by Stacey Schifferdecker
To feed your child’s brain what it needs, focus on providing “whole” foods, especially colorful whole foods. Whole foods are foods in their natural state, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, brown rice, whole grains, and meat. Melons and berries, for example, are excellent brain foods. Whole foods are always better than processed foods, which are usually stripped of their vitamins and minerals. What are other great brain foods to offer your children all day long?
Breakfast is an especially important meal for children. Students who eat breakfast have better math and reading grades, as well as improved memory, problem-solving skills, verbal fluency, and creative abilities. In addition, going to school on an empty stomach increases the levels of stress hormones in the bloodstream; these hormones keep the brain from functioning at its best. The best breakfast includes protein, such as eggs or peanut butter, and slow-burning complex carbohydrates such as oatmeal.
The key to a lunchtime meal is to eat a low-calorie, high-protein meal with complex carbohydrates. Such a meal makes your children more alert and will help them stay awake through an afternoon of school. Choose seafood, meats, eggs, and dairy to make the perfect lunch for learning.
While you want to stay alert and awake after lunch, your evening meal can be more relaxing for your brain. A meal that is higher in calories and carbohydrates and lower in protein can help your children relax and fall asleep in the evening. Spaghetti with meatballs or other pasta meals make an ideal dinner. Just remember to choose whole grain pasta.
You can even provide whole foods for snacks, instead of chips, crackers, or candy bars. Healthy snack options include
• Hard-boiled eggs
• Raw vegetables
• Fruits such as grapefruit, apples, cherries, oranges, and grapes
And for the occasional sweet treat, turn to dark chocolate, another great brain food.
The best brain foods of all
What are the best brain foods of all? Make sure to keep your kitchen stocked with these champion brain foods:
• Brown bread
• Olive oil
Foods that drain the brain
It is not only important to give your children foods that boost their brain power, but also to avoid foods that drain the brain. The worst offenders include
• Foods with artificial sweeteners or coloring
• High-fructose corn syrup
• Sugary fruit drinks, colas, and juices
• Refined white sugars and breads
• Trans fats and partially-hydrogenated oils
• Processed snack foods and luncheon meats
Of course, by sticking with whole foods, you will already be marking these brain-drainers out of your family diet and providing the proper nutrition to help keep your family growing and healthy. Should you have any special dietary concerns please be sure to consult with a health care professional.
Stacey Schifferdecker is the happy but harried mother of three school-aged children—two boys and a girl. She is also a freelance writer, a Children’s Minister, a PTA volunteer, and a Scout leader. Stacey has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and French and a Master’s degree in English. She has written extensively about parenting and education as well as business, technology, travel, and hobbies.
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