The Best Brain Food for Your Toddler
Recent studies have shown that certain foods are especially important during the toddler and preschool years. It's not just their little bodies that need nourishment -- it's their growing, developing brains, too! In fact, certain nutrients can affect your kids' behavior, their moods and even their intellectual growth! So what's the best brain food for your toddler -- and how can you make sure they're getting enough of it?
- Omega-3s and other liquid fats. These fats help promote brain development and help brain cells communicate more effectively with each other. You'll find omega-3s in tuna and other oily fish such as salmon and trout -- tuna salad makes a great, kid-friendly, omega-3 rich meals. Fats from plant sources are also helpful because they improve blood flow to the brain. These fats can be found in canola and olive oils, avocados, and nut butters.
- Choline. Ever heard of this essential nutrient? It's good for memory and learning and a whopping 90 percent of children in the U.S. do not get nearly enough! A great source of choline is eggs, with one providing half the amount of the recommended level of Adequate Intake (AI) for children ages 1 to 3 years old. Choline is also found in soybeans, beef, milk and peanuts.
- Protein. Your child needs plenty of protein not just for brain development, but for her growing body, too. Meat, poultry, seafood, nuts, legumes (beans and lentils) and tofu are all good sources.
- Naturally occurring sugars. Did you know sugar is essential for maintaining energy and focus? Be sure to make naturally occurring sugars that provide nutritional punch such as those found in fruit, whole grains, vegetables and milk products the priority in your child's meal plan versus foods with excess added sugars and little or no nutritional benefit such as candy, soda and pastries.
- Breakfasts, yes, it really is that important. Kids who start their day with a nutritious breakfast (best eaten within one hour of waking up) will be less moody, better behaved and more alert. Oatmeal, scrambled eggs, whole-grain toast with all-fruit spread or fruit smoothies made with fruit, milk and yogurt are all great choices.