Family Health Challenge: Give your brain a boost!

Are you ready for another challenge you can take on with your entire family? Each challenge is a way to boost your health and strengthen your family. And this one is just for the brain!

The holiday season is straight ahead, and it will be filled with all sorts of fun, food and festivities — and plenty of time for your kids to get away from the normal daily routine!

Let’s skip ahead a bit, shall we? Fast forward through December…all the way to January, when school resumes in the new year.

You want to get your kids started on the best path toward success in the new year. Well, we do, too!

We challenge you to add some brain-boosting foods to your family’s diet this month!

Yep, you read that right. In this month’s health challenge, we’re going to talk you through foods you can incorporate into your family’s meals and snacks to give your kids, and you, a little extra brain boost. Read on as we take a look:

Family health brain booster No. 1: Oats

Do your little ones regularly have a bowl of oatmeal before heading off to school? Or love oatmeal cookies? Good! They’re getting a little brain boost with each dose.

This gluten-free whole grain is packed full of all sorts of fiber and antioxidants, including brain-boosting magnesium, iron, zinc, folate and B-vitamins.

Beyond those health benefits, oats also are filling and keep blood sugar regulated, so your child is less likely to feel hungry midway through the morning at school.

Try this recipe: Prepare plain instant oatmeal, then stir a spoonful of peanut butter and a dab of jelly into the cooked oatmeal. Voila — peanut butter and jelly oatmeal!

Family health brain booster No. 2: Nuts

We just mentioned peanut butter in our oats recipe, but did you know that nuts and nut butters pack a large number of brain-boosting nutrients, too?
It’s true. Nuts are filled with protein, healthy fatty acids and essential nutrients like vitamin E, zinc and thiamin.

Have an allergy to peanuts or just aren’t a fan? Try almond butter, which packs even more nutrients since almonds contain riboflavin and L-carnitine to help boost neurological activity.

You can get similar brain-boosting effects from seeds, so sunflower seed butter also is an option!

Try this recipe: Having a pasta or chicken dish containing pesto sauce? Incorporate some nuts along with olive oil to boost the nutritional value of your sauce!

Family health brain booster No. 3: Berries

Have a love of berries in your family? That’s a great thing!
Berries of all varieties are filled with brain-boosting nutrients and a good rule of thumb is that the brighter the berry is, the more nutritious it is.

Blueberries and strawberries also have been shown to contain memory-boosting antioxidants for an added boost.

No matter what kind of berry your family likes best, it’s important to eat the berries whole. That’s because even the little seeds in the berries are a health booster. They contain omega-3 fatty acids!

Try this recipe: Having a tossed salad with your dinner? Slice some berries into the salad for a flavor boost that also packs brainpower.

Family health brain booster No. 4: Colorful veggies

We know it can be a battle to get your little ones to eat the veggies you serve up, but these superior brain boosters are worth trying again and again!

Choose vegetables that contain deep, rich color such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots and broccoli. These veggies are the best sources of antioxidants that keep the cells of the brain healthy and strong.

Try this recipe: Vegetables don’t have to be boring! Serve up healthy sweet potato fries. Simply cut a sweet potato into wedges, lightly spray with vegetable oil and then bake until they start to brown.

Family health brain booster No. 5: Milk

You’ve heard the phrase, “Milk: It does a body good.” When it comes the brain, this definitely is true. Milk and other dairy foods, including yogurt, contain protein and B-vitamins, which are essential for the growth of brain tissue and neurotransmitters.

Dairy also contains a solid balance of protein and carbs, meaning that it can help keep your little one fueled up for longer.

Greek yogurt offers particular benefits since it usually contains a higher dose of protein.

Try this recipe: Who doesn’t love a good parfait?! In a tall glass, layer Greek yogurt with berries, nuts and even seeds. Delicious and packed with brain boosters? That’s a definite win!

The bottom line on brain-boosting foods

The key to a healthy diet is to include a good variety of foods and nutrients, so there are many other foods that you can incorporate into your family’s meals.

Look for foods that contain protein, zinc, iron, choline, folate, iodine, vitamin A, B-vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids — all of which are known brain boosters!

Whole foods are best, so choose whole grains, fruits and veggies, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy.

Need more guidance getting your little one’s health on the right track in the new year? Schedule a check-up with a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger.