Back to school food


Tuesday 26th August, 2008

kids nutritionNext week sees the kids going back to school and one of the best ways to help your child do well in the new school year is to make sure their brain’s nutritional needs are met.

The right kinds of ‘brain food’ will improve their brain function, memory and levels of concentration. The brain is the first organ to absorb the nutrients from food so if you’re feeding your child processed foods then the brain is going to suffer.

Here’s a list of the top ten foods to feed your kids so you can set them up for a successful academic year:

1. Salmon

Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which aid brain growth and function. People who eat plenty of fatty acids have sharper minds and perform better in mental tests.

Try salmon sandwiches for the kids rather than tuna and serve on whole-grain bread (another good brain food) with low-fat mayonnaise, celery and carrots.

2. Eggs

Eggs contain lots of protein but also within the yolks is ‘choline’ – good for developing memory.

Instead of giving your child money to grab a McDonald’s McMuffin in the morning, fry up an egg and put it on a toasted English muffin with some low-fat cheese – tasty and economical. And for dinner, how about scrambled eggs on whole-grain toast.

3. Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is great source of vitamin E which is a antioxidant that protects the nervous membranes. Peanuts also contain ‘thiamin’ which aids the brain in converting glucose for energy.

So, you can make up some peanut butter sandwiches or perhaps try sprinkling a salad with some peanuts or dipping apple slices in peanut butter.

4. Whole Grains

Whole grains have plenty of glucose which is an important requirement for the brain. Fibre in whole-grain regulates glucose release and there’s also high levels of vitamin B for nourishment of the nervous system.

Whole grain cereals for breakfast (as long as whole grain is the ingredient that is first listed on the packaging), and whole-grain bread when making up sandwiches. If they’re getting bored of sandwiches, try whole-grain tortilla wraps for their lunchbox. You could also give kids a portion of couscous with their evening meal and low-fat popcorn as a treat.

5. Oats/Oatmeal

The new school year means that winter is just around the corner so what better start to the day than a hot bowl of porridge. Porridge oats are great for energy that will give the brain a boost first thing in the morning.

Oats have plenty of fibre and are a good source of vitamin E, B, zinc and potassium which will keep the brain running on full capacity all day.

Loaded with fiber, oats keep a child’s brain fed all morning at school. Oats also are good sources of vitamin E, B-vitamins, potassium and zinc — which make our bodies and brains function at full capacity.

So, porridge for breakfast perhaps with some honey, apple or banana. Oats also work well in smoothies, pancakes and waffles. Granola bars make a good mid-day snack.

6. Berries

Berries are a great brain super-food and have high levels of antioxidants and vitamin C. Berry seeds are a good source of omega-3s and blueberry and strawberry extracts have been found to improve memory function.

Berries are great in salads or on cereals in the morning. You could also add them to yoghurts.

7. Beans

Good brain food provides energy from protein, fibre and carbohydrates and also provides plenty of minerals and vitamins. Beans provide all those things to keep your child’s energy and concentration at peak performance.

Try adding kidney beans to salads or mashing vegetarian beans on pita bread along with some salad and low-fat cheese. For dinner, throw in some beans when making spag bol or chilli.

8. Colourful Vegetables

Veg that is deep in colour will be the best source of antioxidants that maintain brain strength and health. Eat tomatoes, carrots, spinach and pumpkin. Use sweet potatoes to make fries or wedges and use vegetable oil. Baby tomatoes, spinach salads and carrot sticks are great in lunch boxes.

9. Milk & Yoghurt

We all know calcium is essential for healthy bones but it’s also good for healthy brain tissue. Dairy products are loaded with protein and B-vitamins and milk and yoghurt contain both carbs and protein which is a good energy source for the brain.

Low-fat milk on cereal plus calcium/vitamin-D fortified juices are great ways to meet your child’s nutritional needs which can be 10 times more than an adults. Cheese sticks, low-fat yoghurts work well in lunchboxes.

10. Lean meat (or vegetarian alternative)

Iron in our food is a mineral that helps with energy and concentration. Lean beef is a great source of iron as well as zinc which boosts the memory.

Vegetarians needn’t miss out either, soy burgers and black bean are perfect meat-free options to meet your iron needs. Spinach also contains plenty of iron.

How about beef and veg kebabs as an evening meal or veggie burgers and a spinach side-salad.

Try these different foods and give your kids the best possible start to the new school year.

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