By Jeanne Peters RD
Research has proven that for the most part, great brains are made, they are not born. From birth to age 5, up to 30 IQ points are up for grabs. Children may be born with the genetic potential to have a higher than average IQ, but if they are not properly nurtured and nourished during the first few years of life, they will not achieve their full potential. So here are a few proven points for nourishing a smart, calm child:
1. Feed your toddler to teen an optimal diet to enhance brain growth. Even a slight deficiency in a key vitamin, minerals like magnesium, or healthy omega fats during the time when the brain is going through its spectacular growth spurt can result in a lower IQ, poor test scores or depression. Any child with ADD or ADHD should be tested for iron/iodine and zinc deficiencies to rule out nutrition as part of the issue.
2. Add healthy fats into the diet, daily! The brain is 60% or more fat by weight. This indicates the great need the brain has to be fed healthy fats — not the kind of fats found in gold fish crackers or cream cheese on your child’s bagel, but fats found in fish or fish oils, whole eggs or flax seed meal that you can easily sneak into oatmeal or a smoothie as a part of your “stealth nutrition” plan.
3. Add in quality protein at every meal, especially breakfast: This is the nutrient that is critical for increasing the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which allows the mind to focus. A child cannot learn on cheerios or a pop tart for breakfast. Instead, try a glass of kefir smoothie or egg on toast.
4. Add in one new vegetable and fruit serving per day: Research indicates that one third of children under two years of age eat no fruit or vegetables. More than 60 percent of 1-year-olds eat dessert or candy daily, and 30 to 40 percent of children aged 15 months or older have a sugary fruit drink daily. Empty calories are replacing the nutrient-dense foods children need to feed a healthy brain. Look at your own diet and determine if you are role modeling healthy eating for your children. If you or your children could use a tune-up, consider an appointment with a Registered Dietitian.
Jeanne Peters RD is co-founder and Nutrition Director for the Nourishing Wellness Medical Center in Torrance, CA. She has over 25 years experience of promoting healthy, sustainable food and lifestyle choices as a Registered Dietitian, Certified Wellness Coach and, most importantly, as a mother of three boys & grandmother of three toddlers. Awarded the California Young Dietitian of the Year in 1995, her passion is sharing ways to nourish healthy families through real wholesome foods! Visit her website at www.nourishingwellness.com