Even though research shows that breakfast is indeed the most important meal of the day, 20-30 per cent of children rise and shine without it. A 2013 review of three dozen studies since the 1950s revealed that children who eat breakfast have better memory, attention and school performance, with the biggest effect on math grades. Keep in mind that breakfast quality counts too — ban sugary foods and simple carbohydrates for the biggest brain boost.
Iron is important for carrying oxygen to budding brain cells. Unfortunately, studies show that kids with iron deficiency anemia suffer from worse memory, concentration and language development. Not only that, but the effects can last for years after the deficiency is corrected. Toddlers and teenage girls are especially at risk, so be sure that your child is consuming iron-rich foods along with vitamin C to improve absorption.
Children who get regular doses of nature enjoy brain benefits ranging from improved motor-skills development, concentration and self-esteem to reduced stress. Amazingly, one 2009 study from Chicago showed that a 20-minute walk in a park was similar to prescription medication for improving concentration in children with ADHD! On the other hand, research indicates that couch-potato kids have worse report cards and social skills, so send your children outside after school for better brain power!
Our brains are about 60 per cent fat, and most of this is omega-3 fatty acids. Because our bodies can’t make omega-3s from scratch, kids have to get them from food — and fatty fish is the best source. Lower levels of omega-3s have been linked to problems like ADHD, autism and memory trouble, while recent Swedish studies show that teenagers who eat fatty fish at least once per week have higher grades.
Remember the acronym SMASH (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring) to be sure that your child gets at least one to two servings of low-mercury fatty fish per week.
A 2014 study of over 10 thousand children in the UK showed that kids with varying weekday bedtimes were on their worst behaviour. In fact, the longer this went on, the more trouble they had with emotion regulation, peer interaction and hyperactivity. Thankfully, switching to a consistent lights-out time improved their behaviour significantly. Researchers believe that an irregular bedtime throws off your internal clock and causes sleep deprivation, which is especially bad for brain development in kids!