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  • Healthy food brain foodIn a previous post we talked about how important food was for keeping your child ready to study. It makes sense to give them a great breakfast to start the day, and make sure it's the right balance of nutrition. It's not just about 5 a day, although that's a perfect starting point. Here's 7 great food sources and ideas to keep you and them on the right path.

    1. Omega 3

    Omega 3 acids are widely believed to be one of the best sources of nutrition for brains in children and adults. It can be found in oily fish, some nuts and avocado.

    Salmon and tuna are the quick wins for this one, so think about recipes like spaghetti puttanesca (tuna with tomatoes and olives) or salad nicoise (green salad with tuna and hard-boiled eggs). Mashed avocado is an easy one to slip into a sandwich.

    2. Iron

    Iron feeds energy levels and mental alertness. Leafy green veg such as spinach works well for this.

    Try stir frying spinach with tinned tomatoes and browned turkey mince if they're not keen on the flavour. Serve with tagliatelle.

    3. Antioxidants

    Most fruit and veg contains a wealth of antioxidants, great for the memory. Plop some berries in their morning cereal, or whizz to a smoothie.

    4. Whole grains

    Complex carbohydrates improve memory and keep energy levels consistent to avoid that mid-afternoon lull. A porridge breakfast can help, perhaps with honey, and if they can't stand brown bread try the half-brown half-white varieties.

    5. Choline

    Found in eggs and nuts, choline is a great boost to the memory. Scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast is a brilliant breakfast, and you can top many dinners with lightly toasted nuts, e.g. pine nuts over a pasta dish, or walnuts with cauliflower cheese.

    6. Calcium

    Calcium has long been held up the great way to strengthen bones. Dairy is the key here. Some pre-sliced cheese is a quick way to cram some calcium in a sandwich or wrap. Tofu is also a surprising source of calcium, so consider using that in your next stir-fry or spag bol.

    7. Water

    Last but not least water is essential for keeping the digestive system fluid and rehydrating the brain. Why not try home-made lemonade? Get them to help too.

    Image copyright William Cho. Original image can be found on Flickr here.

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  • Empty plate finished dinnerYou've got them doing times-tables backwards, their spelling is perfect and they see non-verbal reasoning patterns in their sleep! But is your child nutritionally prepared for the exam?

    Feeding the tummy with the right foods is almost as important as feeding the mind with the right revision for effective study. Someone who hasn't eaten enough or is dehydrated will not concentrate as well as someone who's packed with nutritious and sustaining food and liquids. 

    Brain food

    Although research is always shifting in this area as we uncover more about the cognitive functions, everybody agrees that breakfast is the best way to get the kids on the right path for the day. Studies show that breakfast helps attention, nutrition and weight control, so there's no reason not to give them a great start. Also try to eat breakfast with them. Not only are you setting an example but it's an important social activity.


    The suggested intake for a child between 7 - 10 years old is:

    Calories Protein Calcium Iron Fat Saturates Salt
    Boys 1970 28.3g 550 mg 8.7 mg 76.6g 24.1g 5g
    Girls 1740 28.3g 550 mg 8.7 mg 67.6g 21.3g 5g

    Source: Government's Committee on the Medical Aspects of Food Policy (COMA) Report 41

    You should try and balance your meals around these numbers, and take care when reading labels in the supermarket. Check back soon for guidance on how you can serve up winning meals and snacks every time.

    Image copyright Leo Saumure Jr. Original image is on Flickr here.

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