Feed Your Kids These 5 Foods to Boost Focus + Attention

Confining a child’s enthusiastic curiosity and lush imagination into the rigidity of a school day can be a real challenge.  Wholesome breakfasts are one of the best ways to support a child’s efforts to align with school standards and expectations.  Sweetened, processed foods take kids’ blood sugar levels on a roller coaster ride that manifests in erratic outbursts followed by cranky lethargy.  Skipping breakfast withholds the brain of the energy it needs to engage and participate – but the good news is there are many foods to boost focus and attention.  The five real foods below will steady blood sugar, balance hormones and support overall brain function, resulting in better focus and attention for an antsy kindergartener, an over-scheduled adult, and everyone in between.

1. Eggs

With cholesterol’s undeserved bad rap cleared up, eggs have reclaimed their rightful place at the table.  Eggs are a good source of protein, which stabilizes blood sugar, and zinc, which can improve attentiveness.  Their high dose of Vitamin B6 is important for the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is involved in controlling motivation and attention.  Rest easy and attentive, and put some eggs on your plate.

2. Turkey

Imagining Thanksgiving may induce a thought-process like, “turkey → tryptohan → food coma.” While tryptophan is a precursor for melatonin (the neurotransmitter involved in sleep cycles) it is first used to make serotonin.  A proper balance of serotonin and dopamine is needed for proper cognitive functioning and behavior.  All poultry contains roughly the same amount of tryptophan.  If you don’t eat meat?  Chia, sesame, and flax seeds, spirulina, cashews, pistachios, and almonds are all great sources of tryptophan too!

3. Spinach

Popeye’s muscles were so big, in part, because all that spinach was keeping him highly motivated for his work outs.  Spinach is one of the best plant sources of iron, and iron helps to metabolize dopamine, which we learned above is important for motivation and attention.  Spinach also packs a one-two punch of vitamin B6 and magnesium to reduce hyperactivity and aggressiveness and increase attention.  For a double helping of attention, add some spinach to your plate.

4. Pumpkin Seeds

They get less love on grocery store shelves than almonds and walnuts, but pumpkin seeds deserve your attention, and will help you have attention to give!  Pumpkin seeds add more protein, zinc, iron and magnesium power to the foods we’ve already covered.  Plus, they contain brain-supporting omega-3 fatty acids.  Not just a post-Jack-o-lantern treat, pop some pumpkin seeds for a neurological pick-me-up.

5. Red Peppers + Flax Oil

Yes, this is actually two foods, but it’s the pairing that’s important.  Research shows that combining flax oil with Vitamin C (that’s where the red peppers come in) can calm hyperactivity.  You can achieve this same synergy with kiwi, limes, grapefruit, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and yes, oranges.

To get all this nutrient power into the same bite, try these egg-emojis. Kids will enjoy their playfulness and adults will appreciate their healthy ingredients and delicious flavour.  Everyone benefits from the calm and focused morning that follows, and the best part is this recipe does it all with a smile.

Watch this video to learn how to make a piping bag with parchment paper so that you can do pipe your sauce plastic-free! The Smiley Sauce makes more than you need for this recipe, but the extras will keep for 4-5 days in the fridge. Repurpose it as a dip, spread for sandwiches, or salad dressing – it pairs well with fresh veg for a healthy lunchbox snack.

Egg Emojis

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 4

Ingredients
For the Smiley Sauce
  • 2 cups organic spinach
  • ¾ cup organic cilantro
  • ½ cup organic parsley
  • ⅓ cup organic pumpkin seeds, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
  • ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp organic olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp organic, cold-pressed flax oil
  • 1 Tbsp organic maple syrup
  • ¼ avocado
  • Juice of ½ organic lemon
  • 1 clove organic garlic
  • ¼ tsp Himalayan salt
For the Egg-emojis:
  • 2 tsp ground organic cumin
  • ½ tsp ground organic coriander
  • 1 tsp dried organic oregano
  • 1 Tbsp organic coconut aminos
  • ½ tsp Himalayan salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 Tbsp organic coconut oil
  • ½ lb organic, pastured ground turkey
  • 1 organic red bell pepper
  • 3 organic, pastured eggs
  • 3 Tbsp organic coconut milk
  • 4 Tbsp Smiley Sauce
Instructions
  1. Directions
  2. Start by making the Smiley Sauce. Add all the Smiley Sauce ingredients to a food processor and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust as necessary.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium high. Add the cumin, coriander, and oregano and toast for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
  4. Add the coconut aminos, ½ tsp salt, and 1 Tbsp of the coconut oil to the skillet and stir well, spreading the mixture around the pan.
  5. Add the ground turkey and cook, breaking up the meat with a spatula, until the meat is browned on the outside and no longer pink inside. Remove from skillet and set aside. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp of coconut oil to the skillet.
  6. Slice the pepper into 4 thick rings.
  7. Cook the pepper rings 1 minute on each side.
  8. Meanwhile, in small bowl beat the eggs, coconut milk, and a pinch of salt.
  9. Carefully pour ¼ of the egg mixture into each pepper ring. Don’t worry if some flows beyond the border of the pepper. Cook 2-3 minutes, until set. Then flip and cook 2-3 minutes more, until eggs are cooked through.
  10. Place the egg-in-a-pepper-rings on plates and remove any extra egg from outside of the edges. You can pile this on top of the egg in the middle if you’d like.
  11. Spread some ground turkey around the outer edge of the top third of each pepper, to look like hair. Pipe the Smiley Sauce onto the cooked egg in whatever facial expression you like.

 

Alica is a self-proclaimed kitchen experimentalist, gastronomy nerd, and healthy food crusader. She honors the power of real food, and has extra love for anything locally grown. Alica was recruited by The Institute for Integrative Health to create a healthy and affordable community-cooking series, and now runs a training that prepares community members to run the program in their neighborhoods. For Alica, the only thing better than making a nourishing meal in her kitchen is including friends in the process. Stay in the loop with Alica’s kitchen experiments on Instagram @musefood. Meet this expert

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