Is Your Child Having Difficulty Concentrating?

“My fourth-grader is having a hard time concentrating in school…what can I do to help her focus?”

Lots of kids have a hard time staying on task, especially at school.  While class size and workloads may be beyond your control, your child’s diet, schedule and access to technology are not.  Feed her “brain food”; set technology limits; create a calm home environment; and make sure she’s getting enough sleep. In addition, these supplements can provide a lot of benefit.

Essential Fatty Acids: These cell-membrane building blocks help the brain regulate mood and behavior. Research suggests they can even reduce symptoms of learning disorders including ADD, ADHD, and dyslexia. Recommended daily dose: 750-1500 mg EPA and DHA for most kids; double that amount for kids with allergies or mood/behavioral disorders.

Lemon Balm: This calming herb has been sued for centuries to reduce stress and anxiety.  It’s now appearing in kids herbal formulas to help enhance concentration and alleviate ADHD symptoms. Recommended daily dose: Make tea with 1 teaspoon herb per cup of hot water. Drink 2-4 cups a day.  Herbal teas are also a creative way to ensure your child remains hydrated.

Magnesium: Involved in various enzymatic reactions that control brain function, this mineral may help promote focus. Research links magnesium  deficiency to decreased attention span in kids. Recommended daily dose: 1-3 years old, 80 mg; 4-8 years old, 130 mg; 9-13 years old, 240 mg; 14-18 years old (boys), 410 mg; 14-18 years old (girls), 360 mg.

Feeding your kids healthy, nutrient-rich foods helps them develop strong bodies and smart brains, too!  In a newly published study from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, a poor diet in early childhood with lots of bad fats, sugars and processed foods, was associated with a slightly lower IQ at age 8. The biggest impact happened by age 3, the period when the brain is growing fastest! On the other hand, researchers suggest that maintaining a healthy diet may have the opposite effect. As a parent, if you want your children to be healthy eaters, it’s essential to lay the groundwork at home.  Doing so is as simple as providing easy, healthy snacks around the house (no Doritos) and, when you’re packing lunch, making sure that what you pack is as appetizing as it is nutritious.  This is where a lot of parents struggle…finding and serving healthy foods that children will actually eat. Here are a couple of suggestions!

Mediterranean Chicken Wraps:  Spread a thin layer of basil pesto on a 6-inch whole wheat or brown rice tortilla. Add a layer of cooked and chopped chicken breast, thinly sliced red bell pepper, and chopped lettuce; then fold in the ends and roll up. All kinds of variations are possible and you can continue to introduce other nutrient-rich foods like avocado, grilled zucchini and chopped, fresh spinach.

Traditional PB and Honey: Spread 1 tablespoon of natural or organic peanut butter on 2 slices of whole wheat bread. Drizzle or spread lightly with raw honey. Voila.  This version of the BPJ sandwich cuts out a lot of the empty sugar calories from the jelly and instead uses a nutrient-dense honey. (Of course, honey is a sugar, too, so use sparingly…just enough for a touch of sweet.)

Spinach and Black-Bean Burritos: Rinse and drain one 15-ounce can of black beans. Add to heated pan with crushed garlic, a dash of cumin, sea salt and pepper. Mash lightly. Cook for about 8 minutes or until warmed through and remove from heat. On a whole-grain or brown rice tortilla, spread the warmed bean mixture and then evenly distribute chopped spinach on top. Roll up in a paper towel and then tin foil. You can make these 2 days in advance.

Remember to Nourish yourself and your family with healthy brain foods every day!

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