As fast as children whiz from classroom to activity to home and back again, their brains are just as rapidly growing and changing.
The foods they eat are important. “These years are critical for brain development, and what they eat affects focus and cognitive skills,” says psychiatrist Drew Ramsey, MD, co-author of The Happiness Diet and Fifty Shades of Kale.
These 4 foods can help kids stay sharp and also affect how their brains develop well into the future.
Fish is a good source of vitamin D and omega-3s, which protect the brain from declining mental skills and memory loss. Salmon, tuna, and sardines are all rich in omega-3s.
“The more omega-3s we can get to the brain, the better it will function and the better kids will be able to focus,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, author of Read It Before You Eat It.
How to Serve It: Grill it and offer your child a sauce for dipping, add fish to tacos, or make tuna sandwiches.
2. Nuts and Seeds
Packed with protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, nuts and seeds may boost mood and keep your nervous system in check.
How to Serve It:
There’s always peanut butter, or you can also buy or make sunflower seed butter. Sunflower seeds are rich in folate, vitamin E, and selenium, and safe for nut-free zones. If you can’t get your kids to eat the seeds themselves, use the spread on whole-grain crackers or bread.
Make pesto: Nuts combined with olive oil and dark leafy greens make a healthful and tasty sauce you can serve over whole-grain pasta.
Protein- and fiber-rich oatmeal helps keep heartand brain arteries clear. In one study, kids who ate sweetened oatmeal did better on memory-related school tasks than those who ate a sugary cereal.
How to Serve It: Add cinnamon. Compounds in the spice may protect brain cells, research shows.
4. Apples and Plums
Kids often crave sweets, especially when they’re feeling sluggish. Apples and plums are lunchbox-friendly and contain quercetin, an antioxidant that may fight decline in mental skills.
How to Serve It: The good stuff is often in the skin of fruit, so buy organic, wash well, and put the fruit in a bowl for quick snacks.