Brainy foods for your kids

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Kids are not going to come running when you offer them a brown bag lunch filled with brain food. But parents can sneak brain-tastic treats into their kid’s lunch (without too big of a fuss from either parent or child), and aid in boosting a child’s brainpower and learning abilities.

Along with tasting good, food provides important energy for the body – which includes the brain. Filling lunches with brain healthy foods will give your child a jump-start on understanding those tricky math equations and remembering vocabulary words. Brain boosting foods work together to improve memory, encourage energy and brain function, along with keeping the body full of healthy nutrients essential for getting through the school day.

And brain-boosting goodies also do double duty by keeping the body healthy – especially during the cold and flu season.

You can’t beat that.

Get Your Child Involved

When your child helps pack her lunch, she learns about making smart food choices as well as basic cooking skills. It is also an opportunity to spend some quality time together. It’s the perfect chance to bask in some parent-child bonding. Spend a few moments chatting about how things are going in school, exciting activities taking place, and all the new friends being made.

While packing a brown-bag-brain-boosting lunch, explain to kids why certain foods are being included and for what reason. When your child is clued into why specific items are important, she can share her knowledge with others, potentially positively influencing friends to eat healthy, too.

Start Out Right

According to, breakfast is an important part of getting school aged children healthfully through the day. Offering scrambled eggs, whole-grain toast with peanut butter, or granola cereal with berries and yogurt will get things started right. But, following up with a healthy lunch is the best way to prevent that afternoon crash, alleviating potentially lowered attention span and general lethargy.

Sure, that might be due to an extra-lengthy movie on atoms or animals in the desert, but if your child’s had a nutritious lunch, she just might make it through without nodding off – and maybe glean some of that important information.

Stocking the pantry with healthy food items makes creating brain boosting lunches easy and sets a positive example for kids when selecting healthy snacks after school. Avoiding overly processed foods and opting for fresh items is a great start.

Healthy Lunch Options

Whole Grains

Boosting brainpower is as simple as switching over to whole grain bread or tortillas for making sandwiches or wraps. Using whole-grain pasta for lunch-box pasta salads also adds the extra nutrients needed for positive long-lasting energy. Whole grain food items are high in folate and other B vitamins that help improve memory function and are also full of fiber, keeping your child’s tummy full longer.

Create a healthy sandwich that offers a twist on the basic turkey and cheese by taking a whole-grain tortilla and spreading it with 1 tablespoon flavored cream cheese. Your child can help create her own flavored spread by adding 1 tablespoon of a flavoring of her choice such as some chopped chive, chopped dried cranberries, or even chopped black olives.

Next, place 3 or 4 slices of turkey breast on top of the cream cheese.

Now, your child can add other ingredients such as chopped lettuce, cucumber or tomato and then wrap.

Cut the turkey tortilla wrap into bite sized pieces and hold together with a tooth-pick, which keeps your child’s lunch box mess-free, and makes the bite-sized pieces fun to eat.

For an added brain boosting punch, sprinkle the cream cheese with 1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds or slivered almonds. Nuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, which encourage a happy brain.


Beans are high in just about everything that your child’s brain needs such as protein, thiamin for energy, vitamin B6 for normal brain function, and folate, which helps to create important red blood cells. Yes, most children are more familiar with the silly rhyme about beans than their health benefits, but packing beans in your child’s lunch can be just as fun.

Start by preheating the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Turn beans into a brain boosting mashed and crisp goodie by creating bean croquettes. Drain 1 15-ounce can of white beans and mix with 1 chopped garlic clove, ¼ teaspoon salt, and dash of pepper (and hot sauce if desired) in a medium bowl. Kids can help by using the measuring spoons and cups to properly measure and add ingredients and then mash the ingredients with a potato masher until chunky, but smooth.

Now, place 1 cup of whole-wheat breadcrumbs on a plate and scoop a large spoon full of the bean mixture (about the size of a golf ball) into the breadcrumbs, evenly coating the outside. Your child can help cover the outsides and then place the coated croquettes on a baking tray coated with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.

Continue rolling and placing the bean croquettes on the baking tray and then lightly press each ball so that it is slightly flattened, which will encourage even baking.

Place the bean croquettes in the oven and cook for 10 minutes on each side, or until evenly browned. Let cool and drain on paper towel before eating.

The bean croquettes can be sent in a bag lunch accompanied with a yogurt dill sauce for dipping by mixing ½ cup thick Greek style yogurt, with 1 tablespoon chopped cucumber, and 1 teaspoon fresh or dried dill. Yogurt is high in calcium, which also helps to build healthy brain cells.

Colorful Fruits and Veggies

Along with providing a high-protein main item for lunch, kids need colorful fruits and veggies to encourage brain development, stay full longer, and provide the body with healthy minerals and vitamins. The darker the color of fruit or vegetable the brain-healthier – making blueberries, red peppers, strawberries, or carrots ideal side items for a complete brown bag lunch.

Have your child help wash, slice, and pack dark-colored fruits and vegetables according to color, encouraging their color-recognition as well as fine motor skills. Pair the fruits and veggies with a tasty dipping sauce made with a favorite salad dressing, hummus, or flavored yogurt.

Pack a couple of toothpicks for your child to spear the fruits and veggies and then dip, which not only makes eating fun, but also boosts fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

Get in the kitchen and turn brown-bag lunches into fun and tasty brain-boosting creations!

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