Monday, January 2, 2012

Deborah McNelis: Healthy Brains for a Happy New Year!

It is my passion to help children's brains develop in the most optimal way. This is something we all want right? 

When doing presentations on optimal development, I find many people don’t realize the impact nutrition has on moods, learning and behavior. But, a good guide to follow is this simple…. if it is good for the body, it is good for the brain.   

Children’s brains need nourishment to function well. If the brain doesn't get what it needs, this feels like stress to the brain. 

When we ensure children have the nourishment their brain needs this will promote learning and also help keep a more positive mood throughout the day. Eating a well balanced breakfast that includes protein provides the brain with the nutrients to function well. Healthy eating results in the release of "feel good" chemicals. The brain is also less likely to crave carbohydrates when it gets to start the day with the nourishment it needs. 

However, eating sugary cereal, doughnuts, or sweetened juices will result in the brain “crashing” only 30 minutes later. When the brain doesn’t have the nutrients it needs, it feels stress and releases stress chemicals. As a result a child may experience feelings of agitation, aggression, and anxiety. Additionally, a child may have difficulty focusing, and sitting still. Memory and attention span are also likely to be affected.
Young brains are not yet developed enough to deal with these feelings. The brain areas that help control all they are feeling are still too immature. This is why it is often called, "out of control" behavior.

7 very simple practices help keep brain systems in balance. 
Hopefully these will contribute to happier days and an increase in learning for the children in your life!

  • Provide water and healthy snacks to keep the brain from getting hungry and turning to poor food choices for meals. For great healthy snack ideas read the post from Debbie Clement.
  • Provide breakfasts and lunches that include adequate amounts of protein to keep energy levels even.
  • Eat healthy foods before eating sweets or simple carbohydrates. This will reduce the chance for mood swings.
  • Ensure children are getting Omega-3 Fatty Acids in their diet or as supplements. These are vital for normal brain development
  • Make sure children eat a balanced breakfast.
  • Include vegetables and fruits in every meal and use as snacks. The vitamins and minerals these provide help the brain think.
  • Help children learn which foods are best. They will have fun saying, "This is good for my brain" as they enjoy healthy foods! 
        (Photo complements of Lauren Zimet founder of Healthy Foundations)

Enjoy nourishing healthy brains in the new year!!

Deborah McNelis is the owner of Braininsights, and author of, Brain Development Series of brain activity packets


  1. This is a great post! Thanks for sharing. I'm trying to come up with healthy meals and snacks for my toddler and this was a great kick in the pants! Do you mind if I link to you in a post?

    I'm a new follower from Pinterest. Feel free to come follow my blog!

    For Love of Cupcakes

    [I am a former K and Pre-K teacher! :o)]

    1. Your post with the snack ideas is terrific! I have shared it with many already! ~ Do you know of Kia and the wonderful, Today I ate a Rainbow Kit? or the terrific book by Kim at Your Green Baby?

      I think you will enjoy these!

  2. Thanks for sharing your great ideas on such an important topic, Deborah! I pinned your post to my Kids' Food Fun Pinterest board at

  3. Thanks for sharing those simple practices that help keep children's brain systems in balance. Parents should keep this in mind to make sure that their child is healthy.


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