Have you had a chance to read my recent blog post on childhood nutrition and different plant based food ideas for kids? If so, what was their favorite mood boosting food? I am excited to share even MORE food ideas to incorporate non plant based brain food options into your child’s diet, as well as ideas for summer activities, to promote optimal brain development and good mental health this summer and beyond!
- Start introducing seafood early: While I don’t consume seafood as I was raised on a vegetarian diet and am 90% plant based, I can’t ignore that seafood is highly nutritious for the developing brain for those who do eat seafood. As a chef I frequently get requests for great seafood recipes too. For kids it can be an acquired taste. Incorporating these foods into the diet at a young age can increase the likelihood of children enjoying them and reaping their nutrient benefits throughout life. Foods such as salmon are soft and mild enough for young children and are incredible sources of omega-3 fatty acids which promote proper brain development and function, as well as happier moods!
- Eggs: if you consume them, never underestimate the nutrient power of eggs! Whole eggs (yolk included) are an excellent source of proteins, healthy fats, vitamins A, D, E, K & B12 and choline. Choline is specifically important for young children as it has been shown to improve brain development and long term memory. Scrambled eggs are an easy and neutral way to include all of these nutrients into your child’s diet. Check out page 275 of my book for my ‘On-the-go Scrambled Egg in a Mug’!My one caveat if you do eat eggs is try to obtain pastured eggs from cage free chickens.
- “Meatballs”: Whether you are using beans, lentils or organic pastured ground turkey, meat or veggie ‘balls’ are an easy vehicle to add in powerful plant based fiber, and nutritious veggies, think shredded spinach, grated zucchini. Use flax seeds to bind these for added omega-3s and toss in spices for even more brain benefits. Bake them in the oven as a healthier option too. Then just add to a delicious homemade tomato sauce.
- Snack Foods: Instead of processed snacks laced with sodium, preservatives or sugar – think of fresh bites like natural almond butter on celery sticks, or seed butter for dipping different sweet peppers or apple slices.
Brain Boosting Childhood Activities
One of the best parts of summer is the warm weather and long days. Encouraging children to engage in physical activity, or simply just play outside (hello vitamin D!), is conducive to so many mental and physical health benefits! The improvement in physical strength, body awareness, interpersonal interactions and confidence that children can gain through playing with peers, trying new sports or practicing activities that they already love have incredible powers to enhance mental health, and after a long day of activity you can bet that your child will sleepwell! In the absence of school work, it is also a great idea to encourage children to engage in their creative side and learn or practice an art form. Practicing music, drawing or painting has been shown to stimulate the creative side of children’s brains which enhances their development and overall cognitive performance. Similarly, such activities are often noted to be meditative and calming, which could help reduce, or prevent, feelings of stress or anxiety.
Finally, whenever possible, I encourage you to enjoy meals with your children, setting an example of healthy eating and gratitude, as our behaviors and habits influence their perspectives and decision making. Childhood is such a critical point in a child’s development and can be influential on their future health as adolescents and adults. This summer, let’s lead by example and share the knowledge and practices of Nutritional Psychiatry with our children to promote optimal mental fitness and emotional wellbeing as they grow up. Stay tuned for my future post discussing such suggestions for adolescents and teens!