After a long summer off, it's time to get your kid’s brains working hard again. Typical ingredients that are good for the grey matter include oily fish, broccoli, nuts, tomatoes, whole-grains and blueberries, and it's easier than you think to work them into your menus.
The first and most basic thing to focus on is that your children are getting a balanced diet. Have a look at the food pyramid (www.fsai.ie) and see if they are eating some foods from each food group everyday. A balanced diet means eating the right amount from each shelf of the food pyramid everyday. So make sure they are getting their 5-a-day from fruit and vegetables, some wholegrains and enough protein from meat, poultry, fish, beans, lentils and eggs.
Try to resist the temptation to allow snacking on high fat and sugary treats – they will pick up better nutrition by choosing fruit, nuts and dried fruit instead – Why not try this recipe for Cinnamon Apple Crisps
Did you know that your brain is mostly made from fat? The omega-3 fat DHA is an important part of your brain and DHA is important for normal brain function. You will find DHA in oil-rich fish like salmon, trout and mackerel as well as shellfish like mussels. Try some home made fish fingers or fish goujons.
Also known as pantothenic acid, this important vitamin is needed for normal mental performance. It will not make your little ones super-smart but it will help their brains to work at their best. Pork is a good source of pantothenic acid and you will also find it in chicken, liver, trout, mackerel, salmon and crab as well as mushrooms, nuts and seeds.
Iron helps to carry oxygen around your blood and oxygen is just as important for the brain as any other part of your body. Good iron levels are important for a healthy brain. 74% of teenage girls in Ireland do not eat enough iron so it is crucial to eat plenty of iron rich foods at exam time (and the rest of the time as well). You will find iron in beef, chickpeas, kidney beans, spinach, lentils, sardines and mussels. Breakfast cereals fortified with iron are also a good source.
It can be hard to think clearly when you are dehydrated – drinking two litres of water a day helps cognitive (or thinking) functions in your brain. Try giving a glass of water with every meal or encourage your little ones to drink water by encouraging them to choose their own water bottle.