We now know more than ever, the better the fat choices in your child’s life…the better their brain performance will be. So the next time you plan a family meal or a healthy snack, consider what brain foods are on the kitchen table. Good fat from essential fatty acids (fats that must be obtained from the diet) are required for your child’s health. The majority of our children’s brain growth is completed by 5-6 years old, which makes early childhood a critical time in creating health habits that grow health bodies and brains3.
The American diet is abundant in Omega-6 fatty acids, but deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Some of the best sources of omega-3s include: salmon, trout, sardines, flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, and fish oil345. We try to make these foods a weekly part of our routine.
I love sardines as they are one of the most affordable healthy fish options on the market and they are low in their mercury content as they are one of the smaller fish in the sea. We also love that it can be a low maintenance, nutrient dense meal. We buy them in BPA free cans soaking in olive oil. Our oldest once witnessed her friend enjoying sardines with Mary’s Gone seed crackers and she couldn’t resist joining in. Since then she has influenced a few other friends to give them a try. They have become a staple in both of the kids diets.
You might be thinking, “my kid will never eat that!” Never say never. Try making sardines a part of your routine, offer them at meals in a range of settings. Model eating them with continued exposure. Remember it takes 10-20 tries before children’s tastebuds learn to enjoy new foods. Persistence might pay off.
One of the other ways we love sardines is with roasted garlic. Roast a head of garlic in the oven with olive oil and blend the peeled garlic with a can of sardines in olive oil. Find your favorite scooping foods and eat it as a dip. Or try this spread here or this sardine pate.
Other great foods for growing healthy bodies and healthy brains.
1. Chang, C.Y., Ke, D.S., Chen, J.Y. (2009) Essential fatty acids and the human brain. Acta Neurologica Taiwanica. 18 (4), 231-41.
2. Brown, T.T., Jernigan, T.L., (2012) Brain development during the preschool years. Neuropsychology Review. 22 (4), 313-333.
3. Normally, M.A., Yeap, S.K., Wan, Y.H., Boon, K.B., Sheau, W.T., Soon, G.T. (2012) The promising future of chia, salvia hispanicca l. Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3518271/
4. National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (NIH). Omega-3 Fatty Acids. (2016, November). https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/#h3
5. Ollis, T.E., Meyer, B.J., Howe, P.R., (1999) Australian food sources and intake of omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. 43 (6), 346-55’