As summer comes to an end and we rev up our SUVs and hybrids to head back to the school drop-off and pickup lines, packing lunches is once again on our plate. Food manufactures skillfully wag their branded bags of over-processed foods in the faces of our children, making feeding them a healthful meal rather than a Happy Meal even more difficult.
Providing our kids with a head start begins in the morning, but doesn’t end there. Eating small meals throughout the day will keep glucose levels consistent — important for studying, test-taking and moderating moods.
Sleep is also important. Dr. Kim Harvey of Welch Road Pediatrics explains to her teen patients the impact food and sleep have on their ability to study. Her recommendations include at least eight hours of sleep each night for good mental awareness, and consistent meals to calm the roller coaster of emotions that follow teens through high school.
That information necessitates stocking the fridge with thought-provoking snacks and mood enhancing foods such as salmon, berries, and yogurt (yogurt being my recent obsession). A deliciously creamy frozen treat layered with brain-boosting nuts and berries is served at the busy organic yogurt shop, Fraiche. It is so amazingly scrumptious and nutritious it entices me to drive across town to Palo Alto even at the current gas prices. While guiltlessly indulging my taste buds I observe the endless stream of health conscious customers and try to figure out how to get in on this very popular franchise.
But enough of my entrepreneurial cogitating; let’s move to the front of the class with some brainy foods that just may help your student ace his or her next test or show improved “teen-spirit.”
Omega-3 fatty acids:
These are “healthy fats” that improve brain function and are found in salmon, flax seeds, soybeans, walnuts and halibut. Pack the edamame and look for protein bars that have flax seeds and walnuts at the top of the list. Grilled or baked fish with lots of herbs is a simple and quick way to get megadoses of omega-3s.
This nutrient helps with memory and is found in egg and nuts. Hard boiled eggs and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are great “any time” foods. Increase nutrition at breakfast with French toast made from raisin pecan bread, or scrambled eggs stuffed inside whole-wheat pita.
To preserve the brain cells and improve mental sharpness, think berries, leafy vegetables, broccoli and nuts. Pump up the volume of school lunches with a quick trail mix of nuts and chocolate-covered goji berries. Add cooked vegetables to tomato sauce, and make smoothies with lots of berries.
This brain-buddy will enhance cognitive function and is found in oranges, strawberries, avocado, beans and dark leafy vegetables such as spinach. Folic acid may also help prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Although this is not a concern for our young ones, it may be a good reason for some of us to toss a spinach salad with oranges and avocado and serve it with a walnut vinaigrette!