4 Brain Foods for Kids

Add these four brain-builders to your child's meals and snacks.
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I'm not saying these foods are the ticket to Harvard early admission, but they do all show special promise as brain builders. They all happen to be packed with nutrients kids need for growing healthy bodies, too.

1. Wild Blueberries

In a new study, kids ages 7-10 did better on tests of memory and attention, including recalling words from a list and ignoring distractions, after drinking a beverage made with wild blueberries than they did when they had a placebo drink. Researchers say it may be because of wild blueberries' high concentration of anthocyanins, a protective plant compound and the pigment that makes the tiny fruit so blue.

Serve it: Blend frozen wild blueberries into a morning smoothie. Here's a simple recipe. (Wild blueberries are different from regular blueberries—you'll find them in the freezer section.)

2. Fish

Fish is rich in a kind of fat called DHA, which is the most abundant omega-3 fat found in the brain. Omega-3 fats are important for brain development and heart health but you have to get them from food. In some research, children who got more omega-3 fatty acids did better on reading and spelling and had fewer behavior problems than those who had less. There's even a theory that children with ADHD may have lower concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids, though research isn't conclusive.

Serve it: Salmon is an especially rich source of DHA, but serve the varieties your child likes the best. These fish tacos are a hit with my kids, or you can make these easy homemade fish sticks.

3. Eggs

Eggs contain choline, a nutrient that makes a neurotransmitter in your brain involved in memory and communication between brain cells. The yolk is rich in choline, so skip the egg white omelets and use the whole egg instead.

Serve it: Bake a pan of Scrambled Egg Muffins with everyone's favorite fillings.

4. Oats

In a study at Tufts University in Boston, kids ages 9-11 who ate oatmeal for breakfast did better on tests of short-term memory, spatial memory, and auditory attention than those who had a low-fiber cereal. Researchers say that may be because oatmeal is rich in fiber, which slows digestion and results in a more sustained release of fuel to the brain.

Serve it: Make overnight oats or slow-cooker oatmeal (get the instructions here) or bake up a batch of Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cups.

Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. She collaborated with Cooking Light on Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.

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