Ellie stumbled upon this brilliant website, Food for the Brain, which has a really interesting section on smart kids. It focusses on how nutrition directly affects children’s IQ, learning, concentration, sleep and behaviour. They’ve written us a really cool post including some delicious brain boosting recipes. The strawberry fizz sounds just up my street for the summer. 

Did you know that nutrition directly affects your child’s IQ, concentration, behaviour, learning and speech?

At Food for the Brain we are passionate about children’s health and diet and our Smart Kids project focuses on raising awareness of the important role diet and nutrition has on good health, learning and behaviour in our children.

To help grow your child to be a healthy and happy smart kid follow these important rules – ensure they get adequate amounts of essential fats, vitamins and minerals; avoid anti-nutrients (natural and synthetic compounds found in some foods that interfere with the absorption of important good nutrients); eliminate food intolerances/allergies and ensure that their blood sugar levels are balanced – too much sugar and your child may be hyperactive and find it hard to concentrate, too little and they may feel tiredirritable and find it tricky to concentrate.

In order to help achieve these recommendations we advocate a diet that avoids refined sugar and processed foods, such as white bread, white rice, biscuits and cakes; artificial additives/preservatives and caffeine. We encourage children’s diets to include a good range of fresh fruit and veg – eat a rainbow!, unprocessed whole grains, lean sources of protein – such as fish, poultry, legumes and pulses and beneficial healthy fats, for example flaxseed, oily fish, avocado, nuts, seeds, coconut oil and good quality extra-virgin olive oil.

To help balance the effect food has on your child’s blood sugar levels; simply make sure they have a small serving of protein when consuming carbohydrates to slow down digestion and the release of sugar into their blood. An example of this would be a sweet potato with salad and baked beans (find a great sugar-free recipe below), brown rice/quinoa kedgeree with mackerel /salmon and a couple of hard-boiled eggs, oat cakes spread with hummus, soft cheese or nut butter and ensure fruit is eaten with a small handful of nuts/ seeds, a chunk of cheddar cheese or mixed in with natural plain yogurt.

Try taking our ‘Smart Kids’ questionnaire to assess where your child may need dietary support.

To get you started please find some of our most popular Smart Kids recipes below. These are full of beneficial essential fats for optimum brain function, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – the building blocks needed to support important metabolic processes in the body to enable children to grow and thrive in both physical and mental health.

Apple and Almond Tray Bake

This delicious, moist cake can be enjoyed with a clean conscience, as it has very slow releasing sugars and contains no wheat or flour, sugar or fat and is packed with protein, calcium and fibre. It makes a nutritious snack or lunch-box treat, or can be served warm with custard (made with xylitol instead of sugar) for pudding.

3 Bramley (cooking) apples, about 550g/1B/1/4 lb in total, unpeeled, cored and diced;
250g (9oz) ground almonds;
2 tsp ground cinnamon;
1 tsp baking powder;
3 medium-sized free range or organic eggs;
150g (5 ½ oz) xylitol;
Around 85g (just over 3oz) flaked almonds for sprinkling on top

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Line a baking tin, about 20 + 30cm (8 + 12in), with baking parchment. Place the apples, ground almonds, cinnamon and baking powder in a mixing bowl and stir together. Set to one side. Beat the eggs and xylitol in a clean mixing bowl until they become pale and creamy and start to thicken slightly (the whisk should leave a trail when lifted out of the mixture). Gradually fold the apple and almond mixture into the beaten egg, using a metal tablespoon, and taking care not to knock all of the air out of the egg (this is easiest done by drawing a figure-of-eight shape with the spoon as you fold). Quickly pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin and sprinkle with the flaked almonds. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until golden and fairly firm to the touch (cover the top with kitchen foil towards the end of cooking to prevent the almonds from scorching, if necessary). Leave to cool on a wire rack before cutting into slices and storing in an airtight container.

Strawberry Fizz

Both strawberries and lemons are rich sources of vitamin C and this juice is very refreshing and utterly delicious. This recipe also works with raspberries.

100g (3 1/2oz) (about 5) strawberries
Juice of 1/2 lemon (1 tbsp);
2 tsp xylitol, or to taste;
100ml (just over 3fl oz) naturally sparkling mineral water;
2 strawberries, to decorate.

Using a hand-held blender or a liquidiser, blend the strawberries and lemon juice until smooth. Stir in the xylitol until it has dissolved. Mix in the mineral water and check the sweetness – add a little more xylitol if preferred. Serve chilled with ice and 2 strawberries in the glass.

Big Baked Beans

One of our greatest success stories – the children make this dish at our Food for the Brain schools’ cookery sessions, and by the time they have tasted it they are all converted from the high-sugar, high-salt canned varieties. You can also purée the mixture before adding the beans to make a smooth sauce like the canned versions. Serve on wholemeal or ‘all in one’ white toast, or toasted rye bread.

1 tbsp oil;
2 red onions, peeled and finely chopped;
2×410g (14 ½ oz) cans butterbeans, rinsed and drained;
2×400g (14oz) cans chopped tomatoes;
A little salt, or 1 tsp Marigold Reduced Salt Vegetable Bouillon powder;
Freshly ground black pepper.

Heat the oil in a saucepan and sauté the onions for 2 minutes to soften. Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer for 2 minutes, then taste to check the seasoning.

Beany Bolognese

A rich bean and tomato stew that can be served with salad or steamed cabbage and pasta or potatoes – top with Sweet Potato Mash to turn it into a nutrient-dense, vegetarian shepherd’s pie. It’s also packed with fibre and the antioxidant lycopene from the cooked tomatoes.

2 tsp coconut oil or olive oil;
4 garlic cloves, crushed; 
2 onions, diced;
200g (7oz) button mushrooms, cleaned with a brush or wiped with a piece of kitchen paper and sliced; 
3 tbsp tomato purée; 
1×400g (14oz) can plum tomatoes; 
2×410g (14 ½ oz) cans of borlotti beans, drained and rinsed (or other cooked beans, such as cannellini or haricot);
2 tsp herbes de Provence, or to taste; 
3 tsp Marigold Reduced Salt Vegetable Bouillon powder, or sea salt to taste; 
Freshly ground black pepper.

Heat the oil and sweat the garlic and onions gently for 2 minutes, then add the mushrooms and cook until fairly soft (about 5 minutes). Add the tomato purée, canned tomatoes, beans and herbs. Add the bouillon powder or salt, and ground black pepper. Simmer for about 5-10 minutes to allow the vegetables to soften and the sauce to thicken. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.

For more recipes and advice on supporting your child’s physical and metal health please click here.

Deborah Colson, co-author of ‘Optimum Nutrition for your child’ and one of the nutritional therapists at the Brain Bio Centre, Food for the Brain’s not-for-profit nutritional therapy clinic, will be talking about healthy eating for kids in Putney, London in June. For more information and to purchase tickets please contact info@brainbiocentre.com.

Food for the Brain is a charitable foundation (Reg. charity no. 1116438) aiming to raise awareness of the importance of optimum nutrition in mental health. We are working to inform, educate and empower individuals to change their diet and lifestyle and take greater control of their own mental health.

Alongside the charity, our not-for-profit clinic, the Brain Bio Centre, helps individuals by utilising nutrition, diet and lifestyle recommendations to assist mental health conditions. To read more about the clinic and hear from our team of specialists please click here.