As parents we all know how important nutrition is for building our kids’ brain power. From infant brain development to memory and attention support in the teen years, our kids need a diet filled with antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and more. But often we fill up their plates with the good stuff only to watch them push it around (and then grab some crackers later on).
So how can we fuel their growing brains and support mental health – without driving ourselves crazy? Try these 10 snack ideas – all kid-approved and packed with superfoods for brain power (you are going to love #7). And for the record, we all need brain support. These snacks are good for everyone in your family!
10 Superfoods for the Brain (and how to make them into snacks)
- Salmon. Compared to tuna, salmon is a much better source of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA which are critical for brain growth and function. Try substituting canned (or grilled salmon) in tuna salad and serve as a dip with whole grain crackers or cut up veggies.
- Oatmeal. Substitute oat flour for white flour in recipes for a super serving of fiber, Vitamins E and B, Potassium, and Zinc (all essential to long lasting brain power). Oats also have a low-glycemic index for a steady energy supply all day long. To make your own oat flour, pulse old-fashioned oats (not quick cooking or steel cut) in a food processor or coffee grinder until smooth. Substitute in the equal amount for white flour in your cookies, cakes, or breads recipes.
- Berries. Strawberries, goji berries, cherries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries all are filled with antioxidants and vitamins plus the seeds have omega-3 fatty acids. This is an easy add-on to yogurt, cereal, or tossed in a fruit salad. For a lunchbox-friendly finger food, make a mini-fruit taco: spread fruit-flavored cream cheese on a small whole grain tortilla, sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg and top with berries. Fold in half and serve at snack time.
- Sweet Potatoes. Make sweet potato chips at home. Peel and slice thinly with a mandolin or very sharp knife, toss with olive oil and spices (rosemary or fresh ground black pepper), spread out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and roast at 400°F for 10 to 12 minutes on each side. Let cool on the pack (they will crisp up as they cool). Sweet potatoes are super high in the antioxidant beta-carotene plus have a good serving of Vitamin C, iron, and copper – all brain health musts.
- Avocados, a healthy fat that supports blood flow to the brain. Hopefully your kiddo already loves guacamole – serve it up with whole grain chips and you have a brain superstar. If they’re not a fan of green food, try substituting avocado for butter or oil in your favorite brownie or chocolate cake recipe. It adds a creamy texture without affecting taste.
- Pumpkin Seeds. Crunchy pumpkin seeds (or pepitas) are a great, portable afternoon snack. They are loaded with zinc, Vitamin B, magnesium, and tryptophan (which also improves mood and sleep).
- Dark chocolate (woohoo!!). Fun Fact: a study published in the 2012 New England Journal of Medicine showed that places with the most chocolate consumption also have the most Nobel Prize winners! Coincidence? Maybe. But why take chances? Filled with antioxidant flavanols, dark chocolate can reduce inflammation; improve mood; increase blood flow to the brain for better focus, memory, and reaction time; and is one of the few foods high in magnesium which helps reduce stress and anxiety. This is your permission slip to eat chocolate and serve it to your kids but it has to contain at least 70% cocoa (sometimes called cacoa).
- Boiled eggs. Our Moms were on to something when they served us egg salad! Not only is this an inexpensive and easy snack to make, eggs are a super brain food packed with protein, vitamins, minerals, choline which is especially good for memory development, and antioxidants.
- Chia Seed Pudding. We’ve shared this recipe before because it’s such a quick snack but it’s also a super brain food. Chia seeds are packed with brain-boosting ALA omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and protein. To make: Just add 1 TB of chia seeds to your favorite creamy beverage (dairy milk, almond milk, cashew milk, coconut milk) and let sit for at least 30 minutes. The longer it sits, the thicker it will get. Add fruit or honey for sweetener. You can also experiment with other ingredients such as cocoa powder (also brain healthy); pureed pumpkin; or spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Chickpeas. There is a lot of nutrition packed in this little package! Chickpeas have complex carbohydrates and protein for day-long energy (aka mental focus and memory). They are also a source of magnesium which helps improve blood flow in the brain. Try in hummus (as a dip or spread on crackers) or eat whole by the handful.
As Moms we know it all comes down to getting the food in our kids!! Hopefully these tips will help you add a little nutrition into snack time. If you’d like to try a good assortment of prepackaged snacks (with lots of the above ingredients!), check out our snack kits here. Available in gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan.