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Your baby is in a crucial stage of life where his development will form the base of his future. His memory and brain and how they develop play a huge role in deciding how this future will shape up. Just as you feed him nutritious food to boost his physical strength, his cognitive development also requires the right kind of diet. The WRONG foods can actually prove harmful by making his memory dull and his brainpower weak!
Kids are often fussy eaters and throw tantrums at meal-times. Unless you are a very lucky mom, it is likely that your child demands a favourite item at every meal, and this item is often something you see as not very healthy. However, many of us end up giving these foods to our kids to make them happy or to encourage them to finish their regular meal. Well, unfortunately, some of these foods may not be just fattening or without nutrition, but they may also be harming your little one’s brain and memory!
Beware of these common foods which are a complete no-no for your little one’s brainpower
1. These popular ‘Quick Snacks’
Packed pizzas and burgers
2-minute noodles with MSG
Yes, they are actually as bad as the reputation they have! Packed and processed foods should be avoided strictly as they’ve been linked to mood swings and behavioural changes in addition to headaches and hyperactivity. When your child is suffering these behavioural problems, his focus and cognitive ability are bound to go down. Try and stick to fresh and whole foods as far as possible.
2. Foods that are just ‘too colourful’
How all our kids love those colourful, shiny foods in the market! Artificial colouring is often overlooked for just sugar and something that kids will eat. However, it has been linked to a series of cognitive problems, including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety, hyperactivity, and headaches in children. This becomes a key factor causing detrimental effects on their development. While we often see such colouring as sugar, the fact is that most high-sugar food does contain artificial colouring, and the negative effects of sugar on development are widely known. Additionally, such foods can sometimes not just affect the child’s development but also be harmful for human consumption due to the presence of adulterants.
3. Caffeinated food or drinks
Caffeine is a substance that is naturally found in chocolate, tea and coffee and is also added by companies to aerated drinks and some common cold medications. It is a stimulant that can be dangerous in high quantities – even for adults. But kids are more sensitive to caffeine and their thus their intake should be limited to a maximum of 45 milligrams a day. Excess consumption can cause jumpiness, nervousness, sleep loss, hyperactivity, headache or stomach ache – all of which are harmful to their mental development and overall health!
4. Foods that are just sugar
This one is almost a no-brainer, but makes it to this list as sugar is among the worst culprits that damage brain development! High sugar foods are loved by all children, whether it be ice-creams, cakes or candy. However, excess sugar has been known to cause hyperactivity and affect the child’s appetite. This means he will not just be restless, and less likely to concentrate on the task at hand, but also go without wholesome nutrition at mealtime. Further, it can also cause stomach aches and weakened immunity. So, just chuck all those sugar balls and goodies that have nothing but sugar in them, and opt for healthier options at home.
5. These much-loved high trans-fat foods
Readymade cake frosting
Frozen pizza crusts
Thee and more foods in the same league are very high in trans-fats – a component that is extremely bad for health and has been proven to adversely affect memory! They increase inflammation in your child’s brain. Additionally, by reducing the production of a chemical called serotonin, they can lead to depression as well. There’s even more: such foods also increase the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol and subsequently the risk of heart diseases as well. Really not worth it, right?
So, What Is Good?
Now that we know what is detrimental to brain and memory development, what is actually effective in improving it? Here are the three main brain-boosting elements you can provide to your child through the food he eats.
1. Provide ‘good fats’ to their brain
Our brains use natural fats to maintain cell membranes and function properly. ‘Good’ fats help maintain this. Therefore, foods containing these fats should be included in your child’s diet. Some of them include:
- Mono-unsaturated Fats: These are found in olive oil, sesame oil, peanut butter, nuts, seeds and avocados. Although heart disease and stroke are not common in children or infants, the consumption of these good fats can lower the risk of their occurrence.
- Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) that are in two forms – Omega 3 and Omega 6: Omega 3 is found in nuts and seeds, grass-fed animal meat and free-range chicken eggs. Omega 6 is found in flaxseed, chia, green leaves, walnuts, many fish oils, grass-fed animal meats, oysters, and shrimp. However, avoid if your child is allergic to these.
- Natural Saturated Fats: These are found in coconut and palm oils, egg yolks, butter, and cream
2. Stimulate their memory with choline
Choline results in a more stimulated brain which is an important part of memory development. Choline-rich foods include eggs, fish oils, liver, soybeans, peanuts, butter, potatoes, cauliflower, lentils, oats, sesame seeds and flax seeds.
3. Boost brainpower with these ‘pigments’
Substances like anthocyanin and quercetin have been proven to help enhance cognitive power in children, as per a study by Harvard. All you have to do is include these foods: berries, cherries, black currants, eggplant, red, purple and black grapes, red onion, red apples, beets, onions, kale, leeks, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, blueberries and apricots
Must-have Foods in Their Diet
In addition to the above guidelines, you should make some small changes to your child’s diet to ensure they get a memory boost. One of the best ways to do this to make certain there’s high nutrition in the food she eats. Aside from better memory, she’ll enjoy the benefits of a stronger immune system and better overall development too. So, go ahead and up your kids’ consumption of these foods:
Fish like tuna and salmon (fresh, not canned) is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. However, don’t feed your toddler more than three portions a day as fish may contain mercury. If she isn’t the biggest fan of fish, you might have to be a little innovative. Try boiling and shredding the fish and adding it to rice. You can also prepare fishcake with potatoes and coated in breadcrumbs to be fried. If she is fond of fish, include it in the form of shallow fried fish or fish curries.
This one is a classic but no less powerful! Milk, which has long been known to build healthy bones and give kids a vitamin and protein boost, also helps improve their brainpower. Make sure you don’t forego that daily glass of milk. In case your child has lactose intolerance, check with the doctor to see what alternatives you can opt for. Alternatives could be almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk, or rice milk in case of lactose intolerance.
3. Whole-wheat Cereal and Bread
If you’ve been wondering if it’s alright to give your toddler whole-wheat, it is. Kids who cross the 6-month mark can have foods containing wheat germ, an important source of choline. Whole-wheat bread and cereal are packed with vitamins B6 and B12. You can alternate with cereal and bread throughout the week. Iron-fortified cereal is the best bet for your little one as children need iron for proper development. While whole-wheat is healthy, you might want to regulate the portion sizes. Too much and your toddler will get too full and there won’t be enough room in her tummy for other foods with equally beneficial nutrients.
Most toddlers love the taste of eggs, which is good news considering it’s another food that improves memory power in toddlers. Eggs are a rich source of protein, while the yolk contains the ever-important choline that helps develop memory. An egg sandwich mixed with potato is an easy way to ensure your little one enjoys her morning breakfast. Scrambled eggs with a little butter is another quick way to get your child to benefit from eating eggs. Studies suggest that egg yolk calms a toddler’s brain, thereby improving concentration and memory.
5. Beans and Oil
Foods rich in monounsaturated fats also help in brain development. They can be found in extra virgin olive oil, seeds and nuts. These can be added in salads, pasta, etc. Folic acid is also good for brain growth. Some of the best folic acid sources include soybeans, spinach, broccoli and oranges. Glucose-rich beans and oatmeal also have the power to fuel your toddler’s brain. Spinach and pasta, and broccoli and butter are a couple of ways to get these ‘hated’ foods into your toddler’s diet.
With the best foods for brain development, your child will surely get a memory boost. Her retentive skills will become sharper while intellectual and academic growth will improve. Moms, it’s now time to make small changes to our children’s diet plan and start making these wonderful things happen!