While making sure they're well rested, driving them to their tutors, and forcing them to get their homework done before dinner may be some of your best-kept strategies before, you might be surprised to learn that the kitchen is another place you can be improving your child's academic prowess.
Delicious, all-natural foods not only boost your child's immune system and help them stay strong and healthy, but they can also fuel the brain and help them make the honor roll at school. Nutrients such as vitamin B6, omega-3 fatty acids, and folic acid are imperative for cognitive health, and there are many foods that your child likes to eat that are rich in them.
For the past 25 years, optimal health has been a high priority for Earthbound Farms, which supplies the country with fresh and organic produce that will fuel bodies and brains. Because the back-to-school season and children's health are as important to the people at Earthbound as they are to the editors at The Daily Meal, they introduced us to nationally recognized nutrition expert and mother of two, Frances Largeman-Roth. With her book Eating in Color: Delicious, Healthy Recipes for You and Your Family due out early next year, Largeman-Roth is well-versed in what kinds of foods your children should be eating, especially ones that improve optimal function at school.
From fruits and vegetables to protein, Largeman-Roth provided us with brain-boosting foods that are essential to your child's back-to-school diet. Whether it's incorporating more blueberries at breakfast, a kale salad for lunch, or - believe it or not - some extra chocolate for dessert, Largeman-Roth has easy and convenient suggestions that you can incorporate into your child's diet so that they can be an A+ student this year.
Dark, leafy greens such as kale are high in folic acid. Folic acid is vital for brain function and is especially important during times of rapid growth, such as pregnancy, infancy, and adolescence. Some kids might be into kale salads, but if they look at it like it's a pile of hay, you can also work it into egg dishes like frittatas. Fresh kale takes a little prep, so Largeman-Roth suggests having chopped frozen kale on hand in the freezer to always be prepared.
One cup of mango is a good source of vitamin B6, which plays a role in cognitive development. As an added benefit, your child will also be getting a dose of vitamin C, which helps support healthy cognitive and neurologic function. Vitamin C is also vital for a healthy immune system, and staying healthy during the school year is often a struggle for kids. Mango is sweet, juicy, and colorful, so naturally, kids love it. Largeman-Roth skewers mango chunks with strawberries and drizzles them with vanilla yogurt for an easy snack, and she recommends using frozen mango if you can't find fresh.
This fabulous source of omega-3 fatty acids is an important addition to your child's diet. The type of omega-3 found in salmon and other fatty fish is DHA - an essential fatty acid - which means our bodies don't make it and we need to get it from the foods we eat. It plays a role in brain development and the development of the neurological system while a baby is growing in the womb. And for older kids, DHA may help improve the symptoms of ADHD, depression, and asthma.
This spice is part of what makes a traditional Indian curry and gives it that intense deep yellow color. Turmeric provides anti-inflammatory benefits and may help prevent the decline in cognitive function. You can add turmeric to smoothies, and Largeman-Roth says it's great paired with mango and coconut.
Whole grains are high in fiber and are slow to digest, which helps to keep blood sugar levels steady. That's especially important for kids who are trying to pay attention during that hungry, pre-lunch period. Whole grains include oats, brown rice, quinoa, and popcorn. A breakfast of steel-cut oats (use the microwavable variety to save time, or cook them the night before) with some maple syrup, blueberries, walnuts, and a dash of cinnamon is ideal for your child's cognitive function.