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Improve brain function with the right foodsMONDAY, AUGUST 10, 2015 12:55 PM

Make sure your kids are receiving the right nutrition at every meal. Between running the kids to school and after-class activities, coming home to cook a healthy dinner can seem too time-consuming. However, taking 15 to 30 minutes to whip together a quick meal could not only improve your children's health, but also their brain function. Having a healthy and balanced diet is essential to a child's cognitive development, and feeding children the right foods at every meal can help power their brains.

Breakfast
Known by many as the most important meal of the day, breakfast can easily be overlooked in the rush to school in the morning. According to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 20 percent of children aged 9 to 13 and 31.5 percent of adolescents aged 14 to 18 are breakfast skippers. Missing the first meal of the day is harmful to kids and can affect their grades because it means they won't get an important morning energy boost. By the time lunch rolls around, kids are usually experiencing hunger pangs as well, making them irritable.

Start your child's morning off right by providing him or her with a hearty breakfast. Eggs are a fantastic breakfast food to offer your kids. They provide protein and other nutrients, including a nutrient called choline. Choline, according to What to Expect, is instrumental in brain development and memory function. Beginning the morning with a healthy meal will set the pace for the rest of the day.

Lunch
Fill your kids up by packing them a lunch full of whole grains. Sandwiches are an easy way to provide children with this essential food group and they offer a variety of meal options. Make sure the bread you're using is 100 percent whole wheat or whole grain because it offers more nutritional value than white. According to The Diet Channel, whole grains contain lots of Vitamin B, which helps with memory function so they can retain information better. This will be useful when taking exams and studying information in class. The grains also provide plenty of energy so your child will make it through the next three hours of class activities. 

Dinner
According to the World Health Organization, the most common and widespread nutritional disorder is iron deficiency. If the body lacks certain nutrients, in most cases, cognitive function will start to decline. To make sure your student doesn't develop an iron deficiency, start serving lean beef during dinnertime. The best part about this food choice is the variety of meals you can make with the ingredient. A few examples of meals include:

  • Hamburgers
  • Steak
  • Sloppy Joes
  • Spaghetti and meatballs
  • Beef and broccoli
Keep the kids interested in their food by diversifying meals and exposing them to new flavors.

If your family is vegetarian, try cooking up some soy burgers or meals that include black beans. Beans are a great source of iron for a child's diet.

What to avoid
Along with knowing what food items will help improve your child's diet, it's equally valuable to recognize what can hinder healthy attempts. One study found in the journal Plos One identified trans fatty acids as a hindrance to memory. According to the study, each gram of trans fatty acids consumed each day resulted in an estimated .76 fewer words recalled. This type of fat is also not known to offer any nutritional value to a person's diet. Children have a hard enough time remembering the facts and formulas required for tests without the added nutritional interference. 

To help avoid this non-nutritional food additive, check the labels on your groceries. If an item lists trans fats, try finding an alternative product without it. Try skipping the fast food restaurants, as well. A study published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics found a link between fast food consumption and lower IQ scores. In a statement, Kelly Purtell, lead author of the study, said that students who ate the most fast food had about 20 percent lower test scores. This is thought to be caused by the lack of nutrients found in most fast food meals. 


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