Eating well isn’t just great for your child’s physical development, but his mental growth too.
Tucking into certain foods can help give your tot’s brain a helping hand, keeping him sharp and giving his memory and IQ a boost, too.
Breakfast cereals, toast, bagels, eggy bread and fruit pancakes are all brilliant breakfast options.
“It really is the most important meal of the day for children and there’s evidence to show that eating breakfast improves cognitive function,” says Dr Frankie Phillips, nutrition advisor to Organix.
“For babies, try a range of baby cereals with no added sugar or sweetened with fruit and add your little one’s usual milk to it,” says Dr Phillips. “This ensures your child has a range of nutrients and protein to start the day.”
Eggs are bursting with a whole load of nutrients that help the brain’s development, including vitamin B12, vitamin A and protein. “Organic and omega-3 fortified eggs are even better,” says Dr Phillips. “Provided they are cooked right through, eggs are a handy weaning food that can be used in lots of ways.”
The brain is 75 per cent fluid and to work properly, it needs to keep well hydrated. It’s important to ensure that babies and young children drink regularly, especially in hot weather.
“Give your child a drink (ideally water or milk) at each meal time, and snack time,” says Dr Phillips. “Diluted unsweetened fruit juice is fine, but for healthy teeth, it’s best to restrict juice drinks to mealtimes.
“If your child’s not a big fan of drinking water, give him a high water-content food. Cucumber and watermelon are ideal as finger foods.”
Oily fish such as sardines, mackerel and salmon contain omega 3 fats, which are crucial in brain development and aspects of learning. “Aim for a portion each week for the whole family,” says Dr Phillips.
“Make some easy fishcakes out of mashed potato and canned salmon or rustle up a finger food pate by whizzing up some cooked mackerel and soft cheese, and serve it on rice cakes or oatcakes for a quick snack.”
Lean Red Meat
Red meat is a great source of iron. “Too little iron can cause anaemia, which can affect learning as well as causing tiredness,” says Dr Phillips.
“Family dishes like chilli and bolognese are a simple way of boosting iron intake and you can vary the texture as your baby goes through the weaning stages.
“If you’re a vegetarian, other useful ways of adding more iron include dried fruits, especially apricots and figs, as well as dark green leafy vegetables such as spring cabbage, spinach and broccoli, and pulses such as lentils and red kidney beans.”
Seafood contains iodine, which is needed for brain development and for the thyroid to work properly, too. “Iodine is found in lots of foods but seafood and fish are the richest sources,” says Dr Phillips. “Try making a family meal of fish pie but avoid smoked fish as it is very salty.
“This is a great food for weaning as the texture can be changed easily by adapting the recipe; add in chunks of potato instead of mashed potato topping or add chopped hard-boiled egg or peas and sweetcorn.”
Fruit And Vegetables
Encourage your child to eat a range of fruit and veg, in all different colours, to help him benefit from a wide range of vitamins and minerals.
“Green vegetables are high in iron, but citrus fruits, peppers and blackcurrants are high in vitamin C which helps the body to use the iron efficiently,” says Dr Phillips.
“Introduce a wide range of fruit and vegetables during the weaning window – fresh, frozen, dried, canned and juiced all count as part of the five a day. Don’t just stick to mealtimes – chop up sticks of vegetables as finger foods and dip into hummous or soft cheese, and sticks of fruit like melon, banana and pineapple are tasty dipped into yogurt.”
Brazil Nut Butter
A bit like peanut butter, brazil nut butter can be used as a dip or topping, or stirred into recipes. “Brazil nuts are a great source of selenium, which is needed in lots of the brain’s enzymes but shouldn’t be eaten whole until your child’s five years old,” says Dr Phillips. Until then, it’s fine to give your baby butters or ground nuts once he’s six months old.
“If you don’t want to use brazil nut butter, seafood and fish are also good sources of selenium.”
You can get even more weaning advice and recipes by downloading Organix's Little Book of Weaning, free.
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