the brain communicate properly with the rest of the body.
Where you’ll find it: Eggs (the whole egg is great, but the yolk is really choline-packed!), beans, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, yogurt, tofu, and lean beef are all also great options.
What they are: antioxidants are the nutritional equivalent of Scotchgard — these nutrients protect your little one’s brain from normal wear and tear.
Where you’ll find them: Blueberries are packed with antioxidants. In fact, most berries are great choices. You’ll also find antioxidants in any other brightly colored fruits and vegetables — the more brightly colored, the more nutrient dense. One of my favorites and very high in the antioxidant vitamin E are nuts, seeds, and nut/seed butters such as peanut butter or almond butter.
Omega 3 fatty acids
What they are: Omega 3 fatty acids are essentially the good fats. They are crucial to brain and eye development, and they help stabilize mood.
Where you’ll find them: Salmon, shrimp, scallops, walnuts, flaxseed, and omega-3 enriched eggs and yogurt, as well as in abundance in breast milk or infant formula.
What they are: Complex carbohydrates are whole grains or starches that are rich in fiber and are crucial to the brain’s functioning (they are your brain’s main source of fuel). Complex carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which the body (and brain) then use as energy. While it may be easy to confuse glucose with sugar, sweets and candy are definitely nowhere near as beneficial for a growing body. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate and lacks fiber, and is broken down very quickly, causing fast energy highs and even faster lows. The fiber in complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, slows the body’s absorption of energy, and ensures that the brain gets a slow and steady supply of fuel.
Where you’ll find it: Whole-grain breads, pastas, crackers, cereals, pancakes, waffles, and brown rice.
So what are the best brain foods for your little one?
Here it is! My top 10 ideas for introducing these amazing brain foods onto your child’s plate in a fun, delicious and non-threatening way.
1. Peanut Butter and Blueberry Jelly Sandwiches
This is a great option if your kids are a little hesitant to try new things. Both peanut butter and blueberry jelly are high in antioxidants and great sources of energy for your little one!
Try making fresh fishcakes at home using flaked oven baked salmon instead of white fish. Salmon is high in Omega 3 fatty acids and very versatile in the kitchen. Keep your eyes peeled for my new recipe section, coming soon, salmon cakes are sure to be one of the first recipes I add!
3. Wholewheat Spaghetti with Meatballs
This is an easy substitution you can make to introduce more complex carbohydrates into your little one’s diet, and by using lean beef you even up the choline intake too!
4. Scrambled Eggs
Most kids love scrambled eggs, and it is so easy to tailor this to suit your family. Add diced tomatoes, ham or cheese if you want to keep things simple, but don’t be scared to play around with combinations. You may be surprised by what your little one ends up enjoying!
5. Broccoli Soup (Shrek Soup)
You may think that this is a strange one to have on this list, but you may be pleasantly surprised! A few years ago we went to Australia to visit family and one of my aunts made broccoli soup. I may have had a moment of panic, but it the end it was totally unneccessary! Kayla loved it! To this day we still have broccoli soup at least twice a month when the weather’s cold, and it is now even fondly known as Shrek Soup in our house 🙂
6. Oatmeal (The South African in me must call it Oats)
A great option for breakfast, this is another great way to up both the fiber and the complex carbohydrate glucose count in your little one’s life. Make it more colorful and even healthier by adding in blueberries, strawberries or even mango!
Fortified yogurt and fruit thrown together in the blender… so simple! A great way to up both the antioxidents and the calcium in your little one’s diet.
8. French Toast
Be sure to use whole wheat bread and Omega 3 enriched eggs for another great start to the day. . Up the nutritional numbers even further by topping the french toast with a mix of sliced strawberries and blueberries with a little powdered sugar sprinkled over the top.
9. Frozen Yogurt Pops
One of my favorite snacks for summer… to be honest, I’m eating one right now 🙂 ! So easy! Just slice a small slit into the foil cover of an individual size yogurt pot, insert a popsicle stick and stick in the freezer… yum!
10. Soft Boiled Egg with Wholewheat Toast Soldiers
Again, fortified eggs and wholewheat toast make this a true brain power food! As an extra bonus, most good-quality ketchups are also vitamin rich, just watch the sugar.
Well, I hope you found these ideas inspiring. Try them out and feel free to let me know which your little one prefers!
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