The kind of stress and competition that our kids face is increasing and getting tougher day after day. It is important that we prepare our kids and make them strong and capable enough to face it.
One way to do that is helping them to focus, concentrate and excel at what they do by boosting their brain power. A proper diet and adequate nutrients are extremely essential in brain health. Here are some tips to make sure that your kids eat healthy-
- Include whole grains
Like everything else in our body, the brain requires energy (glucose) to function well. Your child can concentrate and focus better when there is a steady and adequate supply of energy. Whole grains like wheat, brown rice, jowar, bajra, etc. help to release glucose slowly in the body, thereby ensuring a sustained supply.
- Don’t forget the Proteins
Proteins are the building blocks of our body. They are essential for the formation of neurotransmitters which send messages across the brain and nervous system. According to research, the healthiest sources of proteins include lean meats, fish, poultry, dairy and plant based sources such as nuts and legumes.
Animal sources of protein are also rich in B complex vitamins such as thiamin, niacin, B6, B12 and folic acid and choline. These vitamins, especially choline has been linked with boosting memory. If you are vegetarian or vegan, look for fortified foods or opt for supplements.
- Fats are good
Did you know that almost 70% of our brain is made of fat? It is but natural then that it requires fat for adequate functioning. However, the type and quantity are important. Omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA, are essential components for learning and memory. They are found in fatty fish such as salmon and sardines. Plant sources include flaxseeds, chia seeds, almonds, walnuts, etc.
Saturated fat such as ghee, coconut oil, full fat dairy products are also essential.
However, it is important to remember that trans-fat, hydrogenated fat, found in deep fried, bakery and processed foods are harmful, since they cause oxidation and damage to the cells.
- Include fruits and veggies
Most Indian parents complain that their kids don’t like vegetables or they hate eating fruits. However, apart from being high in fibre, this food group contains loads of antioxidants which are beneficial for preventing oxidative stress, thereby preventing fatigue, drowsiness, irritability, etc.
Make interesting recipes and get them interested in what they are eating.
- Ensure that they are hydrated well
Dehydration can cause a decrease in brain function by affecting the concentration, causing irritability and a generalised lethargy. Avoid this by making sure that they have enough fluids throughout the day. Water, smoothies, milkshakes, soups will provide adequate hydration. Of course, avoid sugary, packaged, caffeinated beverages, since they do more harm than good.
- Make them go out to play
Exercise in any form helps to boost the brain function by releasing substances that boost memory, cognitive function and help to process information effectively. It also increases the heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain.
So let them run, skip, hop, jump, play cricket, football-whatever they wish!
A balanced diet with ample play time and less of screen time is beneficial in improving your child’s cognitive development. ‘Practice what you preach’! Incorporating healthy habits yourself will provide a good example to your children and make the implementation easier. Happy eating!
Siddhi Takalkar is a child nutrition specialist in Pune. She is also the founder of NutriWorks and is a Registered Dietitian in Kothrud, Pune with a Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics. She has a vast experience in advising diets for various age groups. She is the best diet consultant for all your Nutritional needs.