It is a common saying that ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’. Likewise, ‘You can lead your child to books, but you can’t make them think!’
Children’s brains have everything to facilitate learning; however, the skull does have one leak hole – the mouth! This opening for gustationary fulfilment can be the make-or-break of a child’s learning capacity.
Consider what your child’s brain needs to function properly: blood glucose for energy, antioxidants to prevent ‘rusting’, vitamins and minerals for adequate ‘sparking’, good oils to keep brain nerves ‘lubed’, and water to keep the grey matter clean and hydrated. All these ingredients can be sourced from real foods, like fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and some animal products. Yet none can be adequately sourced from junk food or fake food (food that looks like food, but doesn’t contain nutrients).
Lesson 101: Real Food for Real Results!
To energise your child’s brain for a day’s learning, ensure they eat breakfast. Be aware that commercial cereals usually don’t offer adequate nutrition; they are a ‘convenience food’, leached of goodness and high in sugar, salt and fat. Read the ingredients to be sure.
Real foods are natural, whole foods, which are full of nutrients and offer children’s brains all the building blocks for optimum function!
- Fruits provide quick energy, and along with raw vegetables, offer necessary vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre.
- Wholegrains offer sustained energy. Consider including in children’s meals other more nutritious grains than wheat, like spelt, oats, rice, barley, rye and kamut.
- Great sources of absorbable protein are nuts, seeds, legumes like beans and lentils, mung beans and alfalfa sprouts, chickpeas, certain grains like quinoa, and eggs.
- You may have heard of essential fatty acids – the good oils? These are especially important for making little brains smarter! Food sources include seeds (Chia, linseed, sesame and pumpkin), macadamia oil, olive oil, avocados, salmon and other cold-water oily fish, most nuts, and goat milk.
Pack your children’s lunchboxes with meals and snacks made from these wholesome ingredients and watch their grades blossom!
Lesson 102: Fake Food is Brake Food!
A sure way to ‘slam on the brakes’ regarding your child’s ability to concentrate and learn is to feed them refined foods: sugary or heavily processed foods are fake foods, as most of the nutritional value has been removed. You may think you’re serving an acceptable food, but think again.
After eating a sweet snack, a child’s body receives a temporary spike in exaggerated energy. But then, 10-15 minutes later, their blood sugar levels plummet, sending them on an emotional rollercoaster and a mental washout!
Regular consumption of high-sugar foods also leads to insulin resistance, obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, one-in-four Aussie kids are already statistically overweight or obese!
Avoid packing the following items in your child’s lunchbox: chocolate products and lollies; processed cakes, muffins and biscuits; fruit sticks, chips, fizzy drinks, flavoured milks and fruit juice. Consider them as ‘treat foods’ for occasional consumption only.
Artificial flavours, sweeteners and preservatives often accompany fake foods; you may notice them in the form of “numbers” listed on the ingredients label. Artificial additives are heavily implicated in learning and behavioural disorders, so it may be a good idea to obtain a ‘guide to additives’ to best protect your child’s mind.
By avoiding fake foods in your child’s lunchbox, you are giving little brains and emotions the best possible platform for learning!
Food in focus: Chia seeds
Chia seeds are a highly nutritious seed originating in ancient South America and are frequently called a ‘super food’! Full of omega 3 oils for healthy brain function (more omega 3 oil than salmon), Chia seeds are also high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, soluble and insoluble fibre, and are a complete protein source. Chia seeds are available from most health food stores.
1. Bonza Brekky
1 cup of filtered water
½ cup rolled oats
1 tbsp desiccated coconut
1tsp mixed seeds. Consider pepitas (small pumpkin seeds), sunflower seeds, Chia seeds and linseeds (flaxseeds).
Chopped fruit. Choose grated apple, sliced banana, chopped strawberries or Goji berries.
Raw honey or 100% maple syrup, to taste
Rice milk (or alternative)
Cover rolled oats with water and gently heat in a saucepan, stirring occasionally. When mixture is smooth, pour into bowls. Then, in order, top the porridge with fruit, seeds, coconut and, finally, drizzle with honey or maple syrup to taste. Cool porridge by adding a small amount of rice milk.
Makes 12 muffins
1 ½ cups almond meal
1 medium organic orange (preferably navel variety)
½ cup of raw honey
1tbsp chia seeds soaked in ¼ cup of water for 3 minutes
1 tsp bicarb soda
Cover the whole orange with water in a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the skin is soft to press. Remove the orange from the water, allow to cool and then cut into quarters. Remove any seeds. Place the whole orange into a food processor with the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Spoon mixture into patty cases and bake in the oven at 160-170°C for about 25-30 minutes or until cooked.
Anytime Energy Smoothie
1 ½ cup Rice milk (or alternative)
2 tsp chia seeds
½ cup frozen berries
½ cup of frozen chopped banana
Raw honey, if required