Kids who eat smart think smart!
Did you know that what you put in your mouth can impact on your mental performance, mood and energy? In this feature, in association with Lidl, we look at the foods that can make family meals times an altogether brainier affair ahead of the new school year and Lidl dishes out the recipes to sneak them into mealtimes…
Health professionals label the connection the brain has with the gut as the brain-gut axis. It’s a term derived from a relatively new area of health known as nutritional psychiatry and the basics show that the more wholesome the food the better it is for all areas of our physical, emotional and intellectual health.
There are countless studies that back up this connection. For example a recent study on the connection food plays on depression concluded that adhering to a healthy diet, in particular a traditional Mediterranean diet, or avoiding a pro-inflammatory diet appears to confer some protection against milder forms of depression in observational studies.
Some nutritionists credit the stomach as being the second brain, due to a network of neurons and hormones making good food choices that last a lifetime even more important during the learning years. And with most of the serotonin (that neurotransmitter that helps with sleep and appetite and mediates moods) made in the gut we need to make smarter food choices to improve our thinking.
While that may conjure up images of leafy salads and seafood that most kids resist, we think of ways to get the best brain foods onto the dinner table without the slightest hint of an ‘eww’…
1) Thou shalt have a fishy on a little dishy
Salmon, the hero of the sea, is a great choice for promoting good brainwork. It’s jam-packed with omega-3 DHA fatty acids that help the brain run smoothly and it improves memory. DHA also plays a role in maintaining the health of brain cells and stimulates the growth of cells in the brain’s memory centre. It’s also a great source of protein to combat stress, sugar slumps and keep moods stable.
Portion size: For primary school children aim to give your child 30 - 60 grams of protein (including salmon) in a meal
Meal inspo: We love this lazy weekend breakfast dish from Lidl that packs a protein punch. Spicy Mustard Scrambled Egg with Salmon is a filler-upper. Go lighter on the mustard and cook the salmon in for fussier eaters. See here for more: https://recipes.lidl-ni.co.uk/Recipes/Spicy-Mustard-Scrambled-Eggs-with-Smoked-Salmon
2) Holy guacamole
It’s the hero of the fruit and veg aisle and a favourite with foodies, the avocado is nutrient dense and low in carbs. It’s also high in monounsaturated fats which can help to protect brain cells. And it’s higher in potassium than bananas. A healthy potassium intake, according to some studies, is linked to reduced blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure. The fat content also allows better absorption of nutrients from other foods too.
So how do you tempt a young child to venture from the beige into the green? Pack a punch during movie time with some loaded tortillas, piled high with veg, guacamole (the avocado base) and some cheese.
Meal Inspo: We heart Lidl’s Loaded Veggie Nachos. Add and subtract the ingredients according to your kids’ preferences.
3) The good egg
Is it a coincidence that it’s all the crowd pleasing healthy foods that have topped the brainy food list? We think not and eggs are up there with the best. Why? Well because they’re rich in choline, the precursor chemical for acetylcholine, one of the most fundamental neurotransmitters making them a fantastic brain food. In addition, eggs contain cholesterol, an important component of brain cell membranes as well as serving as a brain-protective antioxidant.
Meal Inspo: Is there any Italian dish that is nicer than spaghetti carbonara? We think not and Lidls’ version of the dish is available here: https://recipes.lidl-ni.co.uk/Recipes/Spaghetti-Carbonara
4) You say tomato, we say yay!
Lycopene, the heavy duty antioxidant you’ll find in tomatoes, according to some research, can help protect against the kind of free radical damage to cells which occurs in the development of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s. When cooked and paired with olive oil (to increase absorption), the clever tomato can go a long way.
Meal Inspo: This easy peasy Tomato Roast Chicken will double up for lunches too. It’s a winter warmer for the cooler days in the school year. Find all the details here: https://recipes.lidl-ni.co.uk/Recipes/Tomato-and-Rosemary-Roast-Chicken
5) Green benefits
Packed with antioxidants, the humble broccoli delivers all of your daily intake of vitamin K in a one cup serving. Vitamin K is powerful in forming “sphingolipids”, a type of fat that's densely packed into brain cells and for the older generation, some studies suggest that adults have a better memory the higher their intake of vitamin K. Broccoli also boasts anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which may help protect the brain against damage according to research.
Meal Inspo: A stir fry is a quick way to mix a pile of quality ingredients and Lidl’s Garlic Beef Noodle Stir Fry adds an Asian feel to the menu. Cut the up broccoli into smaller to appeal to the reluctant broccoli eaters and dose with other veg to get a good mix of vitamins. https://recipes.lidl-ni.co.uk/Recipes/Garlic-Beef-Noodle-Stir-Fry
6) And for a touch of indulgence
The surprise member of the brainfood family is a favourite with every child. Chocolate, according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, states that countries with the highest per capita chocolate consumption have more Nobel Prize winners. And it isn’t the first research to make the connection between chocolate and brain performance. Other studies claim that dark chocolate’s flavonoid antioxidants boost cognitive function, reduce the risk of dementia, and improve performance on challenging brain teasers.
Meal Inspo: Why not swap your usual chocolate spread for this very special Lidl one heavily decorated with dark chocolate. A snack on crackers or a treat for breakfast, Lidl’s Chocolate Spread with Cherries will be a big hit with the little diners.
For more yummy lunchbox ideas why not check out https://recipes.lidl-ni.co.uk/