March 5, 2015

ParentingPA: Brain Foods to Keep Your Child Alert in School

As children and teens everywhere worry about which outfit to wear for school, parents have another thing on their minds. How can you fuel your child throughout the day to keep their mind and body sharp? Nutrients such as complex carbohydrates, omega-3 fatty acids, lean protein, and antioxidants, can help to boost your child’s energy level and brainpower. And the good news is that these nutrients don’t have to be hard to fit in. In fact, they can even taste delicious!

Start your child’s day off rich with a great source of whole grains. Whole grains, such as steel cut oatmeal, are a great source of complex carbohydrates for energy as well as fiber. Foods rich in fiber allow sugar to be delivered to the brain steadily, without overloading it, helping to enhance memory and concentration versus hinder it.

To save time, place your oatmeal in a slow cooker overnight so it is hot and ready for the whole family in the morning. You can even top oatmeal with cinnamon, which can help to balance blood sugar levels, keeping energy levels steady throughout the day. Or adding a dash of maple syrup which has essential immune system nutrients like zinc and manganese can ward off a cold. We all know how uncomfortable and distracted kids can get with sniffles and sneezes!

When it comes to boosting brainpower, look to incorporate foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids into your child’s meals. Omega-3s are found in the highest concentration in your brain and are responsible for repairing and growing neurons, helping to boost the functioning of your child’s brain. One great way to boost your child’s intake of these healthy fats is through seafood such as Matlaw’s wild-caught Panko Breaded Cod whole fillets. Fish will provide your growing kids with lean protein and omega-3 intake, and make a great brain-boosting lunch that will get your child through the school day and beyond. Try placing a filet on sliced 100% whole wheat bread and top with sliced avocado and tomato. Just pack the sandwich in a Thermos and it will stay warm through lunchtime.

If you have a picky eater, getting them to take in enough brain powering vegetables can be a challenge, yet there are creative ways to incorporate them and maximize your child’s potential in school. Leafy greens like spinach and kale are loaded with powerful antioxidants, and are power foods for sustaining brain function. Carrots contain luteolin, a flavonoid that can help with memory retention. With this in mind and a little creativity, you can get even the pickiest eater meet the goal of three-five servings per day by making turkey pinwheels. Simply wrap a whole wheat tortilla with turkey breast, cheese, shredded carrots, spinach leaves, and tomato slices and cut into small pinwheel pieces. Not only is this flavorful and healthy, it it’s fun to eat as well! Tryptophan, an amino acid found in turkey helps with the production and regulation of serotonin, which effects mood stability and restful sleep, important for your child’s school progress. Turkey also supplies a good dose of zinc, a nutrient which aids in verbal memory and retention. Cheese can boost immunity and is sufficient in the not so well known vitamin K2, which helps strengthen your child’s brain functioning and bones.

Don’t forget to offer your child foods rich in the nutrient tyrosine, which is found in dairy, eggs and seafood. The amino acid tyrosine helps in the manufacturing of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine in the body that have been shown to improve mood, alertness, and mental function. Choline is a precursor to acetylcholine, a nutrient vital to memory and concentration. If there are inadequate amounts of acetylcholine in your child’s body, he may suffer from a reduced thinking ability and have difficulty with memory. Foods like peanut butter, eggs, and wheat germ (a healthy germ you can easily sprinkle into oatmeal) are great sources of choline. Incorporate a few daily for an added brain boost!

With just a few tasty tweaks to their diet, your child can have his most successful school year yet