healthy food for kids

Healthy meals and snacks are important for a child’s brain function

Kids go back to school, which can mean long days in class and even longer days with after-school activities. Providing children with healthy foods is a great way to help boost brain function.

“Food can affect their memory, thinking style, abstract thinking, and small motor skills,” says Janine Whitson, nutritionist.

Whitson went on to say that what we eat or don’t eat can also affect one’s mood. And “it can cause anxiety, depression, and even aggression.”

Food can also affect the immune system and blood sugar.

“All the food we eat really affects brain function all the time,” says Robin Blackford, MD, a registered dietitian at Lowry Children’s Hospital.

Finding the right foods

Despite the importance of proper nutrition for adequate brain function and general health, many children do not meet the appropriate requirements. according to 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for AmericansBoys aged 9 to 13 and 14 to 18 consumed the least amount of vegetables compared to the rest of the population. Similarly, the age group with the lowest average fruit intake was adolescent girls. According to the guidelines, children also consume a lot of saturated fat and salt.

Consuming too much salt can negatively affect blood pressure. a press release From the Journal of the American Heart Association, Rotation He reported in 2021 that persistent high blood pressure over time may lead to more memory and learning problems later in life.

“Our results show that active monitoring and prevention of heart disease and stroke risk factors, starting in early childhood, can also be hugely important when it comes to brain health,” Juuso O. Hakala, one of the study’s authors, says in the press release.

Whitson was 12 years old when she was diagnosed with severe high blood pressure. Her childhood experiences later inspired her to pursue a master’s degree in nutrition. Her parents made changes to the diet, such as switching foods high in sodium to more whole foods, to help with her overall health. Now Whiteson helps parents and families make the right food choices every day.

“It is important to use nutrition as a preventative, so that we can save our children and save ourselves from any disease or other illness later in life. Therefore, it is important to start making these changes early, especially for our children,” Blackford says.

Each child can have different nutritional requirements and basic conditions. It is therefore important to consult with a medical professional for individual nutritional needs regarding healthy meals and snacks, to improve brain function and children’s health in general.

“A good start to the day will be beneficial for brain function,” Blackford says. “Every child needs a meal before they start school.”

The importance of whole foods

this study It also stresses the importance of breakfast for children more than adults. The authors mention how children’s brains have a higher capacity to metabolize glucose, which means they may need a more continuous supply of glucose to fuel the brain. The study authors also explain how a carbohydrate-rich, low-glycemic meal for breakfast has been shown to positively impact cognitive performance.

Whitson tells parents not to fear too much carbohydrates from whole grains, such as bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes. According to Whitson, these foods are “very, very important for little brain function.”

“Do not forget, [carbohydrates] It releases energy, and your brain runs on sugar, which is a carb,” says Whitson.

Blackford recommends eating foods like eggs and oatmeal or homemade whole-grain muffins for breakfast. In general, whole foods, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, with no added or refined sugars, are the way to go.

“There are many studies that show a link between a diet high in refined sugar and those things that can impair brain function, including mood disorders like depression,” Blackford says.

Blackford also recommends staying away from anything that contains trans fats and nitrates. Nitrates, according to Blackford, are most commonly found in foods that should be preserved in any way – such as lunch meat.

“You can have a small amount of it and still be fine,” Blackford says. “The problem is if we rely on these types of foods that contain these foods, and kids eat them every day.”

Lunch meat and other processed foods can also be high in sodium. As mentioned earlier, excessive salt and sodium intake can increase blood pressure, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend Keep sodium intake under daily requirements.

Besides limiting sodium and increasing your fruit and vegetable intake, Blackford says every meal should include foods that contain protein. Whiteson recommends getting high-quality proteins like fish, chicken, and beef — or tofu and tempeh for vegetarians or vegans.

Blackford says that snacks between meals and after school are also essential to help keep children safe. She again recommends that the best snacks are any type of whole food like blueberries or apples with the skin, which are naturally high in fiber.

“People who get a good amount of fiber in their diet have a good, healthy gut. So, when it comes to having a healthy, regulated microbiome in your body, for good blood sugar regulation, fiber can help with all of these things,” Blackford says.

While unprocessed foods are best, sometimes ready-made snacks are necessary. A good rule to follow when choosing a pre-made snack is to choose one that contains the least amount of ingredients, preferably less than three.

Blackford explains that foods with more than three ingredients will not be beneficial to brain function.

Inspiring better food choices

A common problem though parents may struggle with is getting kids to eat healthy foods.

“Sometimes we have to bribe kids a little bit to eat some of these things because they might not be used to it,” Blackford says. With vegetables, you can also offer some kind of dip to improve the taste, for example, yogurt – just double-check the sugar content first.

Whiteson recommends bringing kids to the grocery store to pick fresh fruits and vegetables and then chop them up as an activity. Then, storing these foods in the front of the refrigerator can make the child more likely to pick up those foods versus the unhealthy alternative.

Whitson says that getting children involved in preparing meals and choosing snacks can be beneficial.

“When I involved my kids with their school lunches, they were more likely to come home and say they had their lunch,” she says. Kids can also get a better understanding of food, which may influence their food choices later on as well.


Healthy snacks are important for brain fuel, as well as hydration.

“Our brains are made up of about 70% water, so we need to make sure we’re feeding them enough water throughout the day as well,” Blackford says, recommending kids take sips of water every 30 to 60 minutes.

authors one 2019 Commentary magazine article published in Nutrition Journal Report how there is more and more evidence to suggest the importance of proper hydration for mood, cognition, and school performance. The authors of this 2009 دراسة study It reported that “measures of attention and memory improved” for 7- to 9-year-olds who were in school all day and drank more water, compared to those who didn’t drink more water.

While water intake can depend on age and weight, kids should drink 30 to 40 ounces a day, and more if the child is active — such as in sports, Blackford says. Other non-calorie, unsweetened beverages may also be counted.

A healthy diet is vital for children and optimal brain function. Another study Posted in Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health IQ scores were examined in 8.5-year-olds who, from the age of three, had been following a ‘health-conscious’ diet. Their diet consists of foods such as salad, rice, pasta and fruits. Their IQ scores were compared with children of the same age who ate a “processed” diet – foods high in fat and sugar. Children who followed a healthy diet had higher IQ scores.

When deciding which foods children should consume, Blackford says, it’s best to turn to foods that can help with brain function. Even if the family makes one change every few weeks, such as adding a new fruit or vegetable, Blackford said these small changes add up and can make a difference in brain health.

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