Best School Foods To Pack For Lunch
Packing school lunches can be a drag.
Especially if you’re trying to make good, healthy decisions for your kids.
What’s actually healthy?
What healthy foods will they eat if you pack them?
How much should you pack?
Can your food choices make them smarter, get better grades, perform better on tests and athletically?
Believe it or not, they can.
All of our food choices affect every aspect of our bodies, so it’s no surprise that some foods stimulate our brain better than others.
This article is our cheat sheet for you on brain and energy hacking foods.
The Gut-Brain Access: How Eating Can Unlock Your Brain’s Full Potential
We’ve covered this in many different articles, so we will just make this a quick refresher section.
Different foods require different methods of digestion to use the different properties they contain.
Most foods are broken down by the enzymes in your digestive tract.
However, foods that have a lot of fiber need to be fermented to fully be broken down and utilized by your body.
The fermentation process creates chemicals that your body needs to function smoothly.
These chemicals have specific actions that they carry out in different parts of your body.
One of the best examples being serotonin — a happy chemical — is actually mostly created in your gut but carries out actions in your brain and affects your mood.
Microbiome and Energy Levels
Microbiome differences have been noticed between athletes and non-athletes.
More recently, a difference between athlete type has been noted to affect microbial strains in their microbiomes.
Marathon runners need the energy to sustain them over longer periods of time and so their microbes utilize energy from foods differently than other athletes or non-athletic people.
Best Foods to Make it Through the Day
Now that you know how your food actually affects your brain and energy, let’s dive into the good stuff!
That’s right! Chocolate is good for your brain.
Just any chocolate won’t do, though.
Eating chocolate that is at least 70% cacao is the key. In the study done with 70% cacao, it was found that within 30 minutes of eating 48 grams of chocolate effects were already taking place.
Eating chocolate at 70% cacao is much more bitter, but it means that you’ll be receiving a ton of flavonoid polyphenols.
The polyphenols along with the caffeine helps to increase neuroplasticity, enhance long term memory, and helps to fight oxidative stress.
Make sure the chocolate you choose is organic, high in cacao, and low in sugar and you’ll reap all the benefits without putting on weight or suffering from a sugar crash.
If you want to give your kids candy for lunch, go with ‘nature’s candy’ otherwise known as berries.
Not only are they delicious but they give a ton of health benefits and they’re great for your brain.
Some of the main brain-enhancing powers of berries include:
- Prevent and reverse memory deficits
- Improvement of motor tests
- Cognitive enhancement
- Decrease oxidative stress and free radicals
- Increase memory capabilities and motor performance
Berries are a great snack, side-dish, or can even be added to the main course to add some color, flavor, and brain-boosting properties.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are typically known to have protein and healthy fats.
What you may not know is that they are really high in a lot of other nutrients as well.
Depending on which variety you choose, some will have higher concentrations than others of each nutrient.
This is why you should always eat a good variety of nuts and seeds.
Nuts and seeds don’t really fall into a specific food group category making it difficult to say how much you should eat.
One study was done on older women and those that consumed nuts 5 times per week were found to have higher cognitive functioning scores than those who didn’t.
Keeping a good variety of almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, and other nuts and seeds will help you to stay focused and energetic for as long as you need.
Coffee could have been on this list, but that’s usually not advisable for kids. (But if you as the parent want it, it’s actually really great for your concentration and alertness).
Green tea, on the other hand, has lower levels of caffeine but also has L-theanine.
L-theanine is responsible for the calmness you feel when drinking tea.
Caffeine, L-theanine, and green tea polyphenols help you to focus better, retain more information, and become less easily distracted.
Broccoli and Other Brassicae Vegetables
Broccoli, kale, and other vegetables in this group are great for your brain.
Glucosinolates are what make these veggies extra special. When glucosinolates are broken down the resulting products are isothiotanocyanates, antioxidants, phenolics, vitamins, and minerals.
All of these byproducts are extremely helpful when it comes to brain function. Some of the biggest positives coming from them include:
- Fighting oxidative stress
- Prevention of neurodegeneration
Fish Oil and Omegas
You can find your omegas in fish, flaxseed, soybean, and fish oil supplements.
Omegas have been shown to help prevent mental decline and neurodegeneration.
Important Vitamins and Minerals for Positive Brain Performance
- B Vitamins — prevention of brain atrophy
- Vitamin C — help develop hippocampus, neuromodulation, and prevention of cognitive decline
- Vitamin D — deficiencies have been linked to autism, cognitive impairment, dementia, lupus, and psychosis
- Vitamin K — memory capability improvement
- Zinc — plays a large role in synaptic function, increases synaptic plasticity, repairs damage from strokes, prevents oxidative stress, and helps mood disorders
- Magnesium — helps with memory and learning capabilities, developmental plasticity, and neuronal plasticity
- Choline — increases cognitive performance
- Iron — deficiencies can cause cognitive decline, impair learning and memory, and negatively impact different areas of the brain
If you or your child are having trouble concentrating, remembering things, or have poor energy levels talk it over with your doctor.
Packing healthy foods to take along for the day can positively improve all of these for your child. Teaching them healthy food habits will carry through their entire lives.
So by helping them learn about how to have a healthy microbiome and therefore a healthy brain, you are setting them up for a lifetime of success!
What are your favorite ways to boost energy and focus throughout the day?
Let us know in the comments below!