The Best Brain-Boosting Baby Food
Once your baby starts weaning and consuming more solids, it can be overwhelming trying to plan the menu for someone who can’t yet speak. Babies need the right blend of nutrients daily to help them grow and develop properly, which is why planning is important. One of the most crucial things to consider is their brain development, so they can begin recognizing shapes, colours and objects, processing what they hear around them and then one day, a few years later, start to do well in school.
But what foods are best for babies to support proper cognitive development? It’s not as complicated as you think. Picking organic, whole foods means your baby will get the best nutrition possible, straight from the source. These six foods are our top choices for valuable nutrients to boost brain health:
Oats — In addition to fibre for digestive and cardiovascular health and protein which supports tissue health, oats and fortified cereals can also be a good source of iron, a mineral needed for proper circulation of oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, especially to the brain. Oats also offer B vitamins like B6, which support memory and cognitive function.
Blueberries — Rich in antioxidants like vitamin C that protect all of the body’s cells against the damage of free radicals, blueberries also provide zinc, an immunity-boosting mineral that also supports the memory.
Avocados — Creamy avocados are abundant in healthy fats like omega-3s, an essential fatty acid that is very important for brain development. You can give your baby chunks or even blend up avocado with other foods.
Quinoa — A far better option than rice, quinoa also provides omega-3s along with fiber and protein. You can combine cooked quinoa with steamed fruit for a heartier breakfast. The small pieces of quinoa are easy for little ones to eat.
Carrots — With their bright orange colour, carrots are a wonderful source of antioxidant vitamins, like vitamin A. Antioxidants support all of the body’s cells for a sharp mind.
Pumpkin — Just like carrots, the deep colour of pumpkin indicates the presence of plenty of vitamins and other beneficial nutrients. Serve organic pumpkin puree (no sugar added) with a pinch of cinnamon for a dose of vitamins A and C as well as minerals like iron and magnesium. Magnesium supports the health of the central nervous system.
All of these foods can be simply prepared to serve to your child. See our previous post on making baby food. You can steam or roast veggies to make them soft and easy to eat. You can either puree the veggies or serve them whole and let your child try to feed themselves.
Another way to get more brain-boosting foods into your child’s diet is to make them a smoothie once they’re old enough to use a sippy cup. Throw in a cup of greens like spinach or kale along with fruit for additional vitamins and minerals that fuel the development of the entire body. A blender like the Vitamix or one of the many cheaper versions will do the job like a dream.
Giving your baby a DHA supplement is also a good idea, especially if you are breastfeeding. This brand is our favourite as it is vegan and ultra pure. Some formula milks include DHA, so be sure to check the label.
Try adding these foods into your child’s diet as often as possible to give their brain — and their body — the nutrition needed for healthy development. They’ll thank you later, perhaps (!), after they pass their GCSEs or A levels.
This is an updated post originally published in Sept 2015.