As parents we all want to provide our kids with the best and most beneficial tools to help them grow, from the right car seat to the right school to the right food, we want the very best for our little ones. Since the foods they eat are the building blocks for their growing bodies; proper nutrition is one of the most important tools for our kids. Food is the fuel that helps them zoom around the playground at recess, concentrate during school and explore the world. Sounds simple enough, but with so much information about nutrition it can be hard to keep it all straight.
As a dietitian, first and foremost, I always recommend making sure your kids eat strong and a variety of foods. Eating the rainbow, so to speak, ensures they will get enough of all nutrients, not too much of one or too little of another. That said, the early years, particularly the first 36 months according to WhatToExpect.com are critical for brain development and so beyond the balanced diet, you might make sure to incorporate some foods that have been found to be particularly beneficial and are considered the best brain foods for children.
This vitamin-like essential micronutrient plays many roles in growing bodies, but choline is vital for the creating of memory and brain to body communication.
- Good sources of choline include: eggs, wheat germ, soy products and peanut butter.
- How to serve: Eggs, a breakfast staple, can be easily scrambled and served in a wrap or fried and served in a sandwich for a breakfast on the go. Starting your child’s day off with a complete breakfast may help them academically, as the research suggests those who eat breakfast do better than those who skipped. Tofu can be surprisingly versatile, from a starring in a stir fry to being the secret ingredient in a smoothie, ì there are lots of ways to tempt your tot.
It’s hard to miss all the hype about Omega-3 and DHA, particularly for pregnant mothers and children. Research supports that a diet rich in DHA can boost a child’s brain and eye development and function, especially for kids under 2. Omega-3s are not only important in young kids as their brains are growing but in older kids too, low levels of Omega-3s have been associated with an increased risk for ADHD.
- Good sources: fatty fish like salmon, flaxseeds and walnuts.
How to serve:Simply swap out your tuna sandwich for a salmon sandwich, the supermarket sells canned salmon right next to the tuna, use the walnuts to make a pesto and serve over whole grain pasta.
Antioxidants help keep cells in the body healthy from free radicals and the brain is no different. These plant-based nutrients are good for improving memory and protect your child’s brain as it grows.
- Good sources:colorful fruits and veggies like blueberries, carrots, broccoli and tomatoes. Also, Vitamin E is anantioxidant and found in seeds and plant oils, like peanut butter.
- How to serve:Sprinkle berries on Greek yogurt, make your own roasted tomato sauce and serve over pasta. Cooking the tomatoes releases lycopene, an antioxidant.
Often overlooked but necessary for normal neurodevelopment, deficiency is often widespread in infants.
- Good sources: lean meats, fortified cereal, beans. Not as easily absorbed non-heme iron is found in dark leafy greens such as spinach.
For more child nutrition, check out WhatToExpect.com.
This post is written by Hillary Monroe, MS RD LDN, Registered Dietitian and writer for What To Expect.