11 Diet Tips to Help Kids Develop Healthy, Focused Brains

Behavioral and learning issues like ADHD, processing disorders, dyslexia and Autism are increasing at epidemic levels with no end in sight. In my new book Disconnected Kids Nutrition Plan, I explain what is happening in the brain of children with these issues and how the brain plays a major role in dietary and nutritional deficiencies in these children. The book explains how diet and other nutritional interventions can help significantly improve these issues and also provides strategies for picky eaters. Studies are coming out almost weekly showing that children with disorders like ADHD and autism have deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids. Records show that kids eat too many simple carbohydrates in the form of junk and are sorely missing out on complex carbohydrates. Here are eleven quick tips to help your child develop a healthy, well-balanced brain.

1. Check your child’s sense of smell. What most parents don’t realize is that part of the reason for children being picky eaters is that they have a very poor or even completely absent sense of smell. They don’t choose food by smell and taste; they judge it by how it looks and feels in their mouth. Test their sense of smell with their eyes closed. If it is weak or absent then you can stimulate it through smell activities.

[READ: Can a Change in Diet Help With Neurological Issues]

2. Go for the grains. Breads, cereal, rice, and pasta are good grain choices that kids can enjoy. A child requires more servings of these foods than an adult. Always go for whole grains, not refined grains. Refined, or simple carbohydrates are double trouble in any sensible diet. However, if your child is has a sensitivity to gluten (the protein found in wheat barley and rye) or other grains, then these foods should be avoided until the root cause of the sensitivity can be identified. In my experience, most gluten sensitivities are secondary to a developmental imbalance in the brain that results in an imbalance in the digestive and immune systems.

3. Use only good fats. The brain loves fat, only not the saturated kind that clogs arteries. Opt for healthy monounsaturated fats like olive, avocado, and nut oils. Kids actually enjoy vegetables stir-fried in these fats as they give good flavor.

4. Think of essential fatty acids as the other vitamins. These nutrients are essential to proper brain health, only the body does not manufacture them. They must be obtained through diet and are very important to children with FDS (Functional Disconnection Syndrome) because studies are revealing a link between shortages of essential fatty acids and the rising incidence of neurological childhood disorders. Rich sources include: soy, walnut and canola oils, flax seeds, beans, especially soy, navy and kidney beans, walnuts, tofu and cold water fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines).

5. Think more vegetables, less meat.
Kids love eating on plates that have separate compartments for meat, vegetables and dessert. The way to properly fill a plate is to put the vegetables where the meat is supposed to be.

6. Think outside the meat counter.
Protein is important and lean meats should be a part of your child’s overall diet. However, keep in mind that protein comes in other forms as well, such as eggs, beans, and nuts.

7. Be dairy sensible.
Dairy foods are filling, and when children eat too much dairy, they fill up and don’t get enough of other important nutrients not found in dairy. Limit dairy to 2 or 3 servings a day. Casein, the protein in dairy, is one of the hardest to digest, and it can often be associated with food sensitivities that can affect behavior and learning.

8. Never let your child have artificial sweeteners.

9. Check for food sensitivities. Many children with developmental delays also have immune and digestive imbalances that can lead to hidden food sensitivities. Learn how to do an elimination diet and food challenge to see if your child has these types of sensitivities.

 [READ: Help Your Kids Overcome a Learning Disability With Tips I Learned From My Own Parents]

10. Limit the amount of sports drinks. Children do not need sports drink’s even when competing in most sports. They only need water. Studies show that some children get as many as 1000 calories a day from these drinks alone.

11. In children with ADHD, Dyslexia, Autism and other developmental issues, the vitamin and mineral deficiencies and digestive and immune issues are a direct result of a functional neurological imbalance between the hemispheres of the brain. Certain directed mental and physical exercises can improve or eliminate this imbalance and the nutrition and dietary issues that they cause.

Written by Dr. Robert Melillo. This article originally appeared on MariaShriver.com.

By MariaShriver.com| August 14, 2016
Categories:  Nest

About the Author



MariaShriver.com is a community of women and men who are powered by information and inspiration and striving to lead M-Powered lives. We come from all walks of life, from different socioeconomic situations, but we have this in common: We are writers and readers. We are communicators and connectors. We want to move the ball forward in our own lives. In our homes, in our relationships, in our communities, in our businesses, in our government.

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