Help Your Kid Focus on a Long Day of Schoolwork With These Healthy Foods
As a registered dietitian and mother to a school-aged child, I know that there are many factors that play into a child's ability to focus. I also know that there are no magic foods that will get any child to laser-focus on math or reading when a cool show is on the TV. But I also know that there are certain brain-boosting foods that could potentially help support the quest of getting kids to concentrate on their schoolwork, project, or other task in conjunction with quality sleep, daily physical activity, and minimal distractions (among other things).
To tackle the diet side of the quest to help your kids focus, here are seven foods that show some promise. Hopefully, these suggestions give some lunchtime inspo too!
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommends eggs as a first food for babies and toddlers as eggs are a rich source of choline and because early and sustained exposure to eggs may help reduce the risk of developing an egg allergy. But the benefits of eggs continue well beyond the first two years of life. Eggs are a nutritional powerhouse that contribute to health and well-being at every age and life stage.
Egg yolks are one of the richest sources of dietary choline, a nutrient that helps brain cells produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in cognition. Plus, eggs have the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which support eye health and may help protect the eyes from harmful blue light from computers and phones. New research shows lutein may also play an important role in brain health, too.
Eggs are easy to prepare and easy to love at any age, and at any meal. Enjoy an egg as part of breakfast, make an egg salad sandwich for a quick at-home meal or pack in a lunch box for a portable meal, or pre-make hard-boiled eggs for simple grab-and-go snacks to satisfy hungry tummies after a long day of learning.
Fish and seafood are rich in a slew of brain-boosting nutrients that can help your little one in many ways. Having your kids enjoy those fruits of the sea can result in some seriously amazing outcomes. In one study, for example, children who ate fish at least once a week slept better and had higher IQs by an average of 4 points versus kids who were not fish eaters. Baked fish sticks, anyone?
Avocados can easily be added to sandwiches for a healthy fat boost. Why is fat important? Eating fat with carbs helps slow the digestion and helps kids feel fuller longer – AKA no tummy rumbles to distract them from their studies. Shoot for healthy fats found in avocados and nuts instead of trans or saturated fats when feeding your kiddos.
Strawberries offer a slew of benefits to kids, one being that it contains natural vitamin C. This vitamin plays a role in producing norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in increasing attention. Your little one doesn't care for strawberries? No sweat! Kiwi, citrus, and red peppers can be swapped out for a vitamin C boost.
Although conducted on adults, data from a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging suggests that eating a handful of walnuts every day may help support memory and concentration. While the same study was not conducted on children, eating walnuts certainly won't hurt anything, assuming your child is developmentally ready to eat this nut.
Try some walnut butter on a piece of fruit for an afternoon snack or, for a decadent treat, dip shelled walnuts in dark chocolate. Tell your kids they are chocolate covered brains for a creative story. (Does anybody else think that shelled walnuts look like mini brains? Only me?)
Ok, breakfast is not a specific food. But it is the most important meal of the day and needs to be a focus if parents are trying to support their child's ability to focus in school or otherwise. According to researchers who reviewed from 45 articles focusing on the effects of skipping breakfast, tasks requiring attention, executive function, and memory were made more effective by eating breakfast.
While I would love to see kids eating a well-balanced breakfast every morning before school, I would rather see them eat something instead of nothing – even if that means grabbing a granola bar on the way out the door. Any breakfast is better than no breakfast when trying to support concentration.