Do you want to raise the next scientist or creative genius? Then make sure you put the right food on their plate now. Find out which foods can fuel your child’s mental and cognitive development.
We all want to give our children a good head start in life, and scientists agree that what we feed them can play a part. Some foods can have a positive effect on early brain development in children, including their focus and cognitive skills. Let’s look at the list of possible ‘brain food for kids’ and how they could help your toddler’s brain development:
Note – when trying any new foods with your toddler, you should watch for any signs of an allergic reaction. You should also always supervise your toddler during mealtimes to reduce the choking risk.
As well as being a great source of protein, egg yolks contain choline, which is a key component of cell membranes and necessary for the proper function and development of the brain. The good news is that eggs are really versatile and easy to fit into a toddler’s diet. Scramble them, boil them or cook them in an omelet with their favorite toppings.
Fish is a well-known good brain food, and salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines are all packed with those brain-boosting essential and omega-3 fatty acids. However, there is some concern over canned tuna due to its mercury levels. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that children eat no more than two servings per week of canned ‘chunk light’ tuna, and no more than one serving a week of canned ‘solid white’ or albacore tuna.
Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
Getting children to ‘eat their greens’ can be notoriously difficult, but it’s worth persevering as leafy greens such as spinach and kale are rich in folate and vitamins, which are good for baby brain development.
Swap sugary kids’ yogurts for full-fat Greek yogurt to get brain-boosting vitamin B and protein into their diet. You could blend it with fresh fruit to add more color and flavor, as well as extra nutrients.
Berries are packed with antioxidants that can help to prevent free radical damage to the brain. Blueberries, strawberries and red/purple grapes are strong contenders for the best berries (always supervise your child when eating and be careful to slice grapes lengthways to reduce the choking risk).
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds have a multitude of vitamins and minerals that have been shown to be important for brain function, as well as being good sources of protein and fatty acids. However, you should avoid giving your toddler whole or chopped nuts as they can be a choking hazard. Instead, you can grind them finely – perhaps adding them to yogurt or making homemade pesto to serve with pasta (equal parts cooked pine nuts and hard cheese, blended with olive oil and basil) – to make them easier for your child to eat. You should also be extra cautious of the possibility of an allergic reaction and get your doctor’s advice before giving peanuts to a toddler who has any other kind of allergy (even a non-food allergy such as eczema).
Whole Grains, including oats, are rich in protein and fiber, which can help maintain brain energy and function. They’re also high in B vitamins, which assist in the development of neurotransmitters. All in all, a bowl of wholegrain oat cereal or oatmeal is a great brain development food for your toddler to start the day with – add a sprinkling of cinnamon for extra flavor and possible brain cell protection!
Apples and Plums
A variety of fruit should be a part of every child’s diet, but these two fruits are thought to be especially beneficial to brain growth. This is thanks to quercetin, which is an antioxidant that could help fight decline in mental skills. Don’t peel your child’s fruit though – much of the goodness is in the skin! Simply wash well and slice or offer whole as a healthy snack.
Beans are a great source of carbohydrates, fiber and those brilliant B vitamins – plus these brain boosting foods are easy to sneak into family meals like casseroles and soups.
Lean meats contain important minerals such as zinc and iron, which can benefit brain development in early childhood. Zinc helps with communication between nerve channels, while iron aids the supply of oxygen to the brain. Examples of lean meats include chicken, turkey and lean cuts of beef and lamb.
If you’re keen to boost your little one’s baby brain development, food is an important consideration. A healthy balanced diet containing the above ‘superfoods’ for little brains will give your toddler the best start when it comes to their brain development and function.