Foods and recipes to support your child’s brain health
By Alyson Lawrence, clinical dietitian at CHOC
Nutrition plays an important role in the growth and development of the brain. During infancy, the brain is rapidly growing and developing, and this process continues through childhood and adolescence, continuing to become more complex and detailed.
It is important to maintain well-balanced nutrition to provide a wide variety of key nutrients that are essential to this process. In this article, we will review important food groups to include in your child’s nutritional intake.
Key nutrients for brain development and function
Nutrients can be divided into two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients important for the brain include:
- Carbohydrates: Provide the brain and body with a readily available energy source and is the brain’s preferred fuel source.
- Protein: Important for building structures within the brain.
- Long-chain fatty acids: Helpful for brain development
In addition to macronutrients, there are many micronutrients that are important too. This includes choline, iron, zinc, iodine, copper, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin C and B vitamins.
Below is a list of foods that offer both brain powering macro and micronutrients! Including these in your child’s meal and snack times can ensure they are getting a great variety of nutritious foods.
- Fish (omega-3 fatty acids).
- Yogurt and other calcium-containing products.
- Dark, leafy green vegetables.
- Whole grains.
Meal timing for brain fuel
While consuming a variety of nutrients leads to well-balanced nutrition for the brain, the timing and frequency of the meals are also important to remember.
Three meals and one to two snacks during the day are recommended to provide fuel to the brain and body throughout the day. While eating breakfast can be a challenge for some children, ideally having a small meal in the morning will lead to better focus and energy.
Supplements are not always needed for kids
Vitamin and mineral supplements are not needed to provide brain-enhancing nutrients. If a child is consuming well balanced nutrition, eating a variety of different foods and consuming foods from all food groups.
Brain-boosting breakfast egg cups
Ingredients for egg base:
- 10 large eggs
- 1/2 cup cottage cheese
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Add ins: Customize your egg cups by adding veggies such as tomato and dark leafy greens. Or try adding proteins like turkey bacon or sausage.
- Whisk eggs in a bowl. Add in cottage cheese, milk and seasonings.
- Stir in your selection of add-ins.
- Pour mixture into muffin tin.
- Bake in oven at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes.
Superpower snack: Brain-power berry parfait
- 1 cup of yogurt of choice
- ½ cup of berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
- ½ cup of granola of choice (*tip: choose granolas that are lower in added sugars)
- ½ banana sliced
- Place yogurt in bowl.
- Add granola, berries, and banana slices to top.
- Serve and enjoy!
At CHOC, we specialize in providing a full continuum of pediatric nutrition services, including inpatient and outpatient services, depending on our patients’ needs.