Thursday, January 17, 2013

feed your brain in 2013

This is not a food blog, and I don't plan to make it one, but I simply have to tell you about the PTA meeting that is changing my life. Ok, so I didn't actually go to the PTA meeting, but I showed up in time for a seminar afterward on what to feed your kids to make them smarter.

Some kids (and grown-ups!) are born smart, but spend a lot of time feeling tired, moody, unmotivated, or just plain foggy-headed. Food is often the culprit. In just one hour, Leslie gave us some great tips about what to feed our families (and what not to feed them) so that our kids' brains can be well-nourished and ready to learn.

In a word, eat whole foods.

Here are the foods that are especially helpful for clear thinking and improved memory. These foods actually fight dementia, Alzheimers, cancer, and other ...

Blueberries (enhance memory)
Blackberries (zap inflammation)
Avocado (regulates blood sugar, helps you absorb nutrients, reduces inflammation)
Spinach/Kale (improves alertness)
Broccoli (keeps your body from rusting and kills cancer)
Oranges (are antioxident and anti-inflammatory)
Black Beans, Garbanzo Beans, Lentils, etc. (offer fiber, potassium, and magnesium)
Wild-caught Salmon (lower blood pressure, speed thinking, improve mood)
Olive Oil (builds healthy brain cells)
Walnuts (enhance memory, critical thinking, and inferential thinking)
Plain Yogurt (improves alertness, nutrition absorption)
Cinnamon (anti-inflammatory, controls blood sugar, improves eye-hand coordination)

I won't try to reproduce the scientific research behind this, but Leslie (the certified nutritionist who spoke to us) is as nerdy about nutrition research as I am about biblical research. She knows her stuff and had lots of great reasons to support what she was saying. I was motivated enough to take a special trip with Emma to Trader Joe's yesterday in search of "brain foods." She helped me read labels, and we found lots of great new foods to try!

In my next post, I'll talk about "Brain Busters" to avoid. But first, here are a few ideas for how to incorporate these foods in your family's diet:

  • Have a "brainy breakfast" of plain yogurt, blueberries, walnuts and cinnamon or oatmeal, blueberries, and cinnamon
  • Add finely-chopped kale to a fresh salad
  • Stock your freezer with frozen berries to add to cereal, oatmeal, smoothies, and ice cream
  • Make a snack schedule so that the kids expect to see fresh fruits and veggies on the table
  • Make smoothies regularly (we use plain yogurt, frozen berries or mangos, frozen bananas, cold water, powdered milk, OJ concentrate, and a tablespoon of ground flax seed)
  • Go on a "brain foods" shopping trip with your child and let them help you hunt for healthy whole foods
  • Let your children make their own food or prepare their own lunches. Kids are much more likely to try new foods that they helped prepare.
  • Fill a small muffin tin with cut veggies and healthy dips (salsa, hummus, and guacamole)
  • Eat soup. You can fill a thermos with leftover soup to take to school for lunch.
  • Make a meal plan. It's much easier to eat healthy when you plan ahead and have the right kind of foods on hand.
Eliana came with me to the seminar, so she's been especially motivated to try foods she hasn't liked before (like avocado) and eat more fruits and veggies. Eating healthy takes time and energy, but if you take it one step at a time, it can reward your efforts with more energy than you had to begin with! What whole foods will you add to your menu this week? 

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