Raise little brainiacs by working these foods into their diet.
Step 1: Give them oatmeal Serve a hot cereal for breakfast. Children who ate instant oatmeal performed 5 to 12 percent better on spatial memory tests than kids who ate sugary cereal or no breakfast at all.
TIP: Make the cereal with milk – protein staves off hunger, which increases concentration.
Step 2: Serve salmon Replace tuna sandwiches with salmon. Tuna is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain growth and function, but salmon has even more. Studies have suggested that children whose diet is high in essential fatty acids do better on reading and spelling tests.
Step 3: Go nuts Let them snack on unsalted nuts. Like salmon, they're high in essential fatty acids, among other brain-boosting nutrients. Cashews are particularly good for developing minds; they're rich in magnesium, which may improve blood flow to the brain.
Step 4: Whip up some eggs Whip up some eggs; they're loaded with choline, a B vitamin that helps with memory development. An animal study showed a 30 percent memory boost in mice that ingested choline at a young age.
TIP: Is your child nervous about a test? Put a banana in their lunch box. Bananas have potassium, which can reduce anxiety, and B vitamins, which have a calming effect on the nervous system.
Step 5: Feed them folate Feed them foods high in folate, a B vitamin that may boost the brain's ability to process information. Foods high in folate, also known as folic acid, include romaine lettuce, raw spinach, lentils, broccoli, oranges, and papaya.
Step 6: Serve berry nice desserts Serve blueberries and raspberries for dessert once or twice a week. They contain anthocyanins, which boost brain chemicals that influence memory and learning.
TIP: Serve fresh blueberries alone; heat destroys some of the health benefits, and protein may block their absorption.
Step 7: Don't deny them chocolate When you allow your children a sweet treat, make it chocolate, as long as it's dark. Studies show it increases brain function, possibly due to the flavonoids it contains. Look for chocolate that is at least 70 percent cacao.
FACT: Children who eat out more than they eat home-cooked meals often have significantly higher blood pressure and cholesterol than their peers.