Brain Food for Back to School & Back to Work

The beginning of the year heralds a new start for many, kids are back to school, and adults are back to work. New Years resolutions are fading, and old habits are creeping back for many of us, the snooze button is hit more times than it needs to be and we skimp on our breakfast and lunches due to rushing out the door. Tuck shop money is given to the kids and well, us adults, we end up grabbing the closest lunch we can find.

Our bodies and brains are the vehicle and engine that drive us through our life, and it relies on the fuel that we feed it to gain optimum performance. Take some time now to think about the fuel that you feed your body. What does it look like? Are you running on that discount fuel or some high octane, high performance fuel?

Scientists are still discovering how our body uses the fuel we feed it, and how these components help our body function, and most important what food our brains need to be able to concentrate on tasks and learn new things. Interestingly, there are food scientists who work with elite athletes to ensure they are eating foods that get the highest performance possible from their bodies. Yet, there are no brain food specialists who are ensuring our brains are at highest performance possible! Our brain needs certain elements daily to function at it's best, and this is crucial for growing minds during the school day and for adult minds keeping focused on work tasks every day.

What does our brain need to function at it's best? Many articles on the web get all complex and recommend antioxidant this, and omega that, I'll cut through this and highlight the best foods and combinations that will be sure to provide the best brain food for you and your kids.

Cut the Sugar

The most important thing you can do with day time meals is this, cut out ALL refined sugar. Replace sweet processed foods with whole fruits, look for low GI foods to ensure the brain is able to access nutrients throughout the day:

  • Source Bulk Foods stock an amazing Gluten Free Super Loaf premix, I make this up every couple of days to have on hand as a bread snack, grab yourself some to have one hand in the freezer;
  • Berries are a great sweet yet low GI food;
  • Dried organic figs are also great, dice these up and add these to your trail mix;
  • Whole fruits are a great sweet, yet not make you go sugar crazy lunch box food.

Add the Fat

The brain is 60% fat! So making sure you incorporate healthy fats daily is super important. That means more of these in your lunchbox:

  • Nuts* - great as a stand alone snack, otherwise incorporated into bliss balls;
  • Seeds - great as a stand alone snack, otherwise incorporated into bliss balls, toss some with tamari and roast slightly for a yummy treat;
  • Avocado - this is hands down my favourite, make a guacomole for a vege stick dipper, or make a salad sandwich with an avo layer;
  • Fish - sardines or salmon are a great option to add to the lunchbox, try making a tuna dip with mayonnaise to boost the fats in your lunch box;
  • Eggs - hard boiled, on sandwiches, in mayonnaise, easy to incorporate into your brain food;

*Most school do not allow nuts at school for kids, so if your child is not allergic to nuts, ensure they get these before and after school.

Nutrient Dense

Go for foods that are nutrient dense, quality over quantity will ensure that you don't overload your second brain (your gut!) to have to spend all it's energy on digesting rather than using that brain power! Add more of these to you daily lunch:

  • Anything green (well, naturally green!) - add kale, baby spinach, and broccoli to the lunchbox, this might be in the form of a tasty pesto;
  • Seaweed - this superfood will make your lunch box have an amazing flavour, use nori sheets for some sushi or dulse flakes sprinkled throughout a dip or a salad;
  • Sprouts - little powerhouses of nutrition, adding sprouts to salads or sandwiches gives your body the super nutrition of a seed that has sprouted to grow has 30x the nutrition of a normal vegetable;
  • Whole foods - if you are a little lost, and not sure where to start, just break it down to the ridiculous. Whole foods only in the lunch box, no packages, limited processing and heaps of flavour. Find out what foods you (and your kids) love, and make sure they are in the lunchbox, just avoid the sugar!