The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health published the results of a study earlier this year in February that looked at how different dietary patterns affect the IQ of children. The authors concluded “there is evidence that a poor diet associated with high fat, sugar, and processed food content in early childhood may be associated with small reductions in IQ in later childhood, while a healthy diet, associated with high intakes of nutrient rich foods described at about the time of IQ assessment may be associated with small increases in IQ.” The implications of these findings are tremendous. Prior to this study, it seemed to be common sense that a well nourished child will perform better, but now we have clear scientific evidence supporting this conclusion.
What does proper childhood nutrition mean and where does one begin?
The importance of protein for brain and body health cannot be understated. Protein provides essential and nonessential amino acids that are the building blocks for our body and neurotransmitters for our brain. Eggs, dairy, meat, poultry and fish are excellent sources of protein. For example, kefir (e.g., Lifeway Probugs) and Horizon yogurts provide healthy and quick protein with the added benefit of probiotics that are important for the immune system (kids can’t do well in school if they are home sick). So fresh Fairway organic eggs, yogurt, or cereal with Fairway organic milk are excellent morning choices.
Fat is also critical. The right “essential” fats are the key. These so-called “essential fatty acids” cannot be produced by the body and thus must be ingested in the diet. Also, our brains are mostly made up of fats, so the right fats are required for optimal mental performance. Nuts, seeds and fish are high in essential fats important for body and brain function. Essential nutrients are called essential for a reason. We need them to stay alive and we cannot make them unless we get them from our diet. High amounts of non-essential, refined fats will work against us. Beware of hydrogenated and trans fats on labels and avoid or at least minimize their intake whenever possible.
Natural produce with fresh fruits and vegetables is an important consideration. Try to represent every color of the rainbow each day with fruit and vegetable intake for your child. They are full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that your child needs. If fresh fruits get boring for your child or they are resistant to regular intake, try breaking things up with something like Stretch Island Fruit Leathers, which is dried, pureed fruit.
Fiber-based foods like brown rice and whole grains like oats and whole wheat will provide a more lasting supply of fuel for the brain. In sharp contrast, refined grains loaded with sugar (like processed white bread and processed pasta) will cause blood sugar to spike, encouraging hyperactive. unfocused behavior not conducive for learning. These blood sugar spikes are soon followed by a big drop in blood sugar, causing sluggish unfocused behavior that disrupts learning. Whole grains are found in many products and include whole wheat, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, and steal cut oats to name a few.
Finally, when it’s snack-time, Fairway also has the widest selection of healthy options for you and your child to explore. Organic Valley Stringles (string cheese) or Materne GoGo Squeez (apple sauces) are some great choices.
What are some of your top lunch and snack tips you’d like to share?